Aerin Fortes, Contributing Writer
For the first time since March, a movie has been released to screens nationwide. Following its opening on Aug. 21, “Unhinged,” starring Russell Crowe, is now showing at thousands of movie theaters across the U.S., despite COVID-19 initially deterring audiences.
The psychological thriller brings viewers along the road rage rampage of The Man, played by Crowe, who will stop at nothing to enact revenge on a single mother, played by Caren Pistorius, who honked her horn a little too aggressively behind his truck.
In an unstable time for the film industry –– as production has halted and moviegoers are becoming dependent on streaming services –– 2020’s most anticipated films like “Wonder Woman 1984” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” have been delayed. Despite this, producer of “Unhinged” Mark Gill remained loyal to his summer release plan.
Initially intended to release on July 1, Gill delayed the release of “Unhinged” twice before settling on Aug. 21.
“When you’re out of choices you start to look at things you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Like, hmm, what if we went first?” Gill said in an interview with Selig Film News.
Being the first film to mark the return of movie theaters amid a pandemic is a risk, but a risk the crew of “Unhinged” was willing to take. They commissioned an internal poll in early May asking 1,000 moviegoers if they would go to theaters in July if they were open.
“What surprised us is that 80% of Americans said they would,” Gill said in the same interview.
Before finalizing the decision to release, Gill said he researched the protocol and conditions of U.S. theaters to ensure their safety provisions were sound.
In March, when the COVID-19 cases reached high numbers in the U.S., the film was in post-production. According to CNBC, Virginia Beach resident and director of “Unhinged” Derrick Borte flew back to Virginia to create a screening room in his home for the post-production process.
The film has received widespread attention for its modest $33 million budget. This film also surpassed the normal amount of non-paid advertising in the media.
“Going first was not for the faint of heart but it had one big advantage,” Gill said in an interview with Business Insider. “Normally on a movie this size you’d have 50 million impressions (non-paid advertising) in the media, whether it be through people like yourself or social media. We’re up to 500 million on this movie.”
According to Gill, the film’s timeliness was also a selling point. He believes everybody’s lives have become more challenging, with the potential for rage at a high point, especially due to increased levels of anxiety across the nation.
“In an unstable time for the film industry –– as production has halted and moviegoers are becoming dependent on streaming services –– 2020’s most anticipated films like “Wonder Woman 1984” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” have been delayed.” — Aerin Fortes
The weeks following the film’s release will reveal the success of “Unhinged” and Americans’ willingness to return to movie theaters. It will also guide other major film companies’ decisions in releasing their own anticipated movies into theaters.
The film industry in the U.S. has not moved much since its initial shutdown in March. “Mulan,” directed by Niki Caro, is going directly online to Disney+ with a controversial $30 rental fee, in addition to the service’s subscription cost.
On the same day as the nationwide opening of “Unhinged,” the National Association of Theatre Owners released an initiative called CinemaSafe, already backed by over 300 theatre companies, including AMC, Imax, Cinemark and Regal. By signing onto this initiative, these companies have agreed to meet or exceed the protocol outlined by the initiative, including requiring masks, social distancing, air filtration and more.
If you find yourself comfortable enough to return to theaters, Movieland at Boulevard Square and Regal Short Pump & Imax are both open and screening “Unhinged.” Regal West Tower Cinema reopens this Friday, August 28 for your “Unhinged” viewing pleasure.