Election Day is coming to the big screen on Nov. 8., adding to new ways Americans can follow this year's presidential race.
AMC Theatres will broadcast CNN news and analysis of the election results in movie theaters in 50 locations in 25 cities nationwide. The event will be free to members of AMC Stubs, the chain's tiered perks program, and two of their guests.
The mainstreaming of social media and an unlikely cast of presidential candidates has spurred record levels of engagement in this year’s elections. The presidential debates between Democratic and Republican nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the most watched ever, in part because Twitter, Facebook, and other online services streamed them. The social media platforms’ get-out-the-vote campaigns encouraged record numbers of online voter registration in numerous states as well. Now AMC, the US movie chain, wants in.
“The 2016 presidential race has generated record-setting viewing on television and online, and we’re excited to have CNN bring the culmination of the race to the big screen,” Elizabeth Frank, the executive vice president of AMC Theatres, said in a statement on Monday.
Beginning after the first polls close on Election Day, AMC will play CNN coverage and analysis of the winners and losers of the presidential race, as well as other key state and local elections.
Moviegoers will also be able to choose between “blue” and “red” theaters depending on their party preference, AMC said in the statement. To determine which way a theater leans, AMC looked at voter registration, according to the New York Post.
“On election night, as Americans gather in their communities to watch the conclusion of this historic election, we recognize that Democrats want to cheer with fellow Democrats, and Republicans cheer with fellow Republicans,” Ms. Frank said in the statement.
In an ever more polarized America, the separation of moviegoers by their party preferences could widen partisan views of election coverage. Many Americans believe the media has been too easy on the presidential candidates, particularly Mr. Trump, compared to in years past, according to a September survey from the Pew Research Center. But they don’t tend to share that view when it comes to their own candidate. Three in 10 Democrats and independents who lean blue said the media is too hard on Mrs. Clinton. Nearly half of Republicans surveyed (46 percent) said the media is too hard on Mr. Trump.
Still, the movie attraction could draw in more viewers to election-night coverage that is set to be broadcast in new ways. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed and Twitter signed a deal to live-stream an election special from BuzzFeed’s offices in New York City. One aim of the two companies is to demystify how decisions are called in key races.
BuzzFeed will work with Decision Desk HQ, a crowdsourced, nonpartisan group that has used fax, email, phone, and in-person contacts across the country to provide coverage and call primary elections. The Associated Press provides election predictions for 99 percent of the media, Brandon Finnegan, founder grassroots polling service, told The New York Times.
Although Americans increasingly rely on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media for news, they continue to receive most of their news from cable television sources like CNN, according to another Pew survey from February. And even with the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Americans continue to go to the movies. Admissions and tickets sold to movie theaters were up 3 and 4 percent, respectively, in 2015, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
On Election Night, however, many Americans' attention will be fixed on exit polls, political analysis, and victory and concession speeches. The AMC screenings could be an attempt to draw more of an audience in on a typically slow night.
It’s unclear, however, if moviegoers will be able to use their smartphones in their seats to follow the races on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, a possible deal breaker for viewers accustumed to the "two-screen experience."
This report contains material from the Associated Press.