Only Old Movie Stars Matter to Moviegoers

Only one of the Top 20 actors named in the study is under 40.
Only one of the Top 20 actors named in the study is under 40. Photo: Peter J Fox/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
April 24, 2023

A new study is going around town this month that has some of the top studio executives talking. National Research Group, the analysis firm that specializes in entertainment and tech, commissioned a survey asking consumers to name up to five actors that would make them most interested in seeing a movie in a theater. Not Who are your favorite stars? or Whose movies do you most look forward to? This was, very specifically, Who do you most want to watch in a theater?

It’s the relevant question these days as studios debate the theatricality of film projects, and who to put in them in order to raise the perception of value in the theater-going experience. Zendaya is clearly a huge star, for instance, but can she open a movie in theaters? Do audiences still want to see Angelina Jolie on the big screen? Which Chris, if any Chris, actually puts butts in seats these days?

With more studios and streamers deciding to open their movies first in multiplexes, the theater owners likely will declare victory over streaming at the CinemaCon theater conference this week in Las Vegas. But the results of this survey, while not exactly surprising, reveal a pretty serious problem in the kinds of actors that audiences want to pay to see. NRG circulated the study and its Top 100 Actors list to its studio clients, one of whom quietly slipped it to me. So let’s dive in.