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Here’s The 2021 Summer Blockbuster Gen Z & Millennials are Most Likely to Go See

The movie market is heating back up, so we asked young consumers which summer movies they’re planning to buy tickets to see this summer…


It’s been a weird year for movies. Of course in the wake of COVID, many movie theaters shut down for part of 2020, and studios delayed and pushed back some of their major releases. However, if there’s anything the pandemic proved, it’s that even if they had to stop going into theaters, the amount of content they consumed didn’t decline. In fact, with theaters closed to many, and the boredom of quarantines at work, YPulse found that Gen Z and Millennials watched more movies at home than ever before. The industry quickly shifted to accommodate, with at-home streaming premieres becoming the norm—threatening to change the future of the movie release. Warner Bros. adjusted their model to release all of their theatrical releases simultaneously in theaters and to stream on HBO Max, while Disney and Paramount Pictures changed their schedules to put new movies on their streaming platforms after a certain number of days in theaters that speeds up the timeframe between big screen and small.

And now the industry outlook is changing once again. With theaters starting to open again and more people getting vaccinated, box offices are heating back up—and there are signs pointing that audiences could be coming back to the theaters sooner rather than later. YPulse’s data shows that over half of 13-39-year-olds plan to be or will be vaccinated before the summer, and when we asked young consumers what in-person experience they’re most excited for after the threat of COVID has passed, going to see a movie in theaters was the second most common response. AMC stock is continuing to soar, while recent films like Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, and Demon Slayer have smashed pandemic box office records and brought in a substantial amount of ticket sales.

YPulse’s recent Summer Plans behavioral report found that 48% of 13-39-year-olds plan to go to the movies this summer, and 26% say they’re planning to buy a movie theater ticket this summer. So what movies have the best shot of bringing them into the theater again in the coming months? We asked Gen Z and Millennials “What movies, if any, are you planning to buy tickets for to see this summer?” and had them choose from a list of nearly 30 of the major releases coming out this coming season. Here are the movies they’re most likely to say they’re going to buy tickets to watch:

Before we get to the top titles, we’ll note that the top response was “I’m not planning to buy tickets to see any movies this summer,” with 40% of 13-19-year-olds and 30% of 20-38-year-olds saying they won’t be buying movie tickets. That could be an indication that not all will be ready to return to theaters—but it also includes all those who would not have bought a movie ticket even before the pandemic. We’ll also note that this data indicates those who plan to buy a ticket to see a movie, not which they would stream at home. In fact, YPulse’s has reported that even after young consumers return to the movie theaters, the majority would prefer to watch the movie at home, so streaming releases could certainly change the game for any title on the list when it comes to young audiences.

But when it comes to the movies that are most likely to get young audiences into theaters, Fast & Furious 9 was the top response with Millennials slightly more likely to buy tickets to see the movie than Gen Z. According to Universal’s president of domestic distribution Jim Orr, the studio is optimistic about F9 doing well given the franchise’s global popularity: “We have such an enthusiastic audience. It doesn’t get more cinematic than Fast and Furious.” Black Widow was the second movie on the ranking, which is no surprise considering Marvel’s ability to get Gen Z and Millennials into movie seats.

Despite some initial light controversies, Space Jam: A New Legacy is still a top movie young viewers are planning to buy tickets to watch. The original Space Jam, starring Michael Jordan, is of course a beloved classic from the ‘90s—which likely explains why Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to say they’ll be buying tickets to see it. That’s not the only difference between Gen Z and Millennial preferences we see here. The ranking encompasses both generation’s top 10 summer movies, which were not the same, mostly because Gen Z is far less likely than Millennials to say they’ll be buying tickets to see Jackass 4 and Top Gun: Maverick—two more titles with roots in Millennials’ childhoods, not Gen Z’s.

These aren’t the only groups with different movie plans. When we compare BIPOC young consumers’ responses with White/non-Hispanic young consumers’ we see some very significant divergences:

Again, this ranking encompasses both BIPOC young consumers’ and White/non-Hispanic young consumers’ top 10 summer movies, and they’re not the same. But we also see that BIPOC young people are more likely to plan on buying tickets to see movies this summer compared to their White / non-Hispanic counterparts. This aligns with other research we’ve done: YPulse’s recent media consumption behavioral report found that more than half (52%) of 13-39-year-old BIPOC consumers are excited to watch movies in-theaters post-COVID compared to 44% of 13-39-year-old White / Non-Hispanic young consumers, and our summer plans survey found that. they’re more likely to say they’re excited to go to the movies this summer as well.

Nearly across the board (with a few notable exceptions) BIPOC young consumers are more likely to plan to buy tickets to see the biggest movies of the summer, but the differences are most notable for Fast & Furious 9, with 31% of BIPOC young consumers saying they’ll buy tickets to see compared to 19% of White/non-Hispanic young consumers, and Space Jam, with 21% of BIPOC consumers planning to pay to see the film compared to 14% of White/non-Hispanic consumers. Hotel Transylvania 4, The Suicide Squad, Cinderella, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were also more likely to be chosen by BIPOC Gen Z and Millennials as films they’ll be paying to see. The data indicates that franchises, and films with diverse casts and leads, are more likely to attract BIPOC young viewers—who are more likely to be going to the movies overall.

We should note that after this survey fielded, it was announced that Sony’s Cinderella, starring Camila Cabello, will no longer be released in theaters, but instead stream on Amazon Prime. This could happen to other films on the list as the industry continues to grapple with their new normal, and the aftermath of COVID.

YPulse Business users can access the full Summer Plans behavioral report and data here

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.