If Apple launches its own HDTV (the much-rumored “iTV”) it has a chance to not only revolutionize TV viewing IF it can offer a la carte TV programming (with channels being offered as “apps” instead of in “bundles”) , but can also capitalize on a disturbing trend at the cinema.

An annual survey by the public relations firm Edelman — as reported by the “Deadline” site (http://www.deadline.com) — finds that frequent moviegoing has plummeted among entertainment options for Americans during the past three years. The study shows that TV remains the most-used source of entertainment (45% of Americans frequently turn to it for entertainment, and 58% in the UK), while the Internet continues to creep up in usage (34% of U.S., 27% of UK). 

The real loser, however, was “cinema/movies,” which now rate as a “frequent source of entertainment” among just 3% of U.S. consumers. That’s drastically down from 28% in the survey just two years ago.

It’s not that people don’t enjoy movies. But they’re increasingly preferring to watch them at home instead of the movie theater. You can imagine why: high ticket prices, high concession prices, bad movies (can you say “That’s My Boy”?) audiences that increasingly want to talk/text/Tweet during a movie, etc.

However, Edelman notes that all categories of entertainment moved up together in the U.S. and UK. In fact, the company’s findings showed a huge uptick — in most cases doubling — in the value audiences put on six categories of entertainment: music, film, cable TV, satellite TV, social networks and games, notes “Deadline.”

I think that, increasingly, more people will turn to alternate sources for viewing/renting movies — such as iTunes. Let’s face it: I can buy an HD movie on iTunes for less than paying for two tickets at a movie theater. An increasing number of films will debut on sources like iTunes, skipping theaters entirely.

That means, we’re likely to see more of a variety of films with less expensive budgets. Of course, there will still be the mega-expensive, would-be blockbusters coming to your multiplex. However, with an iTV, iTunes, the iPad, iPhone, the Mac (an iMac TV, perhaps?), Apple looks increasingly positioned to truly capitalize on the home entertainment market.

— Dennis Sellers