We love sport. We love movies. But movies more than sport?

Almost a third of Australians have been to the movies in the last four weeks, according to a recent research report.

Companies love making a positive case with some catchy research. Village Roadshow is no exception. The national box office last year was $1.2b, the third highest on record. 

Village is supporting a research announcement by Gemba, which does a lot of work in the sport and popular entertainment space.

‘But going out to the cinema remains the most popular out-of-home entertainment option for Australians, alongside live music, ahead of zoos and food & wine festivals. It also out-strips any single sport in terms of passion – AFL, cricket, NRL and tennis all have broad national appeal, but none are as consistently popular across age groups, genders, regions, or wealth demographics as the movies.’

I can’t think of a single movie that creates the rabid behaviour of NRL or AFL fans in key games, and we are lucky they don’t. Imagine an entire multiplex audience screaming Bong Joon-ho, Bong Joon-ho… No, no. NO. The point being that the social circumstances of watching the flicks is more respectable and there is a wider range of demographics. 

Here is the Gemba diagram about the relative popularity of activities. 

This is all movie watching, versus all of the sports both at the game and on the small screen. The pedant in me is wondering if this is comparing apples with oranges. 

It probably means that less people over a certain unspecified period of time go to the NRL than the cinema. But if we decide that cinema is the same category as sport in general, we discover that the totals for sport swamp everything else which we intuitively think. And if we take into account people who stay home to watch sport, the situation is even more extreme. 

And let’s also remember that a given sport only occurs at a particular time of the year while the multiplexes are open every day. 

Gemba also claims that: 

Interestingly, streaming movies now outstrips cinema attendance as the preferred ‘small screen consumption’.

And then:

Gemba research shows that almost a third of Australians have attended a cinema in the past four weeks. Primary motivations are for relaxation, because it is fun and enjoyable, and as a social experience to spend time with friends or family. Compared with at-home streaming, going to the cinema is perceived by movie-lovers as significantly more fun, exciting and social.

Not surprising or they wouldn’t go. But do we go to the flicks that frequently? 

Weekend box office in Australia varies between around $8m and $22m (very roughly) per week, to yield that $1.2 billion for the year. Divide that by 15, which is the average price of a ticket, and we discover that a key weekend in the summer holidays had around 1.5m people at the movies. Which is impressive, actually and would have been larger than the combined sport fixtures for that weekend.

So, the month had around 6m attendances which is a quarter of the population. Of course, lots of people go more than once across the month of January,  which is the absolute peak time… all looks a bit thin really. Doesn’t pass the smell test. 

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.