Evangelicals among biggest moviegoers

A new Barna survey has found that evangelicals go to more movies than just about anybody.

From The Barna Group – Superheroes, Presidents and a Girl on Fire: 2012 at the Movies:

If you’re a moviegoer, you might assume everyone goes to the movies. If 1.36 billion movie tickets sold in 2012, that means there were more than four movie tickets sold for every American. But, in actuality, a full 35% of the American population says they didn’t see a single movie in theaters in the last 12 months. And of people ages 67 and older, respondents report they’ve only seen, on average, 0.4 movies in the last year—meaning less than half of Elders set foot in the movie theater in 2012.

So who bought all those tickets? As you might expect, it was mostly young adults (i.e., Mosaics, ages 18-28) filling the darkened venues. Of that age group, the average Mosaic saw 3.4 movies in the theater over the last year—double the national average for all adults, which was 1.7 movies per person.

A big year at the box office was also a big year for at-home movies. With streaming, cheap rental options like Blu-ray, online renting and purchasing services like Apple TV and Amazon Instant Video, it’s become easier than ever to watch movies at home. In the past year, the average American adult has watched over 10 movies by DVD, Blu-ray, streaming or video. Once again, Mosaics watched about twice as many movies (20) as the national average while Elders only watched 3.7 movies in these ways. The other age groups fall somewhere in between (Busters see 10 movies this way and Boomers watch 16).

But, the numbers are nearly turned on their head when it comes to movies watched on cable, satellite or broadcast television. While Mosaics only saw 8.4 movies via TV in the past 12 months, Elders watched 12.2. And Boomers, or people between the ages of 48 and 66, watched, on average, over 15 movies on television over the last year.

How does a person’s faith affect their movie watching habits? Well, in terms of the amount of movies seen at the theater, evangelicals saw 2.7 movies at the movie theater in the last year, a full movie more than the national, adult average. In fact, the average number of movies evangelicals saw is bigger than any of the age groups except for Mosaics. The only faith group that saw more movies than evangelicals were people who didn’t identify with any faith—that segment saw an average of 3 movies per person in theaters over the last year.

So evangelicals go to more movies than just about any other group even though evangelicals probably also complain more about the movies than anyone else!

I have found that when evangelicals talk about influencing the culture, they tend to think of movies doing that, both for good and for ill, which makes them want to make movies of their own.  Surely a good book or a good school or a good family does more to influence the culture, as such, than a piece of evanescent entertainment.  (That’s the kind of movie most evangelicals watch, according to the study, rather than more serious films.)  So this study explains a lot.

Also, though, the numbers seem quite small.   In the 1930s, in the pre-television era, virtually everyone went to the movies.  So going to three movies a year counts as a lot?  There is a vast market, if filmmakers knew how to tap into it, far more potential moviegoers than the teenagers and  twenty-somethings that everything is geared to now.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Hmmm.. it’s difficult for me to go to movies as of late, as it seems there’s very little I regard to be watchable now…

  • Julian Spiegler

    The main takeaway for me was the term “Mosaic”. Guess I’m one. Do I need an angry beard? Shall I set my face against the Goat Pharaoah?

    I think I’ve only seen 2 films in theatres in the last 12 months, both of them blockbusters (Batman & Les Mis). Truth be told, I would have seen at least 5 more around Christmas (Argo, Django, Lincoln, Hobbit, Zero) if it were solely up to me.

  • sg

    According to the Motion Picture Association,

    “Hispanics and ethnicities identified as “Other” (including Asian Americans) report the highest annual attendance per capita, attending on average 5 times per year, compared to less than 4 times per year for African Americans and Caucasians.”

    http://www.mpaa.org/resources/5bec4ac9-a95e-443b-987b-bff6fb5455a9.pdf

    About 20% of hispanics are protestants, so there is overlap.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    Does Barna ever find any data that is flattering to evangelicals?

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/ Michael Snow

    “Surely a good book or a good school or a good family does more to influence the culture,…”
    Amen.

  • Kirk

    I love movies with gratuitous violence and maybe a little bit of swearing. I’m categorically against any film that acknowledges the existence of sex, though.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kirk, :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    John, so why does this statistic reflect negatively on evangelicals?

  • tODD

    Klasie (@8), one example of how it embarrasses evangelicals is that it says that the film with the highest Evangelical-to-non-Evangelical ratio was 2016: Obama’s America. I mean, come on. That’s not flattering.

  • dust

    re: 5 – yes, movies….the new opiate of the masses :)

    cheers!

  • fjsteve

    I think part of the answer to this is revealed by looking at which movies evangelicals watched most:

    The year’s biggest film, The Avengers, was also a big hit among evangelicals. Over the last 12 months, 42% of evangelicals saw the film. That’s the highest rate except for people with no faith—43% of those surveyed who don’t identify with any faith saw The Avengers. Evangelicals also flocked to The Hunger Games (36% of them saw it in the last year) and The Lorax (24%).

    What do all of these movies have in common? They’re very popular with kids. Could all of this just mean that evangelicals have more kids than the national average?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I hate movies with vanishing babies and Kirk Cameron as the star. Other than that I’m fairly open, if they were just cheaper.

  • sg

    What do all of these movies have in common? They’re very popular with kids. Could all of this just mean that evangelicals have more kids than the national average?

    Yes, evangelicals, like hispanics, are on average younger because they have more kids and therefore go to more movies.

    Yawn.

  • http://patheos.com Bill Boylston

    I have come to believe that when you teach or preach, you need visual images to tell the stories. That’s what movies are all about -stories- some bad, some good. And Christians should not be shocked when preachers go to moves. They go to them ,too, and won’t admit it.

  • Grace

    Dust @ 10

    “yes, movies….the new opiate of the masses”

    I agree with Dust.

    We wonder why young people and young adults are devoted to Hollywood film – they are hungry, hungry for something that will satisfy the craving within. Are they satisfied – NO!

    Drugs, violence, any sort of sex – and the “masses” gravitate like a starving person, who hasn’t eaten a decent meal in weeks.

    Parents wring their hands in distress, young people take drugs, and go on wild binges, to suppress their pain. And EVERYONE stands around with a bewildered look on their face as if their blind and dumb as to how this all started. Film didn’t start the trend, but it sure didn’t help curb the desire for MORE, MORE, MORE!

    I couldn’t care less about the Oscars – I’m not alone. It’s all a sham. Film could be a good thing – it wasn’t always this way. There were films that inspired our youth, gave voice to things that were good, that made others lives better. The music from some of these great extravagances are STILL the most popular music and song.

    Film producers, and writers want to be what they call “CREATIVE” It’s not “creative” – most of it is violent, sexual, and exploits women, and sex.

    Most people are so used to the films offered, they don’t expect anything of real value, just more of the same, …………!

  • fjsteve

    sg, sorry, I’m not picking on on the yawn bit. Care to clue me in?

  • http://pekoponian.blogspot.com pekoponian

    I think I went to the movies 3 times last year. Twice with friends and once with my husband. I almost never take my kids to the movies. They can hardly sit through a movie at home, so why suffer through a children’s film in the theater with them when I can wait and get it on Netflix? Then I can read a book or get some housework done during the film. I’m Lutheran, not Evangelical and I am also Hispanic with a large family. Survey takers never like me. I always blow the curve.

  • Hanni

    When I was growing up in our fundy Methodist church (wesleyan holiness) in sou. Ill., it was a sin to go to movies, but if you did sin, it was practically the unpardonable one to go on Sundays. We also could not dance or play cards and we went to the altar quite a bit. Now (I am 81) and for quite a few years there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things, I have noticed, and I have been doing them formany years myself, even drinking wine sometimes. Why do we listen to these pastors who focus on this type of preaching? It took me many years to appreciate the reformed tradition. It took a good Lutheran pastor and a presbyterian one, but still years of guilt. to get over this legalism. Films, btw, I think are a powerful way to influence the world. I watch many wonderful ones through Netflix; mostly British and documentaries. If one is interested in the film industry, you can get some good docs on: The making of silent films (I had no idea they were so beautiful) which started in Europe, but spread to the US, when money was scarce. Also some good films on making and interpreting foreign films (Italian and French mostlh) quite fascinating.

  • Hanni

    Oops, I wanted to recommend a documentary if you are interested. The Lumiere brothers made the first movie camera, a large box In 1995, several well known directors were invited to make a very short film using the original Lumiere camera. Very interesting to see what these creative people would do, mostly very good. I don’t remember the name, got it through Netflix, but if you put in Lumiere (sp ok I think) in Netflix or google you will find it. The opening scene in 1885 in Rouen was duplicated by one director.

  • Helen K.

    Haven’t been to a movie in a theatre in a long time. May have been about 4 years ago. I sometimes see the previews on TV and can’t get that interested. Got Netflix but it’s basically for DH. I am thinking of cutting the cable on TV. I like documentaries and biographies and other boring stuff. Our local library has plenty of films and videos to check out. Got a Roku the other day thinking we could cut the cable and maybe try only an antenna for local news. Already watched two fun little pieces on the Smithsonian channel this evening. Probably stuff not many people would be interested in. With Amazon Prime and Netflix, we should be able to about anything we would like. Party on…..(:

  • Grace

    Barna’a surveys are skewed.

    Most people have no clue what Evangelical means. The majority believe it’s anyone who is not a RC, a cultist, Jehovah’s Witness, or a few denominations. If you asked them what a Christian is, or how they would define, they would tell you it’s the Sermon on the Mount, as their main answer.

  • Grace

    My husband and I decided to watch the film (1966) Hawaii on TV (PBS) – Julie Andrews is one of the main actors. It soon became apparent, after they reached Hawaii, coming as missionaries.. the film would become not only violent, but the women (Hawaiin) dancing, were nude on top, albiet ‘fogged over for the most part.

    We turned it off – The protrayal of Andrews husband as a missionary was very odd.

  • tODD

    Grace (@21), merely claiming that Barna’s surveys are “skewed” doesn’t constitute an argument, it just tells us you don’t like what he said. How are his surveys skewed? What did he do wrong? Or do you just not like the results?

    You also complained that “Most people have no clue what Evangelical means,” and that may be true, but you seem to have ignored the fact that Barna defines his terms quite clearly (in the linked article, no less) — in this case, with eight criteria. What about those criteria is lacking? For that matter, why don’t you define what an Evangelical is for us?

  • Grace

    tODD @ 23

    I have decided not to engage your exhausting trivial nit-picking.

    Type away, I won’t play.

  • Hanni

    Hi Grace…..I don’t think todds post is nitpicking. He asked you why you said the things you did and did you have facts, because for one thing Barna is a well known reliable (afaik} Christian pollster. Do you think his sample is wrong. When you make remarks like this you should have a basis, according to scripture because you wouldn’t want to perpetuate an untruth. I certainly don’t know why his results would be politically inncorrect for evangelicals, so we go to more movies, so what. As Todd said, the criteria was plain, and I am sure he disseminated his poll to those who would understand, not people on the street corner. If someone asks why you said something unfavorable to another person/business it is ok to answer why, otherwise it is ad hominem.

  • Grace

    Hanni -

    ➜ “I don’t think todds post is nitpicking.”

    It doesn’t matter what you “think” – LOL

    ➜ “Do you think his sample is wrong. When you make remarks like this you should have a basis, according to scripture because you wouldn’t want to perpetuate an untruth.”

    Hanni, for you to intimate that I am lying/untruth is casting doubt on my honesty and integrity
    – My observations are mine, furthermore, I have no reason to debate my truthfulness with you. I put no faith in the Barna group – that comes from my experience. Your comment about “untruth” is off base! You might check your reasons for suggesting I have been ‘untruthful, I see that as a RED FLAG!

    ➜ ” If someone asks why you said something unfavorable to another person/business it is ok to answer why, otherwise it is ad hominem.

    You have misused the word ad hominem.

    ad hominem Definition:

    “Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason: Debaters should avoid ad hominem arguments that question their opponents’ motives.”

    Directed against a person rather than against his arguments

    I’ve read and posted about the Barna group, before. It’s isn’t a matter of what ‘you think, it’s what I have observed over the past years regarding his polls.

    I have no interest in replacing you with tODD, as a nit-picker. Having said that, I see no reason to continue this discussion, as you see fit to intervene, only because I have chosen, to no longer answer his endless questions your friend asks.

  • Grace

  • Grace

    Hear what Barna says about “common ground” ETC – including differences.

    Listen carefully!

  • sg

    “sg, sorry, I’m not picking on on the yawn bit. Care to clue me in?”

    The actual trend is youth. Youth go to more movies. Evangelicals, hispanics or any other group that is younger than average will go to more movies unless there is a good reason not to like religion. So, Amish wouldn’t go to more movies, but maybe Orthodox Jews would? Don’t know if OJ are anti-movies.

  • tODD

    Grace, I really like how you went from accusing Barna’s surveys of being “skewed” (@21) to getting your panties in a knot (@26) over someone’s “casting doubt on my honesty and integrity”.

    I know it doesn’t matter what I — or anyone else who disagrees with you — think, but, well, I think that’s remarkably hypocritical of you.

    But if you can’t defend your (baseless) claims intellectually, then just say so. You don’t have to act all offended in an attempt to change the subject. Just say, “I have no real basis for my notions, but I don’t like Barna’s conclusions, so they must be skewed.” Easy, see?

    Because this sort of hand-waving won’t cut it:

    It’s isn’t a matter of what ‘you think, it’s what I have observed over the past years regarding his polls.

    You haven’t observed anything. If you had, you could answer the question. But you can’t. There’s no there there.

    And, just for the record, posting a video in which Barna says things you don’t like in no way tells us why his data his “skewed” or suspect. It only further suggests that you don’t know how to refute his data, so you just attack the man. Which, ironically, is an ad hominem fallacy. Maybe you could look up the definition for that?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    I guess my family is not doing its part, as I’ve not been in a movie theater for almost 15 years. Not because I’m part of a “Holiness” church, but rather because the offerings are SO BAD. I’m not talking (per Kirk) about sexuality or violence, but rather that there is so much spent on special effects and sound, and so little is spent on “plot development” and “acting skills”. Why spend close to $100 to go to the theater (I have six children), or even $20-$30 for my wife and I, when what’s playing isn’t half as good as what I can get from the library for free?

    That’s probably why movie-going is down so much in the past 80 years, really. My grandma’s hometown of ~3000 used to support a movie theater at something like a nickel per ticket, and no chance of that today. And go figure; what was playing 50 years ago was very often worth watching. Do the math, Hollyweird.

  • tODD

    Bike (@31), if you seriously think that there haven’t been any films with “plot development” or “acting skills” in the past 15 years, or that all films involve copious amounts of “special effects and sound”, you haven’t been paying attention.

    That’s probably why movie-going is down so much in the past 80 years, really. My grandma’s hometown of ~3000 used to support a movie theater at something like a nickel per ticket, and no chance of that today.

    Hmm. Let’s think. Has anything else changed in the past 80 years that might have affected rates of movie-going? Because, as you note, one doesn’t have to go to a theater to see a movie anymore. One can get a DVD (or VHS cassette) from the library. Or buy or rent one at any number of stores. Or from Netflix, which also allows you to stream a lot of films. As does the rest of the Internet, both legally and illegally.

    So, you know, which of those did your grandma use to view films?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD, there is a difference between a film having some plot and character development, and a film having plot and character development reminiscent of 50 years back. Sorry, but it’s just not the same.

    Certainly the television has had its impact, but quite frankly, the “opportunity cost” on those 50″ and 70″ TVs (and entertainment rooms in which to house them costing about the cost of a car) would buy a lot of movie tickets if people were persuaded that the movie theater experience was worth it. The trouble today is that the studios are providing half the story and charging twice the price to be in half the quality of a theater. It’s no surprise that the bottom is falling out of the market.

  • Grace

    Bike @ 31 “I’ve not been in a movie theater for almost 15 years. Not because I’m part of a “Holiness” church, but rather because the offerings are SO BAD.”

    We rarely go to films anymore, nor do most of those we know, except for those 30 and younger, even they don’t go very often. The films are BAD, for a variety of reasons. Living in Southern CA, where the film industry is located, makes it even easier to see how seldom people go to the theatre, or how little they care anymore.

    The TELL-TALE SIGN IS: New theaters are not being built. Why is that? Especially in Southern CA.

    When I read that Michelle Obama had presented the BIG award, I laughted. I guess Hollywood is hard up for attention, even though it’s been touted as this years viewership is up 20%. I’m not so sure about that.


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