Research: Brits turn to dystopian films during lockdown

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Streaming data from UK OTT service NOW TV reveal Brits are turning to apocalyptic and dystopian movies for comfort in the wake of the ongoing pandemic, with the likes of After Earth, Minority Report and The World’s End seeing a significant surge in viewing during lockdown.

Viewing data analysed over the lockdown period showed streams of post-apocalyptic action film After Earth soared by 452 per cent, with Minority Report up 159 per cent and The World’s End up 85.5 per cent.

Looking at the psychology behind this trend, a NOW TV survey of 2,000 people found that a quarter of Brits (24 per cent) watching films that depict the end of the world, major disasters, and/or apocalypses felt better about the current Covid situation. Of those that enjoy films of this nature, three quarters (72 per cent) found lockdown ‘easy’ to cope with  and these fans say they think they will feel more mentally and emotionally resilient in the case of a second wave (57 per cent vs 42 per cent).

“By watching apocalyptic movies and TV shows viewers are able to anticipate the worst-case scenarios in their heads, a coping mechanism which helps them deal with the fear factor relating to Covid-19,” explained Jo Hemmings, BPS Behavioural, Media and Celebrity Psychologist. “Escapism, empathy and resonance allow people to diminish some of the negative emotions created by the pandemic, and instead focus on the experiences of characters facing the impact of world changing disasters, while also taking reassurance that it usually pans out well in the end.” 

Amidst further local lockdowns in Bolton, Manchester, West Yorkshire and Leicester, research also found that the escapism of films of all genres offered half of Brits (50 per cent) a sense of comfort during the unknowns of lockdown.

When asked what fictional companion Brits would want at their side in a real-life end of the world crisis, Terminator (13 per cent), Sarah Connor (13 per cent) from Terminator and Captain America from Avengers Endgame (12 per cent) topped the list.

“Our TV habits are often influenced by what’s going on in the world around us and our mood at that moment,” noted Marina Storti, MD of streaming service NOW TV. “During the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge surge in our viewing numbers with customers tuning into post-apocalyptic movies like After Earth and Minority Report to find comfort in these fictional worlds.”

The research also showed that Londoners are the most likely to admit that at some point during this pandemic they’ve felt as though they are living in a post-apocalyptic film (64 per cent versus a national average of 43 per cent), with almost a third (29 per cent) of Londoners saying they currently feel this way.

Now TV’s Most Streamed Post-Apocalyptic Dramas

Based on month on month viewing data, the below titles saw the largest  per cent increase on NOW TV’s Sky Cinema Pass:

  1. After Earth (451.5 per cent)
  2. Minority Report (159.2 per cent)
  3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (138.3 per cent)
  4. Armageddon (116.8 per cent)
  5. The World’s End (85.5 per cent)

The public also voted on the best films to help prepare for a global disaster and the titles came out top are:

  1. Independence Day
  2. Contagion
  3. The Day After Tomorrow
  4. Pandemic
  5. Outbreak
  6. I Am Legend
  7. Terminator Series
  8. 28 Days Later
  9. Armageddon
  10. Shaun of the Dead

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