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How far are people willing to travel for Drive-Ins theaters?

Posted by Renee Goble on Apr 10, 2018 11:00:00 AM
Renee Goble

This is the second post of a 6-part series but if you can't wait for the rest to come out, you can get the whole report here!

This post is a continuation of our series on our nationwide Drive-In survey. This data is meant to paint a broad picture of the overall trends of demographics across the United States.

Last week we discussed our survey methodology and dissected the results from Questions 1 & 2. What we uncovered is that of the 3,783 respondents, 96% have visited a Drive-In with 84% visiting within the last 12 months. Not only that, 72% of respondents said they are “extremely likely” (score = 10) to recommend the Drive-In experience to a friend or colleague.

We also learned that 96% of respondents between the ages of 31-40 have not only been to a drive-in, but Females within this category are significant decision makers, determining whether their families will go to the movies.

While this proves that Drive-Ins are popular amongst respondents, it does not provide any clarity regarding the frequency of attendance.


Since this is clearly important information for Drive-In operators, Questions 3, 4, & 5 asked: How far are you willing to drive to visit a Drive-In Movie Theatre?; Is there a Drive-In Movie Theatre within the distance you would be willing to travel from your home?; How many times have you been to a Drive-In Theatre in the last year?

On average, almost all age groups will travel 39.0 miles– except for Under 18s who claim they would travel 53.7 miles (37% more than the average). While Under 18s could be a potentially significant untapped Drive-In demographic, their responses could also be due to a few factors:

  • The sample size for Under 18s represents only 1% of total respondents.
  • Under 18s are less likely to drive than the other demographics in the study, so, their stated distances are more likely to be exaggerated.
  • Most States don’t allow full licenses to Under 18s. This limits the number of teens in a car and bans driving late at night, inhibiting the attendance of a nighttime activity.

While this demographic is 15% less likely to have visited a Drive-In than someone over 30, their responses suggest that they may be interested in learning more about Drive-Ins. Because of this, it'd be worthwhile for Drive-In owners to test the Under 18 market further with a larger sample size.

Relatively speaking, Millennials are willing to travel more than twice as far for a Drive-In experience (38.5 miles average) than they will to visit a hardtop theatre (16.3 miles average - 1,185 responses). Allied with a 9.1 NPS score, this further suggests Drive-Ins are very popular amongst Millennials.

While Millennials are willing to drive far for a Drive-In Experience, those between the 31-50 age range are willing to drive farther at 39.1 miles on average.

Curiously, the average distance most moviegoers will travel, 39.0 miles, is nearly twice as far (2.2 times) as the average distance they'll go to a hardtop (average = 18.1 miles, taken from our 2017 Nationwide Concession Survey). This confirms the results discussed last week – Drive-In moviegoers are extremely loyal and excited about the Drive-In experience.


Not only are Drive-In moviegoers willing to drive farther for the experience, on average, they'll make 5 visits per year. This is 50% more than how often the average visitor goes to a hardtop (average = 3.4 times, according to the MPAA). Since most Drive-Ins are open for approximately 6 months a year, this again displays strong loyalty amongst existing guests.

Furthermore, the 18-23 age group stated they visit the Drive-In 6 times per year, which equates to a monthly visit during a typical season.

While marketing should focus on families with adults in the 31-50 age range, popularity is likely to be strongest with a 35-45-year-old mom (within 40 miles of a Drive-In). These should be the primary demographic and geographic focus factors taken into consideration.

So, how do you reach this group? One way to potentially market to this demographic is through schools. Where there are areas with schools within 30 miles of Drive-Ins, consider experimenting with “family tickets.” Try using these tickets to promote a family experience driven by younger family-members that are likely to have strong parental appeal and approval. This sort of upward-generational marketing is a great way to encourage multi-generational experiences that create lasting memories and promote drive-in attendance. A similar marketing solution can be used for Millennial attendees through "group tickets" or special event nights.

While we can now safely confirm that these moviegoers are resolutely loyal and dedicated to their Drive-Ins, what is it that makes them willing to drive 39 miles six times a year to watch a couple of movies? In other words, what makes them visit a Drive-In?

Tune in next week to find out...

Topics: Survey Strategies

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