The movie theater industry is, for better or worse, in a state of reinvention. Independent theaters are closing in droves: New York City’s Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas recently shuttered, to thousands of fans’ dismay. Meanwhile, other upstart cinema chains like Alamo Drafthouse and Nighthawk Cinema are reinventing what it means to go to the movies: with full menus, adult beverages, and reserved seating. As brands attempt to reinvigorate the American tradition of a night out at the movies, it appears that consumers' interest in showing up for the curtain's raise is slowing down.
If you think that the major chains like AMC and Regal are in the clear, though, you could be wrong. That’s because according to our data at Thinknum, Facebook check-in growth is down year-over-year. Facebook check-ins, otherwise known as a “We’re Here” count, is becoming an increasingly useful measure of foot traffic in retail establishments. In the case of major movie chains, the data trend doesn’t look great.
To be fair, Facebook check-ins are up overall, but growth has slowed, signaling a possibly dim future for the movie screen.
AMC's “We’re Here” counts look healthy overall, with a steep rise in 2016 and settling in to a cumulative check-in rate of around 28.5 million across 8,123 screens in 626 theaters throughout the United States. But, as you can see below, growth in terms of check-ins has slowed.
Regal Theaters, with 7,334 screens in 588 theaters throughout the US, has also shown a nice cumulative Facebook check-in count over the past years, topping out at a healthy 38.8 million as of publishing. However, when compared year over year, growth in checkins has also slowed noticeably.
Cinemark currently claims 4,457 screens in 334 theaters, and they too have seen nice growth over the years when it comes to cumulative Facebook checkins, currently sitting at about 22.5 million. Not a shabby number in the scheme of foot traffic numbers, but when one solves for year-over-year vector, we see a similar pattern to that of rivals AMC and Regal.
So what does it mean?
People are worried about the movie theater industry, and with good reason. As television - both in terms of technology and available content - continues to improve, more Americans are choosing to stay home rather than make the investment to hit the theater. While the cumulative numbers are impressive - movie theater checkins are regular one of the most checked-in establishments among all of our Facebook numbers for "We're Here" - any decline in growth over time is problematic, especially as the movie theater industry looks for more ways to improve squeezed profits, rising rents, and declining consumer interest.