Depending on where you were located across the United States, you may have noticed something strange (as if anything and everything about 2020 isn’t strange). But by this type of “strange”, we mean a movie theater. An open movie theater. Yes, some movie theaters across the country were open for business on the weekend of August 21 – 23.
Not only were movie theaters open, we got our first major release in major movie theaters in over five months. Plus, we have our first countable box office numbers since the shuttering of the movie industry.
The first new theatrical release since March is called Unhinged and it stars Academy Award winner Russell Crowe (for Gladiator) in a mindless but nevertheless suspenseful road-rager of a film. Seems like exactly the type of movie to reintroduce moviegoers to the actual movie theater.
Critics call it loud and messy, a movie where your mind doesn’t have to necessarily engage, but entertainment that is sure to make those who come back to the theater thankful for the theater experience. Russell Crowe attacks his character (as well as those who stand in his way in the film) with unhinged glee, completely throwing himself into his character, making us understand what we do like about Crowe the movie star.
THE FIRST WEEKEND BOX OFFICE SINCE MARCH
The box office numbers for Unhinged are not impressive BUT they are positive. The estimate for the ovie’s three-day total (Friday through Sunday) comes in right around $4 million. Obviously, those numbers are relatively small, but given the circumstances and the fact that many of the major markets haven’t yet taken the chance, the numbers are quite positive.
Unhinged opened in 1,823 theaters across the country, which did include the drive-ins. But for Gill, he is hoping to double Unhinged’s take by Thursday. “What’s heartening is that more theaters are calling for the movie. They want the movie now. They see that we gotta climb up the stairs. We climbed up the first flight, and we’re encouraged,” Gill said.
WHERE IT PLAYED
The three major theater chains in the United States were open for business in places where it was now safe, or deemed safe, to go. AMC, Cinemark, and Regal were picky about the locations, but they were able to open some.
Unfortunately, major markets in the big cities like New York and California remained closed, so the box office numbers, while obviously minimal, were still a welcome sight. According to Deadline, only 12 of the top 28 markets opened over the weekend with, besides the aforementioned New York and California, the large markets in New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina, and Arizona also remaining closed.
Solstice Studios (the production company behind Unhinged) decided their movie was being released only to the movie theaters, unlike some of the other recent movies such as The Rental and Tax Collector, which saw a theater and VOD release.
According to Solstice CEO and President Mark Gill, “That’s not how we set ourselves up to be as a studio, releasing movies to both theaters and PVOD. Also, somebody has to support movie theaters and the 150K jobs they represent. We can help. We also have theatrical distribution and exhibition partners around the world that are part of the deal, and it’s required that we release our movies theatrically wide here.” Good for them.
The twist with the opening of movie theaters, especially the big three, the top five locations that had Unhinged play were actually Drive-Ins. These included the Paramount Drive-in in LA, Solano Twin Drive in Concord, CA; the Sacramento Drive-in, the Ford Wyoming Drive-in in Dearborn, MI; and the Capital 6 drive-in in San Jose, CA. Who says Drive-Ins are a thing of the past? Of the top markets that opened their hard-top movie theaters they included, again per Deadline, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vegas, Denver, Cleveland, and Austin.
THE NEXT THEATRICAL RELEASE
Look for this trend of movies returning to theaters to continue. As this new weekend approaches, the number of open theaters across the country is expected to jump up to nearly 2,300.
So, look for Unhinged to bring in more, as well as the upcoming Bill and Ted Face The Music, which will be getting a theatrical and VOD release, as well as the long-delayed release of Marvel’s The New Mutants. Following this, shortly, will be Christopher Nolan’s new movie, Tenet.
If all goes well, if the safety measures that the indoor movie theaters have put in place, if the public, in general, can handle said safety measures, perhaps all won’t be lost for the movie theater business. This remains to be seen, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.