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2013 Harris poll: Tom Hanks is favorite U.S. movie star; cinema attendance down

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On Jan. 10, 2014, Harris Interactive released the results of its 2013 polls of moviegoers. According to the company, the annual polls surveyed 2,311 U.S. adults online between Dec. 11 and Dec. 17, 2013. Tom Hanks was ranked No. 1 as Americans' favorite movie star, a position he has previously held in the poll for several other years. Denzel Washington was ranked at No. 2, while Jennifer Lawrence made her first appearance on the list at No. 3.

In addition, the polls found that Americans are spending less time seeing movies in theaters because they are turned off by prices at the concession stand and by rude moviegoers. Although the poll found that 68 percent of U.S. adults went to the movies at least once in 2013, about the same percent (66 percent) say they're going to the movies less often now than a few years ago. And 57 percent of the people polled said that they prefer watching movies at home rather than in a theater.

In 2013, Hanks bounced back from a string of flops such as 2012's "Cloud Atlas" and 2011's "Larry Crowne" by starring in the critically acclaimed "Captain Phillips" and "Saving Mr. Banks," which are both based on true stories. Hanks has been getting nominated for several major awards for his role in "Captain Phillips." Washington's 2013 movie was the crime thriller "2 Guns." Lawrence starred in the No. 1 movie of 2013 ("The Hunger Games: Catching Fire") and had a supporting role in the award-winning dramedy "American Hustle."

As for watching movies at home, seeing films that are shown on TV networks is still the No. 1 method, followed by watching movies on DVD/Blu-ray (No. 2), watching movies on demand (No. 3), and watching movies through digital streaming (No. 4).

The polls classified age groups in this way:

  • Echo Boomers (people born from 1977 to 1995)
  • Generation X (people born from 1964 to 1976)
  • Baby Boomers (people born from 1946 to 1963)
  • Matures (people born in or before 1945)

Here are the results of the polls:

Favorite Movie Star of 2013

1. Tom Hanks (No. 3 in 2012)

2. Denzel Washington (No. 1 in 2012)

3. Jennifer Lawrence (debut)

4. Julia Roberts (not in Top 10 in 2012)

5. Sandra Bullock (not in Top 10 in 2012)

6. Johnny Depp (No. 4 in 2012)

7. John Wayne (No. 6 in 2012)

8. Clint Eastwood (No. 2 in 2012)

9. Brad Pitt (tie) (No. 4 in 2012)

9. Meryl Streep (tie) (No. 9 in 2012)

Dropped out of the Top 10 in 2013: George Clooney (No. 7 in 2012), Harrison Ford (No. 8 in 2012) and Matt Damon (No. 10 in 2012).

The poll found that Hanks was No. 1 with men and women and across political party lines. He is particularly popular with people who describe themselves politically as liberal or moderate; people in Generation X and Baby Boomers; people who live in the Midwest and the South; and people whose highest level of education is high school or less and people who have post-graduate degrees.

Washington is the most popular actor with people who live on the East Coast, while Roberts is tops on the West Coast. Lawrence is most popular with Echo Boomers and with people whose highest level of education is an undergraduate college degree. Wayne is preferred by conservatives and Matures. Clint Eastwood is most popular with people who graduated from high school and have some college education but no college degree.

Movie-watching Habits and Trends

The poll results showed that, on average, Americans went to see about five movies a year in theaters. Men are more likely than women to see more than five movies a year in theaters.

Not surprisingly, the people most likely to see more than 10 movies a year in theaters are in the younger groups (Echo Boomers and Generation X) and those who have children in their households.

Matures and Baby Boomers (60 percent each) are the groups that are most likely to prefer watching movies at home rather than in theaters, compared to Generation X (56 percent) and Echo Boomers (52 percent). Women (60 percent) are more likely to prefer watching movies at home, compared to men (53 percent). Those who do not have children in the household (58 percent) are more likely to prefer watching movies at home, compared to those who have children in the household (54 percent).

Ways People Watching Movies at Home

  • On TV (live or recorded on a DVR) -- 67 percent
  • DVD or Blu-ray -- 64 percent
  • On Demand -- 39 percent
  • Digital Streaming -- 37 percent

In terms of watching movies on demand, 32 percent said they did so at no additional charge on their cable or satellite service (e.g., as part of the subscription package), while 17 percent said they did so for an additional fee (e.g., pay-per-view rentals).

As for watching movies through digital streaming, 31 percent said they did so through a subscription streaming service (e.g., Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime); 12 percent said they did so through rentals (e.g., renting through iTunes store or Amazon Instant Video store); and 9 percent did so by owning the movie (e.g., purchased through iTunes store or Amazon Instant Video store).

Top Reasons Cited for Seeing Movies in Theaters

  • Has one of my favorite actors/actresses -- 32 percent
  • Good word of mouth -- 32 percent
  • It's a sequel or part of a series I love -- 30 percent
  • I don't go to movies -- 22 percent
  • Special effects (i.e., "Better on the big screen") -- 29 percent
  • The overall theater experience -- 29 percent
  • It's my favorite genre -- 23 percent
  • It's based on a favorite book or comic -- 20 percent
  • Something else -- 16 percent
  • It's by a director I like -- 11 percent
  • Awards season buzz -- 8 percent

For Echo Boomers, sequels were the biggest reason to see movies in theaters. For Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, favorite actors/actresses were the most important reason to see movies in theaters. And for Matures, good word of mouth was the main reason to see movies in theaters.

Along gender lines, men prefer the overall theater experience as a reason to see movies in theaters, while women prefer favorite actors/actresses as a top reason to see movies in theaters.

Best Things About Seeing Movies in Theaters

  • The sound and picture quality of a movie on the big screen -- 58 percent
  • A short escape from everyday life -- 45 percent
  • Having treats like popcorn and candy -- 17 percent
  • Nothing -- 17 percent
  • Something else -- 8 percent
  • Previews for upcoming films -- 12 percent
  • The excitement of seeing a movie with a big crowd -- 7 percent

The sound and picture quality of a movie on the big screen was the No. 1 reason for all age groups and for men and women. However, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers placed a higher priority on it than other age groups. Echo Boomers (13 percent) were more likely to say that seeing a movie with a big crowd attracted them to movie theaters, compared to Matures (1 percent), who clearly do not think big crowds in the audience are the best thing about movie theaters. In fact, 31 percent of Matures said that there was nothing good about seeing movies in theaters.

Worst Things About Seeing Movies in Theaters

  • Concession prices -- 62 percent
  • Rude moviegoers (e.g., talking loudly, texting/using phones, kicking seats) -- 56 percent
  • Advertisements that run before the previews -- 17 percent
  • Missing what happens when I have to go to the bathroom -- 14 percent
  • Figuring out how to fit it into my schedule -- 10 percent
  • Something else -- 9 percent
  • Nothing -- 9 percent

Concession prices were the No. 1 reason for all age groups and for men and women. Concession prices bothered Echo Boomers the most (64 percent), while rude moviegoers annoyed Baby Boomers the most (60 percent), and advertisements before previews were least tolerated by Matures (29 percent).

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