Post-election weekend shows surge in "Day Of" deciders (PRNewsFoto/Penn Schoen Berland (PSB))
Post-election weekend shows surge in “Day Of” deciders (PRNewsFoto/Penn Schoen Berland (PSB))

The major motion picture industry picked up millions of unexpected customers this past weekend as Americans flocked to the box office in the wake of the U.S. Presidential election, and there is evidence the surge could last for several weeks.

According to industry reports, the overall box office was just over $157 million, significantly higher than predicted.

“America went back to the movies this weekend,” said Jack MacKenzie, EVP of PSB, a leading entertainment market research firm. “It appears we collectively left work Friday or woke up Saturday and chose movies as the way to deal with whatever was on our minds. This upheaval bump could very well last throughout the important holiday season.”

Cumulative weekend domestic box office totals following stock market lows in January 2009 (PRNewsFoto/Penn Schoen Berland (PSB))
Cumulative weekend domestic box office totals following stock market lows in January 2009 (PRNewsFoto/Penn Schoen Berland (PSB))

Nearly every movie in theaters outperformed expectations, including movies that had opened on previous weekends. “The performance of ‘Dr. Strange’ and ‘Trolls’ was stunning,” MacKenzie said. “It suggests America held its collective breath the last week of the campaign and exhaled this weekend. It was opening weekend all over again.”

According to Box Office Mojo, “Trolls” took in $34 million, only a 24% drop from opening weekend. “Dr. Strange” took in $42.9 million, a little more than half of its opening weekend performance of $84 million. Other strong performers included “Hacksaw Ridge” ($10.6/-30%) and “The Accountant,” which raked in $4.4m—down only 25% from the prior week.

UK Box Office spikes following "Leave" vote (PRNewsFoto/Penn Schoen Berland (PSB))
UK Box Office spikes following “Leave” vote (PRNewsFoto/Penn Schoen Berland (PSB))

Leading the opening weekend pack was “Arrival,” which far exceeded expectations and tracking predictions by bringing in $24 million. According to exclusive exit poll data, VeriTES data shows that more than half of “Arrival’s” customers decided to see it same day. “Not only did nearly 33% more people make the sudden decision to escape to the movies this weekend than normally would – most of them chose to see a film about communicating with an alien species,” said Jeff Neuman, President of VeriTES. “While audiences have ever expanding platforms for entertainment, movies remain the most egalitarian and immediately accessible way for social escapism, a collective change the subject narrative.”

According to PSB and VeriTES analysis, the weekend performance is a repeat of prior box office performances following social upheaval. “If you go back to the economic crisis of 2009 and more recently the Brexit vote in the UK, movies have served as the nation’s salve before, said MacKenzie. “Our data tells us it is happening again.”

Given the historical data, combined with the continued social unrest, MacKenzie says it’s likely the US box office could be in for a good run. “The studios have tent-poles and big budget moves lined up over the next six weeks. This could be a situation where 1+1 equals more than 2 and could help Hollywood end the year in positive territory,” MacKenzie said.