The ground-breaking Reaching The Audience survey is one of the biggest of its kind ever undertaken and offers a unique insight into the cinema-going habits of European society. This is an executive summary from the report by Attentional, Headway International and Harris Interactive.

An online survey of 4,608 Europeans aged between four and 50 living in 10 countries — Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland,Romania, Spain and the UK — took place in March and April 2013, with respondents recruited from Harris Interactive Europe.

Nearly all of the respondents — 97% — watch films at least sometimes, of which 54% do so every day, as against 56% for TV series. Across the 10European markets, nearly 100% of respondents own at least one device that enables the consumption of video and film at home. Outside the home, 14% of respondents have no access to cinemas within 30 minutes of their homes. This figure rises to 16% in Croatia, 27% in Lithuania and 37% in Romania.

Film viewers watch films on a wide array of devices and venues with 87%watching films in a cinema, 90% on TV (including pay-TV), 85% on computer and 67% on DVD. Children and young adults go to the cinema and use VoDmore often than adults. They also watch more films on home video, especially DVD. Of those with smartphones, 40% of owners watch films on the device and 62% of tablet owners use these to watch films.

Nearly half of respondents are or have been reached by film education programmes: 43% of respondents ‘watch or have watched films as part of a course of study at a school, university or in adult education’. The highest reach for these programmes can be found in Romania (63%), Italy (53%) and Spain (50%) while the lowest reach is in Germany (24%), UK (27%) and Croatia (36%).


The percentage of those people downloading or streaming films from free websites who say cinema tickets are too expensive

The majority of those who experienced film clubs or training programmes agreed it ‘raised their curiosity for other types of cinema’ and led them to watch more diverse films (40% ‘strongly’ agree), ‘raised their interest in cinema’ and led them to watch more films (37% ‘strongly’ agree), ‘improved their filmculture’ and strengthened their film knowledge (43% ‘strongly’ agree). Children’s interest in film literacy is even stronger: some 85% said it helped raise their interest in cinema.

Some 68% of film viewers said they downloaded free files for storage on personal drives and 56% said they streamed films from free websites. Some 50% of those who do so say ‘cinema tickets, VoD and DVD are too expensive’, while 37% think ‘some films are interesting but not worth paying for the cinema experience’.

Other motivations include ease of access (31% consider ‘many films are available online and they don’t see the point in paying’), lack of availability (30% say that ‘many films they want to see are not available in their country’), missed opportunities (28% say ‘they didn’t go when the film was on in the cinema and they can’t wait for it to be available on DVD or on TV’ while 23% say they ‘don’t have time to go to the cinema’). Some 11% of free downloaders say they stream and download because ‘cinemas are too far away’.

Why people are watching films

The key reasons to watch films include ‘to entertain oneself and have fun’ (96%), to ‘spend some nice time with family or friends’ (96%), ‘to discover and learn about people and cultures’ (90%) and to ‘experience strong moments and emotions’ (91%). The majority of film viewers generally look for information about films either ‘when the films are released in theatres’ (37%) or ‘right before deciding to watch a film’ (23%).

The two most important criteria are genre and story. After these come cast, familiarity with the protagonists and setting. Women pay more attention to genre or type of film and whether or not it is adapted from a book. The director and production values are more important to men while the setting and lead character are more important to young adults.


The percentage of film viewers who follow film-related accounts on social media networks

Young adults aged 16-25 are the most sensitive to film advertising and to recommendations from friends. For watching films on TV, prior knowledge and scheduling play a big role in choosing films, while with VoD, ‘films I have already heard about’ and the ability to search by genre are important.

Film-related social-media activities are widespread, and 5%-10% of the respondents regularly engage in the process. Some 60% of film viewers follow film-related accounts on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. 

A full 92% of young adults aged 16-25 years research films by watching trailers on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and Dailymotion. Big-budget marketing campaigns, such as those for Cloud Atlas and The Impossible, with exclusive content and fully fledged social-media strategies, have the strongest impact.

Children are most aware of animated films, comedies, adventure films and franchises and films budgeted at more than $20m (€15m). Young adults naturally show higher awareness for teen movies and know most about films shot in English. They enjoy action, crime, fantasy and adventure. They also know a lot about franchises. Adults know more about — and enjoy more — films shot in their national language and dramas. They value genres including war, history and biography and know more about films with a budget less than $20m (€15m).

‘Hyper-connected movie addicts’ (24% of European film viewers) are the heaviest viewers of media and films. They are typically ‘digital natives’, young, male and urban. They watch all sorts of films.


The percentage of smartphone owners who watch films on the device

‘Rushed independent movie selectives’ (22% of European film viewers) are the second largest group in terms of film consumption, especially European films. They are typically working adults with few or no children, women aged 26-50 years earning average incomes but with a fairly high level of education and working in intellectual professions such as academia and teaching. 

‘Mainstream blockbuster lovers’ (16% of European film viewers) are the third largest group. But unlike ‘movie addicts’ and ‘movie selectives’, they watch mainly US blockbusters and only few European films, live in less urban areas and have less access to cinemas.

‘Occasional hit grazers’ (21% of European film viewers) watch fewer films, and take less notice of media and culture in general. Instead, they watch TV, read some books, listen to music and surf the internet including social networks. They are typically younger, semi-urban or rural women going to school or in the middle of their studies. Despite watching fewer films, their interest in European films comes through as relatively strong.

‘Movie indifferents’ (16% of European film viewers) watch the fewest films. They are typically either young or older men, less educated, poorer, living in the most rural and semi-urban areas and the least equipped with media devices and services. They are little interested in film apart from action and comedy, and watch mostly US blockbusters.

What are they watching?

Among the 24 genres proposed by this study, a minimum of 67% of film viewers say they watch nearly all genres but some only ‘rarely’. When asked which types of films they would continue to see in cinemas if all films were available on any platform, audiences mentioned a variety of genres. ‘Comedy’ and ‘action’/’blockbusters’ come top, followed by ‘science fiction’, ‘horror’, ‘adventure’, ‘fantasy’, ‘thriller’ and ‘animation’, genres featuring strong visual settings and/or narrative dynamics.

‘Drama’, ‘romance’, ‘historical films’ and ‘documentaries’, were least cited. 


The percentage of free downloaders who say they stream and download because ‘cinemas are too far away’

Respondents praised the originality, creativity, innovation and diversity of European films, liked ‘the variety of movies and genres’, and appreciated the quality of content. When asked what they disliked about European cinema, they pointed primarily to a language issue (‘foreign language’, ‘subtitles’). They also criticised stories (‘boring’, ‘slow’, ‘heavy’), actors, production (‘poor quality’, ‘low budget’) and pointed to weaknesses in the promotion and distribution of European films. They generally agreed European films are ‘less stereotypical than US films’, ‘feature diverse and complex characters’ and are ‘original and

Respondents liked US films primarily for their production values and actors. When asked about what they disliked about US productions, respondents primarily mentioned ‘violence’.

In each country respondents were offered a list of selected films including national films, European films and US films. Respondents were asked if they knew each film (awareness), if they had seen it (viewing) and if they had liked it (satisfaction).

Recent national films, including both commercial hits and smaller arthouse movies, had typically been seen by 10%-25% of film viewers in their respective local markets. Recent European films had typically been seen by
10%-15%, while recent US films had typically been seen by 30%-50% of the population in each country. US films had the highest awareness, followed by national films, with European films ranking last.

The most successful national films had a very high level of awareness in their own countries. However the majority of national films, while achieving high awareness, were less attractive to mainstream audiences in
their local markets. European films, on the other hand, had lower average awareness, but the gap between awareness and viewing was less.

A presence in festivals and prizes usually have no correlation with the general awareness of a movie (movies with high festival presence may fall into a specialist niche as far as the average viewer is concerned) though
they can impact specific audiences — in particular film viewers with a higher education level and film expertise.