Russell Crowe’s ‘Unhinged’ was ‘most difficult’ film release for top producer

Russell Crowe stars in “Unhinged.”

Solstice Studios

Actors desire the times when they stand alone on a stage and share their craft with a captive audience.

Movies that debut in theaters rarely get a chance for a solo. One or two new films typically stand out to the attention of an audience along with holdover films from previous weeks.

As the coronavirus continued to spread in the U.S., and the length of time expanding movie theaters were shut down, veteran filmmaker Mark Gill saw an opening to grab Russell Crowe’s upcoming feature “Unhinged” on this once-in-a-lifetime shot.

“If we were waiting for every last theater in America to open, it would not be until next summer,” said Gill, who has more than 30 years of experience in the film industry.

The decision meant that the film had to wait in limbo, while big budget features such as “Tenet” and “Mulan” dictated the official reopening of major theater chains. But it also meant that the film could slip into theaters prior to these big images, avoiding too much competition and daring the attention of audiences desperate for fresh content.

Hard on the way

“Unhinged,” which cost a little over $ 30 million to make, will hit theaters on August 21, just as popcorn machines start warming up again and convince audiences that it’s safe to go back to the movies. Of course, this strategy has not been without its pitfalls.

Gill said the upcoming release of the film “has been by far the most expensive” in terms of marketing and distribution. And that statement comes from a man who was once the production form at Warner Bros. Independent and Miramax, and has a stack of credits that include “Pulp Fiction”, “The English Patient”, “Good Will Hunting” and “Shakespeare in Love”. “

In 2018, Gill Solstice Studios co-founded with a handful of other stable owners in the industry and serves as the company’s CEO and president. The ultimate goal is to produce between three and five films per year for a worldwide audience, concentrating on films in the genres of action, thriller and action comedies, which are easily expected to translate to audiences outside the US budgets. to fall in the low to mid-tier range of $ 30 million to $ 80 million.

“Unhinged” will be the first feature it released. Ben Affleck is attached to another thriller film he is working on, called “Hypnotic,” which was due to begin filming in April.

Solstice was in post-production on “Unhinged” when the outbreak of coronavirus caused mid-March. The film follows a young woman and her son as they are harassed and chased by a man (Crowe) following an incident on the road.

“I came back to Virginia, where I had a composer who was in Spain, sound and editing in LA and visual effects in Vancouver and two actors in Australia that we were still working on,” said director Derrick Borte.

Borte created his own command center and screening room in his home to keep tabs on all elements of post-production.

“I don’t know if I want to do it again unless I am forced to,” he said. “But at the same time, it was great to know it’s possible.”

Brings ‘Unhinged’ to theaters

Initially, the team at Solstice looked at the delay of the film’s start in September, but eventually made the decision to be one of the first in theaters once they did it again. The goal had been a July debut, but that date shifted to August when it became clear that major theater chains did not reopen last month.

With most of the competition driven toward 2021, “Unhinged” will arrive in theaters next week and really only compete with the 10th anniversary re-release of “Inception” by Christopher Nolan and a handful of legacy titles such as “Star Wars,” “Jaws “and” Back to the future. ” Next week Disney will debut “The New Mutants” and then over Labor Day weekend, Warner Bros. will be coming out. “Tenet” finally.

In total, the thriller would have to play on about 2,000 screens in the US, with about 70% of theaters open to the public in 44 states. In a more normal time, there would be more than 5,400 movie theaters open in the US. While the film would not necessarily play in all of these locations, there would be significantly more places available for Solstice to show the film.

The film has already been released in about 20 countries. As a result of the pandemic, audience size is often reduced from 25% to 50% of theater capacity, which increases attendance.

In those countries where it is displayed, Gill said, the decline in ticket sales from week to week is only about 8% to 12% instead of the typical 40% to 50%. Before the coronavirus, a movie would have a grand opening weekend and then ticket sales would crash in the second week.

During the pandemic, however, movies have a longer tail. Probably because fewer people can attend each performance. Friday are no longer the big sales days, but rather Sunday. Outside the US, consumers can hear over the course of a weekend from friends or social media that local theaters are open for business and the experience was fun. They then buy tickets at the end of the weekend instead of at the beginning, Gill said, based on his conversations with international theater chain operators.

“The answer is, thank God, that people will return to theaters,” Gill said.

In addition, in theaters where “Unhinged” would traditionally have received only one screen, it gets two and, in some cases, three, he said. Prior to its US debut, the film received approximately $ 3.2 million from international ticket sales, the majority of which came from Australia.

“It’s hard to predict exactly how the film would have done in time without Covid-19, but the road rage thriller aired in the first weekend in the UK and Ireland, beating Disney’s holdover.” Onward, “that was intimately released in March, and the hostel of” Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. “

“That shared experience, where all the crazy s — happens on screen for you, not really in your real life, it’s a relief for people,” Crowe said.