In a pandemic moment where The War With Grandpa gets headlines for topping the weekend box office with just $3.6 million, is it possible for films with stars and reasonable budgets to make a go of it while the two biggest theatrical markets, New York and Los Angeles, remain closed? Next to try will be Honest Thief, the Liam Neeson action film that opens Friday. Distributor Open Road tells Deadline that the film will go with a wide theatrical release, and no VOD. It will open in four different formats: Imax, Dolby Vision, 4DX and D-Box.
Tom Ortenberg, who reemerged at Open Road when Josh Green’s Raven Capital relaunched the distributor, said that the film has secured over 180 Imax screens to go with about 2400 theaters in the U.S.
“Honest Thief is the right movie for this moment in cinemas,” Ortenberg told Deadline. “Liam is a big box office star, and the movie is great escapist entertainment. We have to of course balance this with an acknowledgement of a tough moviegoing environment, and certain theaters and cities still closed. But there is not much competition, which creates an opportunity for the movie marketplace. Honest Thief is a terrific movie that plays to an audience, a great popcorn movie. Being able to present it in all these fantastic premium formats, Imax, Dolby Vision, 4DX and D-Box, we feel confident. If we were releasing in a more competitive environment, we wouldn’t have such an open marketplace, and we feel happy with the trade-off and feel good about releasing Friday.”
The reopening of most theaters for the Christopher Nolan-directed Tenet turns out to have been a terrible idea, because other event movies that were following high-tailed it out of there, leaving theaters with a paucity of programming. Ortenberg things there is more room for modest budget star-driven films like Honest Thief. Sources indicate the film only has to gross double digits to be successful in the U.S.
“Not having New York and Los Angeles, and most Regal Theaters open is certainly a challenge, but we believe it’s a fair trade-off for the little competition there is in the marketplace,” Ortenberg said. “I wish there had been more films like Honest Thief in theaters since they reopened. This is exactly the kind of star-driven escapist fare that the world, and movie theaters, could use more of right now. Maybe if there had been more of that, theater going might have been more robust in the past couple of months.”
There has been some of that counter programming, like when Solstice Studios made the Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged the first fresh film to open after movie theaters opened their doors. Another, the Gerard Butler-starrer Greenland, opted to pull out of its theatrical slot for PVOD and HBO Max.
Ortenberg said the P&A spending has been judicious, but noted that “if you watched the pro and college football games this past weekend, there’s a good chance you would have seen a couple of spots.”
Neeson stars with Kate Walsh, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos. Pic is written and directed by Ozark co-creator Mark Williams. Here’s the trailer: