The Russell Crowe thriller “Unhinged” has arrived and with it the attempt by the movie theater industry to reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reps for the film’s distributor, Solstice Studios, tell TheWrap that the film will open in 1,823 theaters in North America this weekend.
That figure is an increase from the 1,386 theaters that were open last weekend when a handful of independent films screened in theaters among an array of classic films and early 2020 releases. “Unhinged” will be the first wide release in American theaters since the start of the pandemic, screening in 300+ drive-ins and 299 Canadian theaters.
Among the chains that will reopen for “Unhinged” this weekend is AMC Theaters, which has approximately 100 locations open after five months of nationwide closures. The chain offered tickets for 15 cents on Thursday for classic films like “Back to the Future.” Hundreds of additional theaters are expected to open over the next two weekends in advance of the release of “Tenet” on Sept. 3.
But it appears unlikely that nationwide chains like AMC will have all their theaters open by then. Several states have refused to allow theaters to reopen, including New York — where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned that theaters are still considered high-risk spaces for contracting COVID-19 — and New Jersey, where a judge upheld a state order keeping theaters closed. The closures are also still in effect in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has not given any indication when traditional theaters will be able to reopen statewide.
For now, the National Association of Theater Owners and its member companies have promoted a series of safety protocols to protect moviegoers, including requiring masks for all employees and customers except for when eating concessions, maintaining buffer seats between moviegoer parties and inspecting all HVAC filters to ensure they are at full efficiency. “In this new pandemic world, moviegoers need to know that there is a consistent, science and experience-based set of health and safety protocols in place no matter what theater they visit,” NATO CEO John Fithian said on Friday. “This unprecedented industry-wide effort is a promise designed to meet that need.”
As for “Unhinged,” the bar still remains relatively low to reach the break-even point, as the film has a reported $30 million budget and minimal, digital-first marketing spend. The film has already been released in 24 markets and has grossed $8 million worldwide so far, with releases in France, Bulgaria, Belgium and Croatia coming this weekend along with the U.S. The film has received mixed reviews with a 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes.