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SALT LAKE CITY — The Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer movie season, and over half of Utahns plan to visit a theater to take in one of the many high-profile blockbusters on tap this year, according to a new survey.
Those consumers are also among scores in the Beehive State and across the country that have high expectations for their current economic fortunes, the survey indicated.
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index rose nearly a full point to register at 113.2 in the month of May, with the year-over-year index increasing by 2.5 points. An index of at least 110 indicates the economy is performing at an optimal level. Comparatively, the national Consumer Confidence Index climbed 4.9 points to register at 134.1 for the month.
The overall index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households surveyed monthly by Cicero Group — with a 95 percent confidence level with a variance of plus or minus 4.38 percent. The results are compared to both Utah data and national data from previous months to identify key statewide consumer sentiment trends.
While data showed the state has maintained a strong economy for years, sentiment about the national outlook is even more optimistic. Chad Berbert, a principal with Cicero Group, said the results should be considered in relative terms.
"One of the things we ask is, 'Do you think the economy will get better?'" he explained. "When an economy is already at a really high level, it's hard for people to say, 'Yes it's going to get better' as opposed to 'It's going to remain strong.'"
He said while overall consumer confidence nationwide is high, there are pockets of the country where their economic fortunes are less than favorable. That being the case, Utah still remains one of the best consumer and employment economies in the nation, he said.
"Our job growth is top five in the nation. Our unemployment rate is top five in the nation," he said. "Income growth is quite strong. There are pockets of the country where the economy is also really strong, but there are also other pockets where they're struggling."
He attributed the significant difference between the state and national indexes primarily to how respondents interpret the future of their particular economic circumstance in their state.
Historic year for moviegoers
In Utah, a majority of respondents said they would spend at least a portion of their disposable income on one of the summer blockbuster movies. The survey showed that 55 percent would visit the movies this May — lured by highly anticipated films such as “Avengers: Endgame” and "Aladdin."
This year is shaping up to be a historic year for moviegoers and theater owners, said Blake Andersen, president of Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theaters. He said Utahns see more movies per capita than any other state in the country.
Utah households spend an average of $193 on movie tickets and refreshments annually, with over half shelling out at least $100 on movie tickets and refreshments yearly, Berbert said. Two-thirds of Utahn patrons bought refreshments at least sometimes or often, the survey showed.
This year, “Avengers: Endgame,” “Aladdin,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Toy Story 4” and “The Lion King” are all expected to draw huge crowds to theaters across the nation, according to index data.
"We expect this year to be the strongest year in movie theater history," Andersen said. Megaplex Theaters anticipates around 10 million visitors by year's end, he said.
"That would be a record for us," he said. "The industry, in general, is predicting a record year."
Hot housing market
Meanwhile, local homeowners expressed bullishness about the hot housing market, according to the survey.
Since November 2018, a growing number of Utahns have anticipated that housing prices will continue to climb in the near future, Berbert said. Seventy percent of Utahns surveyed said housing prices will likely increase, he noted, one of the highest points recorded since the index began tracking consumer attitudes in January 2011, he said.
A number Utahns also believe incomes to keep pace with inflation, the survey indicated.
“Real wages have been trending up around the country and in Utah. Even though price levels have been rising across Utah, we’re also seeing stronger wage growth,” said Cicero Group chairman and partner Randy Shumway. "We expect that trend to continue, especially with the sustained job growth and lowest unemployment rate we’ve seen in Utah for over a decade. The situation appears healthy for Utah’s workers.”