Well, it’s taken roughly six months, but we’re finally here—a new film is headed to theaters in wide release this Friday. After countless titles were pushed back, or sold to streamers, and major movie theater chains all delayed their reopenings, Russell Crowe’s Unhinged will look to make some asterisk-enhanced history by opening on more than 2,000 screens on Aug. 21, 2020. Truly, this has been a year for bizarre precedents.
In any other year, it seems safe to say that Unhinged would probably come and go with very little fanfare. The film, directed by Derrick Borte, is the first offering from Solstice Studios, a company that was founded in 2018 with the goal of creating a handful of mid-budget comedies and thrillers each year. The goal was to exploit a segment of the traditional movie market that is largely being ignored by major studios chasing tentpole blockbusters and “shared universes” these days, but then COVID-19 came along and totally upended the plans of every studio, regardless of size.
“COVID has cost us six to nine months in our business plan,” said Solstice CEO Mark Gill to Variety. “It might end up costing us a year. But at least the creative community has re-engaged recently, and we’re starting to pitch projects to people. For a while there, it was not even worth it to make an offer. Everyone was ducking for cover.”
This weekend’s release will serve as a glaringly obvious referendum on several questions, including “how desperate are people to get out of the house and go to the movies?” and “how comfortably and safely can theater chains conduct business under their new safety guidelines?” Unhinged already had its release date moved around multiple times, always staying just ahead of Tenet and Mulan in an effort to benefit from whatever pent-up moviegoing desire exists in the American populace. Producers like Gill, however, seem to believe that it’s either now or never—no more date changes. It’s time to see how this release goes.
“The schedule is always full, but it only became more full,” said Gill. “I didn’t have much choice. I’m not sticking around to get run over by A Quiet Place 2. “There are all these supertankers out there, and my film is a tiny boat. If I don’t move, I’m going to get crushed.”
No matter what happens, though, we probably shouldn’t expect bonkers box office numbers for the like of Unhinged. Quality of the film itself aside (it’s garnered middling reviews so far), several of the country’s biggest film markets such as NYC and L.A. still haven’t opened their movie theaters yet, and have set no date to do so. And even in places where cinemas are open, movie theaters will be operating with reduced capacity in order to present at least a token effort toward social distancing. How many of the available seats will actually get filled is anyone’s guess, as they question hinges upon how many patrons will want to watch an entire feature film while wearing a mask in a darkened theater, surrounded by people who may be skirting the rules. The entire activity is clearly fraught with uncertainty, but this weekend should at least give us an idea of what problems crop up during a wide film release in August of 2020. You can bet that Warner Bros. will be watching closely, as they prep for Tenet’s release on Sept. 3, hoping to learn whatever they can.
Check out the final trailer for Unhinged below, and do your own mental math to calculate whether this represents a level of entertainment worthy of potentially catching a dangerous disease.