How Russell Crowe’s ‘Unhinged’ Will Pave The Road To Reopening Cinemas After COVID-19 Shutdown

Solstice Studios

EXCLUSIVE: Even if New York City theaters aren’t opening, and even if Warner Bros. decides to move Tenet to August, Solstice StudiosRussell Crowe road-rage movie Unhinged still will open on July 1.

While Tenet is being pinned as the long-awaited launch of the summer season after exhibition’s great shutdown since mid-March, Unhinged is the warm-up act to get turnstiles primed as multiplexes and their staffs adjust to operating in an environment of reduced auditorium seating (25%-50%), face covers, and heightened cleaning with a greater space between showtimes.

Tracking hits tomorrow for the first theatrical release from the new studio from Mark Gill, Guy Botham and Vincent Bruzzese which opened its doors in October 2018 as Deadline first told you.

It will be interesting to see what projections that the B.O. stat agencies put forth for director Derrick Borte’s Unhinged, especially for a theatrical marketplace which is far from being wide open; the major three circuits — AMC, Regal and Cinemark — won’t begin reopening until late June/early July.

The upside for Unhinged is that it’s a $30M meat-and-potatoes action film in the spirit of such pics as Gerard Butler’s Den of Thieves ($15.2M, $44.9M domestic), Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit ($11M opening $32M domestic), Mark Wahlberg’s Mile 22 ($13.7M opening, $36.1M) and Halle Berry’s Kidnap ($10M opening, $31M domestic), which means it doesn’t necessarily need the big cities to make bank, but the South and the flyover states where such fare typically excels. It turns out that some of the cinemas in those areas already are up and running. Unhinged‘s target demos are men and women over 25.

empty theater
Empty theater Shutterstock

But frankly, any amount of money that Unhinged makes will be greatly welcomed by exhibition — it’s just difficult to pinpoint how much.

Some rival distributors and box office analysts think that Unhinged could do in the mid-single digits over its July 1-5 opening, but they wouldn’t be shocked if the pic goes into the double digits. Solstice’s plan is to secure at least 2,000 theaters for the Independence Day stretch, and it will have the added grab of Dolby, D-box and Premium Large Format screens, which are ready to be powered back. Solstice isn’t making any box office predictions at this time. “There are so many things that aren’t normal and unpredictable,” Solstice chairman/CEO Mark Gill said.

Also, how will Unhinged play? Will it dip weekend-to-weekend? Will it rise with the anticipated increasing footprint of movie theaters as we go deeper into July? What about the daily fluctuation of grosses? Will the pic’s weekend-to-weekend box office be a slow burn? All of these question are up in the air. If Solstice can emulate the domestic final numbers of movies like Kidnap, Cold Pursuit and Mile 22, it’s poised to see a profit. But that final domestic projection could be off in any direction. Solstice presold Unhinged around the world, and the pic’s foreign rollout schedule will be unveiled in the weeks to come.

To give you an idea — even a microcosm — of how stateside consumer habits are trending: last Saturday’s business for Quiver Distribution’s Becky was up 32% over Friday, $83,7K to $63,4K. The Wretched also saw a similar Friday-to-Saturday surge of 36% with Friday grossing $59,6K and Saturday seeing $81,3K. Even Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour as the No. 1 film in its ninth weekend at the box office showed a healthy uptick between Friday and Saturday of +31% moving from $105,1K to $137,2K for a -56% decline on Sunday with $59,8K (overall 3-day was $302K).

Even through professional sports like the MLB, NBA and NHL aren’t available for Solstice to promote on, there’s NASCAR, WWE and UFC, the latter which featured an Unhinged TV spot during last weekend’s 250 fight. TV spots are scheduled to run on such prime real estate as Real Housewives, The Bachelor and late-night talk shows.

Even though Unhinged doesn’t have in-theater trailers and promotions at its disposal at this point in time, “we do have theaters that did a really assertive job, especially with the trailer launch, as they reached out to their communities, local news organizations and to loyalty-program members,” Gill said.

This resulted in huge hit when Solstice dropped the first trailer for Unhinged back in mid-May with professional and social media yielding 210M impressions in its first week, more than five times the 40M the studio was expecting and blasting away such comps as Kidnap, The Intruder and The Girl on the Train.

That said, despite the massive exhibition shutdown since mid-March, you could say that there’s a lot working in Unhinged‘s favor in the current marketplace.

“We’re going up against zero movies, and there’s not going to be any live sports, concerts or nightclubs,” said Gill, who added, “There’s pent-up demand.”

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