'Unhinged' Is First New Movie To Open Nationally In Theaters Since COVID-19 Unhinged, a road rage movie starring Russell Crowe, will be the first new movie to open nationally in theaters since the coronavirus pandemic began.
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'We'll Find Out If We're Geniuses Or Idiots': 'Unhinged' To Open In Theaters

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'We'll Find Out If We're Geniuses Or Idiots': 'Unhinged' To Open In Theaters

'We'll Find Out If We're Geniuses Or Idiots': 'Unhinged' To Open In Theaters

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And here's another bit of joy for you. The first new movie since the start of the pandemic opens in theaters this week. And Hollywood is watching closely. Here's NPR's Mandalit del Barco.


CAREN PISTORIUS: (As Rachel, grunting).


PISTORIUS: (As Rachel) Go.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: "Unhinged" is an audacious road rage movie. Star Russell Crowe's character relentlessly hunts down an impatient woman who honks at him and passes his car at a traffic stop.


PISTORIUS: (As Rachel) What do you want?

RUSSELL CROWE: (As The Man) I need you to learn what a bad day really is. And I need you to learn how to say sorry.

DEL BARCO: In an interview with the Australian TV show "This Morning," Crowe said his character is completely unsympathetic and cruel.


CROWE: There's no justification for this man's actions. You know, at first, I read it. I didn't think I wanted to do it. But I started to realize that we're seeing these explosions of white-hot rage more and more in society.

DEL BARCO: Crowe praised Solstice Studios for releasing the film this summer as the coronavirus pandemic continues.


CROWE: But I decided to take the risk to go first, you know? Somebody's got to do it.

DEL BARCO: "Unhinged" has already opened in 25 countries, many where it's been No. 1 at the box office, including the U.K., Germany and Australia. Mark Gill, who heads Solstice Studios, says he and his team decided early on in the pandemic they also wanted to be the first new film in the U.S. since the lockdown began.

MARK GILL: We're the only ones opening, you know? We're doing something in a time of more uncertainty than ever. So we'll find out if we're geniuses or idiots. But at the moment, it feels like it was probably the right thing to do.

DEL BARCO: Gill says his strategy has drawn a lot of attention for "Unhinged." But he knows that Americans may think it's still too dangerous to gather at indoor movie theaters.

GILL: And I suppose there's also the risk that they've just gotten so comfortable with streaming movies that you can't get them out of the house. So there are a lot of risks. And the polling suggests there is a ton of pent up demand. Forty percent of the audience that was surveyed the other day said they would go to the movies no matter what it was when they open. So OK. That would be incredible.

DEL BARCO: Gill says where the film has opened internationally, word of mouth spread quickly. Instead of opening big and falling off, the box office has grown. That's meant the movie is running in theaters longer than it would have in pre-pandemic days. He hopes the same happens in the U.S.

GILL: You know, in a lot of ways, we're sort of the opening act for the main event. Theaters are opening up with a $33 million movie that, you know, if we earn $30 million at the box office, we've done very, very well. And then a couple of weeks later, they get ready for a much bigger movie, like "Tenet."

DEL BARCO: Like "Unhinged," the U.S. premiere of Christopher Nolan's thriller "Tenet" was rescheduled several times over the summer. For now, it's set to open in the U.S. Labor Day weekend, sparking hope for cinema's comeback, says John Fithian, the president and CEO of NATO, the National Association of Theatre Owners.

JOHN FITHIAN: I can't overemphasize enough how important those new movies are. Fans like to come out to the cinemas to see new titles. That's the whole point. So the business has been either zero revenues for most companies or just minimal.

DEL BARCO: Fithian says a few independent movie theaters and drive-ins have been able to continue operating by showing classic films or rereleases. Some have gotten by selling popcorn curbside. But, he says, 150,000 movie theater employees were furloughed. He says, by this Friday, 70% of the movie theaters in the U.S. will be back in business, though, not in Los Angeles or other cities where the coronavirus numbers are still very high.

Fithian says NATO worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and independent epidemiologists to come up with safety protocols. Theatergoers must wear face masks and be physically distanced from each other. Employees must get their temperatures checked regularly. Ushers must wipe down seats between screenings. Fithian says most theaters will operate at half capacity, alternating show times to avoid crowds in lobbies.

FITHIAN: We know that once we get the new movies in and then once people see how safe the environment is that the numbers will grow. It's just a matter of getting started.

DEL BARCO: Still, Fithian says, the movie theater business may never be the same. Recently, the biggest theater chain, AMC, made a deal with Universal that enables it to release its movies on premium video on demand soon after they premiere. It may shrink the amount of time Universal films play in AMC theaters. But Fithian says he's confident audiences will still want to go to the movies.

FITHIAN: People are sick and tired of watching streamed movies and television shows at home. It's the shared social experience that, I think, is the thing that will draw people back.


DEL BARCO: Solstice Studios' Mark Gill says he only ever wanted to show "Unhinged" on the big screen. And Russell Crowe told Australia's "This Morning" audiences are eager for a cathartic thriller.


CROWE: We want to go back to the place where the crazy stuff happens on the screen, not actually (laughter) in our lives, you know? So it was...




SCHOFIELD: (Laughter) Tell me about it.

DEL BARCO: So unless something changes between now and Friday, movie theaters have the green light to reopen.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.


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