Russell Crowe Thriller ‘Unhinged’ First Major Release to Debut as Theaters Re-Open

Brent Lang

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If everything goes according to plan, “Unhinged,” a thriller with Russell Crowe, will be the first wide release film to debut in U.S. theaters when and if exhibition chains re-open in July.

The film will bow on July 1, preempting Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” currently scheduled to bow on July 17, by more than two weeks. “Unhinged” is the first release from Solstice Studios, a new independent movie company that numbers veteran producer Mark Gill (“Olympus Has Fallen”) among its founders.

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It’s a bold, albeit risky bet by Solstice, given that the coronavirus has led to widespread theater closures. Some states are beginning to lift restrictions and allow more businesses to open, and theaters are starting to welcome customers in places like Texas, but it’s still unclear if major markets such as Los Angeles and New York City will be back in business by July. Gill, who serves as Solstice’s president and CEO, said he was convinced to make the move after consulting with theater owners and John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, an exhibition industry trade group. He was impressed by the plans they were putting in place to stagger showtimes, enhance cleanings and keep cinemas free from COVID-19. Yet, Gill acknowledges that it’s possible that some key markets will still be closed when “Unhinged” opens.

“If there are places where density is a factor and theaters aren’t open, that’s okay,” said Gill. “It might be that theaters are closed in New York City or Chicago or San Francisco, but less populated cities and suburbs will be open and we expect there to be a lot of pent-up demand.”

In announcing the move, Solstice notes that theaters plan to cooperate with state public health department guidelines, and have committed to showing films at reduced capacity so audience members can practice social distancing. It also notes that there is widespread support for re-opening theaters, citing an internal poll of 1,000 moviegoers that shows more than 80% of Americans want to go out to the movies in July. Solstice was also motivated to move “Unhinged” because the film was originally scheduled to open on Sept. 4. That date became more competitive after “A Quiet Place Part II” was pushed there from its original opening of March 8 due to the coronavirus.

“We would get killed if we stayed there,” said Gill. “The whole idea is not to be somewhere where you can get run over by a super tanker.”

It’s still unclear if “Tenet” will stick to its original date. Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, is expected to make a final decision in the coming days. When theaters re-open, industry figures such as Fithian have warned that audiences may be slow to return. That could mean that movies like “Unhinged” or “Tenet” won’t open to the kind of numbers that they would have pre-pandemic. However, Fithian recently argued that they would stick around in theaters longer, because there would be fewer new releases vying for attention and because people would gradually grow more comfortable with the idea of sitting in a theater. Gill agrees.

“Things are moving in the direction of re-opening,” said Gill. “It may be bumpy at times, but most people are taking steps to do this safely.”

“Unhinged” centers on a woman who becomes entangled in a terrifying act of “road rage” when she beeps her horn at the wrong driver. The film was written by Carl Ellsworth (“Disturbia”) and directed by Derrick Borte (“American Dreamer”).

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