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Popcorn People: Profiles of the U.S. Moviegoer Audience

2 minute read | January 2013

Nielsen takes a look at annual moviegoer trends as awards season continues. According to Nielsen NRG’s (National Research Group’s) 2012 American Moviegoing report, 70 percent of Americans ages 12 and older reported seeing one or more movies at a theater in the last 12 months, which is in line with moviegoing in the year prior. The demographic makeup of the moviegoing audience has remained relatively consistent over the last couple of years, but the proportion of younger moviegoers (12-24) and oldest moviegoers (65-74) has grown gradually at the expense of middle-aged moviegoers (25-54).

Overall attendance to new release movies was on par with a year ago (6.8 movies per person on average, compared with 6.9 in 2011), while moviegoing increased among Hispanics (12%), people aged 25-34 (7%), youths 12-17 (3%) and males (3%). Although there were slightly more female moviegoers than male moviegoers in 2012 (51% and 49%, respectively), men accounted for 55 percent of theatrical attendance.

When looking at the moviegoing audience by race/ethnicity, Hispanics were the heaviest moviegoers, as they represented 18 percent of the moviegoing population, but accounted for 25 percent of all movies seen. Hispanics were also the only demographic group that went to more movies in 2012 than in the prior year–9.5 movies on average compared with 8.5 in 2011.

 The 2012 report highlights that going to the movie theater seems to carry a particularly positive cultural significance for Hispanics, as they were considerably more likely than non-Hispanics to view going to a theater as a way to spend time with their family and friends (86% vs. 77%). They also were more likely to spend time discussing the movies after seeing them (66% vs. 53%).


A two-stage study in which online, phone, and in-person surveys were conducted during August and September 2012 among more than 3,000 Americans aged 12-74, who were nationally representative of the U.S. population of moviegoers by age, gender, and race. “Moviegoer” is defined as someone having attended at least one movie in a theater in the past 12 months.

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