Movie Goers in Ecuador

There is a considerable body of literature about the Latin American cinema (see Zona Latina's Latin American Cinema links).  Within this literature, much is devoted to the creators of Latin American cinema, namely, the actors, actresses, directors, producers and financiers.  By comparison, much less is known about the size or characteristics of the cinema audience in Latin America.  Since Latin America has nearly 500 million inhabitants, this is obviously a significant market.  If Latin American cinema is to function in a free-market, then the understanding of this audience should assume much greater importance.

We will now cite some survey data from the TGI Ecuador study.  This is a consumer survey of 2,030 persons between the ages of 12 to 64 years old in Guayaquil and Quito conducted in 2002.  Ecuador is interesting because, unlike Argentina, Mexico or Brazil, there is no large movie industry within the country.  Therefore, all of the exhibited movies are imported, mostly from the USA (see Hollywood Inc., Latin America about the reception on Hollywood-made movies in Latin America).  According to the TGI Ecuador survey, 24.6% of the respondents have attended the cinema in the past 6 months.  In the next table, we show the movie attendance rates by age and sex.  The incidences are higher among younger people.

(source: TGI Ecuador 2002)

In the next table, we show the incidences of movie attendance by the two cities in Ecuador (Guayaquil and Quito), the socio-economic level and the occupation of the respondents.  The movie attendance rate is a strong increasing function of socio-economic level.

(source: TGI Ecuador 2002)

When we consider all these characteristics of cinema audience, we may get some sense of why people go to movies.  For media use, Denis McQuail offers the following typology of common reasons:


Personal Identity

Integration and Social Interaction


Not all of these reasons are applicable for individual medium or specific vehicles within a medium.  Given the revealed characteristics of the audience, we can say that both social integration and entertainment play prominent roles.  Having seen a particular movie becomes an identifying mark for membership in a socio-cultural group.  Of course, different people have different reasons for doing things.  Even if you ask them directly, they may not be able to say why.


The price of an admission ticket to a movie is not prohibitively expensive (see the listed prices (in US dollars) for Cinemark in Guayaquil and Quito).   For that reason, the movie business is often regarded as recession-proof.  In fact, movies may do better business during recessions or depressions as people without work have some place to get diversion.  The above is a purely economic argument.  In practice, there are emotional aspects such as whether or not one is in the mood for entertainment.  In the next chart, we show the incidence of movie attendance by consumer confidence.  Those who have improving economic conditions are more likely to go to movies.

(source: TGI Ecuador 2002)

Now that we have some understanding about who the movie goers are, let us proceed to see what governs their choice.  On any day in a large city, there may be dozens of movies being exhibited.  In fact, the same movie can be exhibited simultaneously in many cinema houses in a city.  Which one would you go to?  In the next table, a list of factors are listed and the responses have been ranked by their frequencies.  By far, the most important factor is the quality of the image and sound.  The second most important factor is the distance that one has to travel to get to the cinema house.  This will mean that people are willing to travel greater distances if one can get better sound and quality (and better comfort).  This would provide economic justification for investing to improve cinema houses.

(source: TGI Ecuador 2002)

(posted by Roland Soong, 5/12/2002)

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