Regaining Young Audiences

A survey of 1,000 11-to-15-year-olds in the UK, looking at their attitudes and interactions with cinema-going. Supported by Into Film.

Leisure activities of 11- to 15-year-olds

  • 69% of young people went to the cinema at least once in the last month.
  • 95% of young people watched a film at home at least once in the last month.
  • Frequency of cinema-going is affected by: region, gender, social grade, availability of cinema, spending money, and frequency of film viewing at home.

Drivers of leisure activity

  • The most important factor for young people when deciding what to do with their free time is how much fun the activity is. Other top considerations are being able to do it with friends, getting permission from parents, and the cost of doing it.
  • Those who don’t receive pocket money or are from lower social grades are more likely to be concerned about the cost of activities.
  • Young people are most influenced by their friends’ opinions, though also perceive themselves as making their own decisions. Beyond this, where they acknowledge others’ influence, this is by-and-large their parents/guardians. This is especially true for the least frequent cinema-goers.

Attitudes to the cinema

  • When asked which facility in their local area they would be most upset to lose, cinema came top along with sports facilities. Cinema was more valued than facilities for more frequently performed activities, such as shopping centres.
  • There was no difference between genders in selection of cinema as a most valued facility, suggesting the difference in levels of attendance between genders isn’t due to attitudes towards the cinema experience.
  • Older people in this age group were more likely to value cinema than the younger people, despite no difference in levels of attendance.

Deciding to go the cinema

  • The top factor driving cinema trips is wanting to see a specific film as soon as possible. The next highest ranked drivers are whether young people’s friends and family are spurring on trips.
  • For the frequent cinema-goers, just wanting to go to the cinema because they like it is enough of
    a motivation.
  • For others, wanting to see a film in a cinema because it particularly suits the big screen experience is another strong driver.
  • Recommendations are more important than ‘buzz’ for these young people – friends talking about the film and good reviews are more important than seeing lots of people talking about the film on
    social media.

Barriers to cinema attendance

  • The barriers to cinema attendance range widely across these young people, with no single barrier emerging strongest. Barriers fall into the following four categories:
  • Logistical barriers: young people want to go, but it’s a lot of time/effort. These barriers were highly ranked, especially a lack of time, and weren’t specific to any particular group.
  • Social barriers: lack of people to go with. This is another very high block for young people, despite ranking cinema as a popular activity to do with friends. It seems that cinema is popular at a particular frequency range for some, and thus friends not wanting to go beyond this frequency is a block to going more often for others. 
  • Film selection: females and older people in this age group especially felt that the cinemas not showing films they want to see is a barrier to going more often. For the frequent cinema-goers, friends/family having different film tastes is a strong barrier to going more often. Connecting frequent cinema-goers for group trips may tackle this barrier.  
  • Cinema experience: among the least frequent cinema goers, barriers related to the cinema experience were strongest. Having better things to do was top for this group, closely followed by not wanting to go too often as that makes it less special. Thus, the least frequent cinema-goers are a mix of those who don’t enjoy the cinema much, and those who enjoy it but are choosing not to go very often.

Changes to the cinema experience

  • In terms of practical changes to cinemas, most young people would only really change how close it was to where they live and the range of films. Despite lots of focus on optimising apps and websites for young people, this is the aspect of cinemas they are most content with.
  • For wider changes to the cinema experience, young people ranked financial incentives top. However, offers alone aren’t what motivate young people to go to the cinema, as these incentives were about making the experience larger. Along the same lines, places to hang out before/after the screening
    is popular.
  • Film related incentives such as personalised recommendations for films, talks about the film before/after the screening, film merchandise etc. mainly appeal to the already frequent cinema-goers.

Cinema vs competitor activities

  • Cinema ranks very highly compared to competing activities on fun, sociability, and popularity with friends, and lower on being relaxing and easy to organise. Of all these factors, fun is the most important for these young people.
  • The advantage cinema has over competing activities is being seen as sociable by facilitating group activities for young people. This is one of the most important considerations young people have when choosing what to do with their time.

Predictors of cinema attendance

  • Using a predictive model across all attitudes and demographic groups revealed in this study, it emerges that the strongest predictors of cinema attendance are either related to money or availability of cinema.
  • Attitudinal differences towards leisure time or the cinema are not strong predictors of cinema attendance.
  • The strongest positive predictors are receiving pocket money or having a part-time job. Related to this, being from social groups ABC1 is one of the top predictors.
  • Other top predictors are having a cinema nearby or living in a city.
  • The strongest negative predictor is associating cinema with the word ‘expensive’. This remains true across social grades, which suggests it’s not just about affordability but perceived value, i.e. those who did not associate the word ‘expensive’ have different primary associations with cinema, not simply more spending money.

The potential cinema-goers

  • Potential cinema-goers are those with a cinema very nearby, but who haven’t been at all in the past month. They are much more price-sensitive when choosing free-time activities and are much more likely to have a primary association with cinema as “expensive”.
  • Potential cinema-goers care more about whether friends want to do activities and they are most influenced by friends’ opinions. Correspondingly, friends wanting to go to the cinema is the top non-film-driven reason they go. Therefore, targeting potential cinema-goers should focus on group experiences.
  • Among the potential cinema-goers that like and value the cinema, the top barrier for not going more often is not wanting to make it less special. This group is perceiving cinema as an activity to only be done occasionally, and changing this perception is important in increasing their cinema attendance.


  • Targeting young people needs to focus on supporting group cinema-going and enabling young people to make the experience larger than just the screening. Sociability is the key selling point of cinema for young people.
  • Cinema is valued, but it’s also considered an infrequent activity. A big block for the least frequent cinema-goers is not wanting to go more often as that makes it less special. There is a choice here to either change this habit by facilitating more frequent visits, or to work with this by allowing young people to make the occasion even more special.
  • For the already frequent cinema-goers, friends/family having different film tastes is a strong block to going more often. Facilitating group outings for these cinema-goers held back by the film tastes of their friends is an opportunity to increase attendance, perhaps through film clubs.
  • Spending money and socio-economic factors are very strong predictors of cinema attendance, and the potential cinema-goers especially have less spending money and are from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Adjusting ticket prices is therefore likely to particularly affect the potential cinema-goers.
  • The strongest negative predictor of cinema attendance is the association with cinema as ‘expensive’. This is true across socio-economic groups, and thus changing perceptions of the value of the cinema experience should be able to impact this association. The key priority areas around which to change perceptions are how relaxing the cinema experience is, and how easy to organise the activity is. Relaxation is ranked highly as a free-time decision criterion, but among the potential cinema-goers the cinema is especially viewed as difficult to organise.  
Stephen Follows