Over 50s a huge driver of box office success: study

More than 30% of cinema visits in the US are made by moviegoers aged 50 or above, according to a first-of-its-kind study

Thriller or drama, horror or romance, gritty social reality or sci-fi fantasy: a huge priority for the suits in Hollywood studios has always been chasing the lucrative millennial dollar.

But a first-of-its-kind study released on Wednesday has given the lie to the assumption that while younger audiences flock to theaters, their parents and grandparents are sipping cocoa in front of "Dynasty" re-runs.

In fact, more than 30 percent of cinema visits are made by moviegoers aged 50 or above, according to the research released during the annual CinemaCon convention for theater operators in Las Vegas.

The survey, carried out by data analytics firm Movio on behalf of lobby group the American Association of Retired Persons, offers a detailed look at the 50-plus moviegoer, highlighting trends in their viewing.

Heather Nawrocki, AARP's director for "movies for grownups" told AFP the study demonstrates that the 50-plus demographic was showing it could "significantly contribute to the success of movies at the domestic box office."

"The 50-plus audience segment has disposable income, more leisure time and high loyalty to specific actors making this segment extremely valuable," she said.

Half a million US moviegoers who had seen at least one film in the 12 months from August 2015 were surveyed.

The study shows that 50-plus moviegoers have even established an emerging genre -- so-called "mature thrillers" featuring veteran male actors.

More than half of audiences who saw "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," "Taken 3," "The November Man" and "A Walk Amongst The Tombstones" were over 50.

The research suggests this phenomenon is because fans are aging alongside their favorite action stars such as Liam Neeson, Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise, according to AARP.

But the 50-plus demographic is also a significant contributor to the success of blockbusters such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," with 50-plus viewers making up 27 percent of the total audience.

Older audiences can also turn movies that might otherwise struggle into huge hits.

"Sully" (2016), directed by 86-year-old Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks, 60, wowed audiences with its account of then 58-year-old Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency landing.

Made for just $60 million, it generated $124 million at the domestic box office alone -- attracting audiences that were 57 percent 50-plus.

"A better understanding of 50-plus moviegoers can influence the entire movie value chain: from production decisions, to where and when to exhibit a movie and the most effective communication strategy to motivate their cinema-going behavior," said Matthew Liebmann, senior vice president of Movio.

"The ultimate opportunity is to drive incremental revenue for filmmakers and exhibitors whilst also enhancing the satisfaction of this vital segment."