Burnt-out election junkies in US seek escape in movies

Cinema still of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them starring Eddie Redmayne.
Cinema still of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them starring Eddie Redmayne.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

LOS ANGELES (BLOOMBERG) - Until last week, film fans at iPic Theaters wanted lobby TVs turned to CNN and Fox News to keep up with latest election developments. Now they're asking for the sets to be turned off.

After one of the most bruising presidential elections ever, ticket sales at Boca Raton, Florida-based iPic Theaters are up and interest in politics is down, founder and Chief Executive Officer Hamid Hashemi said on Thursday (Nov 17) in an e-mail. The movies are becoming an escape again.

"People are fed up with news and the election talk," said Mr Hashemi, whose iPic-Gold Class Entertainment LLC operates 15 locations ranging from the Democrat-heavy states of New York and California to Republican strongholds such as of Arizona, Florida and Texas. "Business seems better than usual for this time of year."

People of all political stripes are suffering from what's been called post-election stress disorder, Mr Hashemi said, and looking for a diversion like Marvel's "Doctor Strange" or the new sci-fi "Arrival".

IPic's theaters are part of the newest generation of cinemas offering in-seat dining, reclining seats and cocktail bars.

Last weekend, the first after the election, sales for the top 10 movies in US and Canadian theaters grew 56 per cent from year a earlier, benefiting in part from Veteran's Day. They're forecast to increase another 7 per cent this weekend with the opening of the J.K. Rowling feature "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", according to analysts at BoxOfficePro.com.

North American ticket revenue is up 4.5 per cent for the year to date, according to researcher ComScore Inc.

"For so many weeks it was hard for people to take their eyes off the TV screen, now they want to get away," said Mr Barton Crockett, analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

The top films last weekend yielded more than Mr Crockett expected, and "Fantastic Beasts" will probably exceed his US$58 million (S$82.3 million) weekend forecast, he said. Analysts at BoxOfficePro.com predict US$82 million.

Some of what fans see on the big screen will have political overtones. "Fantastic Beasts" is set in 1926 New York, where wizards have gone underground to hide from rising prejudice.

The opening scenes include a newspaper front page that asks, "Is anyone safe?"

"Arrival", featuring a linguist trying to communicate with invading aliens, is "about existential anxieties around isolationist foreign policy", according to Mr Daniel Loria at BoxOfficePro.

Kelly Reichardt's "Certain Women", now in 120 locations, follows three women trying to crack the glass ceiling in a small Montana town.