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What do people think of Drive-In Movie Theatres in 2018?

by Renee Goble

In December 2017, SurveyMe asked 3,783 moviegoers, from 116 Drive-In Movie Theatres across 36 States, 11 questions about their Drive-In Movie Theatre experience. We'll be publishing these results weekly in our blog, but if you want to see the results now you can download our Ebook here.

In a previous nationwide survey conducted by SurveyMe, we discovered that Females between 31-40 (i.e. "Rockstars") were some of the biggest decision makers when attending a hard-top movie theater. In other words, they are the individuals most strongly impacting their family's decision to go to the movies. Their willingness to provide feedback and the influence they wield on future generations makes them "Memory-Makers of the Future."

The goal of this survey then, was to help drive-in owners identify ideas that appeal to their "Memory-Makers of the Future" so that way a much-cherished part of Americana will continue to be preserved.

Comprised of thousands of moviegoers in over 4,000 movie theatres, the SurveyMe network is filled with moviegoers ready to share their thoughts and ideas with you to improve the movie-going experience and help you sell more at the concession stands.

At SurveyMe, we listen differently. After speaking with several SurveyMe Drive-In clients and observing the insights they received, we wanted to delve in further to this much-loved part of Americana worthy of in-depth analysis.

The feedback we've received shows us that Drive-Ins appeal to young people and are often at the heart of a unique family experience.

Though each Drive-In has their own individual needs, the methodology used for collecting the data is statistically sound and verifiable. This survey was conducted between December 2017 and January 2018, and then analyzed by age and gender using the SurveyMe SM@RT Insights Dashboard.



71% of respondents were Female (31% between the ages of 31-40) and their responses suggest they are the gender most likely to influence their friends and families' decision to go to the Drive-In. Not only that, while Drive-Ins do attract a large portion of Baby Boomers who appreciate the nostalgic experience, 23% of respondents identified as Millennials (18 – 30 year-olds), the fastest growing US moviegoer demographic for “hardtop” theatres (according to the MPAA in 2017). What this suggests is that the success of Drive-Ins is in the influential hands of Millennial and Rockstar “Memory-Makers of the Future” (more on this later).



Before we dive into the data, there are, however, a few important things to keep in mind.

First, there are a few questions that we didn't ask that could help increase concession sales:

  • “How many minutes do you usually arrive before the first movie is scheduled to start?”
  • “How much do you usually spend at the concession stand?”
  • What ONE item that we don’t currently sell at the concession would you MOST like us to sell?”
  • “We are thinking of launching a family concession bucket combo deal. If we didn’t do this, how disappointed would you be?”
  • “How often do you sneak food items into your local Drive-In? What items do you sneak in?”

Secondly, we didn't study the size of groups or the relative age of occupants in a single car. Knowing this could help owners make movie selections and plan special event nights.

Finally, although we have collected insights from moviegoers in 36 States, we have not yet studied regional variations between Drive-Ins and, at the guidance of the UDITOA Board, we did not filter responses by ethnic background.

This first post will focus on our findings from Question 1 and 2.



Question 1: Have you ever been to a Drive-In Theatre? Of the 3,783 respondents, 96% have visited a Drive-In with 84% visiting within the last 12 months. Broken down by key demographic, 99% of those over the age of 51 and 89% of Millennial respondents had been to a Drive-In. We also discovered that there is over a 7% increase in attendance between respondents in the 31-40 age group (96% of respondents) and the Millennials.

Not only that, by asking "how likely" they are to recommend the Drive-In experience, we discovered that all age demographics are “evangelic” about the Drive-Ins.

Question 2: On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend visiting a Drive-In Theatre to a friend or colleague?

Question 2 uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) scale -- a universally known measurement for a customer’s passion for a company, brand, or experience. The closer the score is to “10,” the more likely those guests will be repeat visitors and advocates for your business. This means they will engage in unsolicited word-of-mouth marketing for their local Drive-In. [CTA or hyperlink that directs people to our NPS paper]



The average NPS score for Drive-Ins for all age demographics is 9.3 - that's unprecedented!

Overall, irrespective of gender, 72% of respondents said they are “extremely likely” (score = 10) to recommend the Drive-In experience to a friend or colleague.

Basically, regardless of age, once someone has experienced a Drive-In, the unique memories created will make them want to return and share the experience with others.

To increase income then, Drive-In Movie Theatre owners should focus on incentivizing their existing guest database to bring in new guests. If guest databases haven't been created, owners should quickly invest in making and maintaining one.

Since almost all Baby Boomers have experienced a Drive-In and are very positive about promoting their experience, they are influential in creating future memory-makers. So, marketing ideas like "free entry to anyone over 60 accompanied by a child" would be a great way for Drive-In operators to encourage the growth of their audience through this demographic.

While Baby Boomers are loyal Drive-In attendees, Moms between the ages of 31-50 are the most influential Drive-In group, often making the executive decision to visit a Drive-In instead of a hardtop. To encourage the growth and happiness of both these demographics, focus on marketing a multi-generational family experience to pass on the positive memories associated with this American pastime (and if you want ideas on how to do this, feel free to give us a call).



While these questions prove that Drive-Ins are still a popular past-time with moviegoing Americans, they don't yet provide us with a clear picture of a Drive-In movie-goer's loyalty.

While we know drive-ins are popular, are they visited often? How far are people willing to travel to visit one? Pinpointing how far or often someone is willing to go to a Drive-In will help further protect drive-ins amidst the rapid changes of the 21st century.

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