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Consumers Cool to Bailout for Movie Theaters, Concert Venues, New Survey Reveals

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Consumers believe movie theaters and live music concerts have been among the hardest hit industries by the coronavirus pandemic, according to an exclusive new survey from Performance Research in partnership with Full Circle Research.

And yet, despite that understanding, they are also much less eager to support federal relief for theaters and live music venues compared to other sectors.

According to the survey of over 1,000 people in the U.S. conducted between Aug. 3–10, 70% of consumers believe COVID-19 has had a severe negative impact on movie theaters, and 69% see a severe impact for live music concerts. In comparison, 65% see a severe impact for fairs and festivals and live theater, 61% for airlines, 57% for sit-down restaurants, 50% for hotels and museums, and 44% for independent and non-profit arts organizations.

But when asked whether they would support federal relief money being earmarked for those industries, the results are practically reversed.

Just 16% of respondents were very supportive of movie theaters receiving federal aid, and 35% moderately supportive, for 51% net support. The outlook for live music concerts was worse, with just 36% of respondents either moderately or very supportive.

The results underscore the double-bind facing film exhibitors and live music venues: With almost no one going to movies or concerts, people clearly recognize the impact of the pandemic is having on those sectors. And yet by breaking the habit of attending movies and concerts on at least a semi-regular basis, it appears the public’s appetite for saving those industries is mild at best.

Sit-down restaurants, by contrast, are by far the sector the with most support, with 49% of respondents moderately supportive, and 31% very supportive of federal aid — a net of 80% support. The result tracks with the nationwide focus on the food service industry as a critical sector in reviving the economy, to the point that some state and local governments have been criticized for reopening restaurants too soon and contributing to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Museums received the next highest level of support, with 64% of respondents either moderately or very supportive of federal aid. Hotels received 58% net support, independent and non-profit arts organizations 57% net support, and airlines 56% net support.

From there, enthusiasm for taxpayer dollars rescuing businesses drops significantly: Live theater received 46% net support, and fairs and festivals received 39% net support.

There is, however, a silver lining: When asked whether they would support federal aid if it was a matter of life or death, support jumped to over 50% across the board, including 63% net support for movie theaters, and 52% net support for live music concerts.

Communicating that distinction — that without federal aid, vast swaths of theaters and concert venues could go permanently out of business — could be critical for those industries in the coming weeks as Congress continues to hash out new economic stimulus legislation. Those talks were put on ice last week after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate through Labor Day, but Sen. McConnell has said that if a deal is reached, the Senate would be called back for a vote.

Variety's Adam B. Vary contributed to this post.

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