'Unhinged' Signals Worst Is Over for Struggling Movie Theaters

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A movie netting $4 million in box-office sales over the course of a weekend, in normal times, would spell unequivocal flop.

Yet the $4 million that "Unhinged," a Russell Crowe thriller that takes the concept of road rage to a new level, pulled in in ticket sales this past weekend is being viewed as a potential turning point for the pandemic-stricken movie-theater business.

“Unhinged” became the first post-pandemic movie release of the year on Friday, opening in 1,823 locations across the U.S. and Canada, according to industry research firm Comscore. Only about one-third of the 5,800 theater locations have reopened.

And while barely a blip in terms of normal, pre-pandemic big-screen releases and ticket sales, which typically tally in the tens and hundreds of millions, the results were deemed a success for the low-budget movie, which cost $33 million to make.

They were also deemed a sign of consumers’ willingness to enter dark, confined spaces with others in order to be entertained by the big screen - concerns that cinema owners like AMC Entertainment (AMC) - Get Report and Cinemark Holdings (CNK) - Get Report have been grappling with. 

Indeed, the fact that "Unhinged" brought in box-office revenue at all is being viewed as a sign of a rebound. Next weekend, Disney will debut in theaters its long-delayed X-Men spinoff “New Mutants,” while “Unhinged” adds some 500 screens to its release.

On Sept. 3, Warner Bros. will debut the highly anticipated Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenet.” AMC currently expects to open about two-thirds of its more than 600 U.S. theater locations in time for that release. Additional releases include “Wonder Woman” on Oct. 2 and Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” on Nov. 6.