What Draws Us to the Movies

By Emanuel Ortiz

    You’ve watched many movies in your life. Why? What drew you to that movie? Did you see it at home, or did you see it in the theater? The movie industry makes billions of dollars a year off of their releases. In 2014, the global box office for all movies was 36.4 billion dollars. Each year, the global box office number is slightly getting larger and larger. What makes someone decide that they’re going to see a movie? What makes them decide they’re not going to?

    There are a variety of factors that should be taken into consideration when trying to answer these questions. Some questions that may need to be asked are:

  1. If the price of the movie ticket were cheaper, would you go to the movies more often?

  2. Are there better options streaming on Netflix or on television shows?

  3. Would you rather wait until the movie comes out on DVD?

  4. Does the actor or actress appearing in a film influence your decision?

  5. Are there certain genres you will or won’t watch?

    These questions and so much more need to be looked at to understand the overall picture. Looking at the gender and ethnicity is also important when looking at the movie going audience. According to mpaa.org, tickets sold in 2014 are even between male and female.

    When it comes to ethnicity, however, Caucasians have 54% of the tickets sold. Hispanics are second with 23%, followed by African Americans at 12% and Asian/others at 11%. A few things should be noted about these statistics. Keep in mind that Caucasians are, according to this chart, 63% of the 2014 population, while Hispanics are 17%. When it comes to movie tickets actually sold, although more Caucasians are going out to see movies, Hispanics are more likely than any other ethnic group to purchase tickets relative to their population. That’s interesting because of the predominately white Hollywood.

    Many of the stars in these big blockbusters movies are typically white males. For example, let’s look at the top ten grossing movies of 2014. With the exclusion of animated movies, the top billing actor/ actress in each of these movies are white. You could even extend this to the top twenty grossing movies of 2014 and the lead for each of them (with exclusion to animated) are white. Guardians of the Galaxy’s lead star, for example, was Chris Pratt. The next two films with highest gross after Guardians of the Galaxy was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, which had Jennifer Lawrence as the leading actress, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Chris Evans as the leading actor. Aside from The Hunger Games, which showed a higher percentage of female viewers, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy had a predominately white male audience.

    The ethnicity share for the top five movies was around the same, except for one movie. The latest Transformers movie had the most diverse audience. Whites, to no surprise, dominated most of the movie goers, but when it came to Transformers, the white audience dropped from its typical mid 50’s percent down to 38%, giving a 10% boost to both African Americans and Hispanics. It’s movies like Transformers that leave these question marks. The movie made 245 million dollars domestic. Did the movie have a leading white actor? Yes, it did. That didn’t, however, dissuade a diverse audience from viewing this movie. Without surveying a huge group of people that have seen the movie, my theory for this would be the use of Transformers as an audience grabber. The CGI Transformers in this movie overshadow the lead, Mark Wahlberg.

    The bottom line is that if more movies had more diverse ethnic leads, then there would be a more diverse audience viewing the movies. Hispanics, like previously mentioned, make up a respectable amount of ticket buyers but diversity in an audience is more clear when a lead who isn’t white is shown. The use of CGI creatures or robots can sometimes help diversify the audience if their presence in the movie is strong enough.

I first interviewed my friend Mark below. I then interviewed my mother Ileana.

Emanuel: If the price of the movie ticket were cheaper, would you go to the movies more often?

Marc: Yes.

Emanuel: How much do you pay now?

Marc: My theater is weird because they had renovated seats, so the prices are more expensive, but they’re like twelve or thirteen dollars.

Emanuel: Are there better options streaming on Netflix or on television shows?

Marc: Yeah, I would say. Movie theaters have like ten or so movies you can see when Netflix has so much more.

Emanuel: Would you rather wait until the movie comes out on DVD?

Marc: It would depend on the movie. If it is something I’m really excited for like Deadpool, I would definitely see it in the movie theater.

Emanuel: Is there an example of one that you would wait for it to come out on DVD?

Marc: Yeah, that new Gods of Egypt movie doesn’t look interesting enough. I wouldn’t pay thirteen or so bucks to see that.

Emanuel: Does the actor or actress appearing in a film influence your decision?

Marc: A little bit. There isn’t really an actor that would make me want to see a movie. But there are definitely actors that turn me away.

Emanuel: Are there certain genres you will or won’t watch?

Marc: Uh…no, I don’t think there are some I won’t see. It depends on the situation.

 

Emanuel: If the price of the movie ticket were cheaper, would you go to the movies more often?

Ileana: Hmm…no. The prices are fine if it’s a movie I really want to see.

Emanuel: What price would that be?

Ileana: Eleven-fifty, I think.

Emanuel: Are there better options streaming on Netflix or on television shows?

Ileana: I don’t know. There are some movies that I think, “wow, I have to watch this in the theatre”. They sometimes don’t go on Netflix and I’m not waiting for TV.

Emanuel: Oh, well you sort of answered my next question. Would you wait until a movie comes out on DVD?

Ileana: Some, yes. But others that are really big like Batman or Superman, no.

Emanuel: Does the actor or actress appearing in a film influence your decision?

Ileana: Um…it depends.

Emanuel: Can you think of someone you would go watch regardless of the movie?

Ileana: Harrison Ford I would probably watch in anything.

Emanuel: Are there certain genres you will or won’t watch?

Ileana: Horror. I can’t get myself to watch a scary movie.