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As of last night, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 is taking over movie theaters worldwide. The film earned $17 million dollars on its debut evening, which is down from the last chapter, Catching Fire, but still the biggest first night of the year so far. (To put it in perspective, the previous best for 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, took in $11.2 million its first night.) There is one place where the film isn’t taking over, however, Thailand, as some movie theaters are refusing to show it.
A while back, we wrote about how Thai protesters had adopted the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games as a form of resistance against government oppression. And that still appears to be going on. According to The Hollywood Reporter, five students were arrested Wednesday for flashing that sign at Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, and in the wake of that, just hours afterwards in fact, Apex Group, a local theater chain, pulled the release.
This was apparently a voluntary move, with no governmental pressure behind it, as the company told the Bangkok Post that they “did not want to become embroiled in a political movement.”
Instead of Mockingjay, which is expected to be one of the biggest movies of the year, Apex now plans to show Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, at a significant loss. They’re a smaller, older outfit, and it doesn’t sound like many, or even any, other theaters or chains are pulling the film.
Back in May, pro-democracy protestors adopted the gesture as a symbol of resistance and defiance against a military coup, and the junta threatened to arrest anyone using it in public. Prayuth led the controversial takeover as a general, though he was instated at prime minister in August. He was visiting the northwestern province of Khan Kaen at the time of the arrests, a place known to be a stronghold of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Pheu Thai party, known as “red shirts.” (Given notable use of “red shirts” in sci-fi, specifically their short life span, they might want to think about going a different direction with that.) It’s also a region that has been wracked by a recent drought, among other problems.
As Prayuth spoke to a crowd, the fives students snuck past security and removed their shirts. Underneath they wore others that said, “We Don’t Want the Coup,” and held up the salute while standing in a row. They were dragged away in short order and taken to a nearby military facility for what is being called an “attitude adjustment,” which sounds rather ominous. They were then forced to sign a document stating that they promise not to partake of any further political activity under threat of detainment and expulsion from school.
At this point the military junta has promised to hand over power after a series of elections in 2015, but in the meantime, many international human rights groups have decried their crackdown on public assembly and freedom of speech.