Russell Crowe’s ‘Unhinged’ gets off to surprisingly strong start as movie theaters cautiously reopen

Russell Crowe’s new road-rage thriller “Unhinged” roared to the biggest opening weekend of summer.

Granted, “Unhinged” is the only movie released widely since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered theaters throughout the nation in mid-March. But the film’s $4.1 million debut was better than might have been reasonably expected amid a global health crisis.

“Unhinged” played on 1,823 screens in North America, with New York, Los Angeles and other major markets still sidelined by local ordinances. By comparison, back in March, the faith-based Jeremy Camp biopic “I Still Believe” debuted with $9.5 million on 2,923 screens and political horror satire “The Hunt” opened with $5.3 million on 1,757 screens.

In all, 1,661 theaters were open this weekend in the U.S. The rest of the box-office action centered on smaller releases such as “Tesla,” starring Ethan Hawke as Nikola Tesla ($42,000 in 108 theaters); “The Rental,” a Dave Franco thriller ($108,000 in 105 locations); the young-adult film “Words on a Bathroom Wall” ($462,050 on 925 screens); and Shia LaBeouf’s gangland crime story “The Tax Collector” ($121,800 on 121 screens), according to Comscore.

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AMC, the nation’s largest theater chain, reopened 113 locations on Thursday, advertising retro pricing (15 cents per ticket on opening day), heightened safety protocols and beloved old movies like “The Empire Strikes Back” to entice audiences back to the movies. Regal, the second-largest exhibitor, followed suit on Friday.

Masked employees greeted customers and checked for masks (required, except when eating and drinking). Theaters limited the number of tickets sold, to ensure space between seats, staggered showtimes to avoid crowds, and encouraged patrons to buy tickets online to reduce contact.

More theaters will reopen this weekend, as new movies arrive. The long-delayed superhero ensemble “The New Mutants” will debut Aug. 28 and Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller “Tenet,” starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, will follow Sept. 3, with some screenings as early as Aug. 31.

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