Cinema v streaming – why watching movies at home is now most popular option

Timothée Chalamet in ‘Wonka’. Image: Warner Bros.
  • The average UK cinema-to-streaming wait time in 2023 was 74 days 

  • 78% of people prefer watching films on streaming platforms over the cinema 

  • The comfort of being at home is the reason 75% of people prefer streaming over the cinema

  • 91% of box office films are available to buy on Apple TV

  • NOW is the platform with the most box office films in their streaming library 

Recent research by Uswitch broadband has revealed the average cinema-to-streaming wait time in 2023 was 74 days and discovered that the majority of viewers now prefer watching films at home via streaming services. 

The standard theatrical window (time between a film being released at the cinema and on other platforms) was 90 days for decades. In recent years, particularly since the pandemic when the only way to reach consumers was at home, the focus on VOD (video on demand) and streaming platforms has increased, resulting in changes to the window. 

Based on the top ten highest-grossing 2023 box office films in the UK, the cinema-to-streaming window ranged between 45 days (Wonka and The Super Mario Bros. Movie) to 123 days (Oppenheimer), with an average of 74 days, just over two months. 

The theatrical window is ultimately determined by the deals made between production companies and their chosen distributors, as well as consumers’ willingness to pay to watch a film through each distribution channel. Despite the financial disruptions caused by the pandemic and subsequent long periods of closure, UK cinemas remain successful, accumulating £902 million in revenue in 2022.

Cinema vs streaming – viewer preference

Despite the box office still generating significant revenue, a Uswitch broadband survey revealed that viewers prefer streaming films at home. 78% of respondents stated they would rather watch a film on streaming platforms than attend a cinema. The top reasons for this are: 


% Respondents 

The comfort of being at home 






Playback options


When streaming at home you can customise your set-up, watch at whatever time suits you and utilise playback options. Streaming is also cost-effective; the average price of a cinema ticket in the UK is £7.69 just to watch one film, while streaming subscriptions can cost between £4.99 to £17.99 for access to a whole library. Some subscriptions such as Amazon Prime also provide access to additional films to rent or buy. 

For the 22% who prefer watching films in the cinema, the top reasons were:


% Respondents

The viewing experience 


Being able to watch the newest box office films as soon as they’re released


The focused environment


Cinemas have advanced visual and surround sound technologies, immersing you in the action. When at the cinema, you are also intentionally there to watch a film, so it’s easier to focus your attention and engage. Additionally, going to the cinema means you can watch the latest films straight after release, instead of having to wait for them to become available on other platforms. 

Streaming platforms with most box office films in library 

Each streaming platform has a different collection of films in their library depending on which production companies they’ve partnered with.

Some films may be exclusive to one platform, while others are available on multiple. This makes deciding which streaming platform to subscribe to overwhelming, with the average household having two to three subscriptions. 

Research conducted by Uswitch identified which platform has the most major box office releases from the past five years in their library: 

  • The streaming service with the highest percentage of films to buy is Apple TV (91%), followed by Google Play (90%) and YouTube (89%) 

  • Apple TV also has the most films available to rent (70%), followed by Amazon Prime (68%) and Google Play (68%) 

  • The service with the highest percentage of films to stream included in the subscription is NOW (17%), followed by Sky Go, Disney Plus and Netflix (all 15%) and Amazon Prime (9%). 

Uswitch broadband expert, Nick Baker, offers tips on what broadband you need to optimise your film viewing experience: 

“If you are one of the many people who prefer watching films at home, it’s important to have the right broadband set up to maximise your experience. 

“The recommended speed depends on the platform you’re using and your desired streaming quality. The minimum speed you would require is 1.5Mbps, but if you want to improve the experience with better quality, you would need 5Mbps for HD streaming and 25Mbps for Ultra HD streaming (4K). 

“Full fibre broadband is the best option for the optimal viewing experience, but a superfast (part-fibre) connection would also work. With an ADSL connection, since it’s the slowest available, there’s a risk of interruptions and you won’t be able to do much else online at the same time.”

Find out more at Uswitch broadband.

Chris Price