As Los Angeles-Adjacent Theaters Close Again, Exhibitor Hopes Remain Pinned to ‘Wonder Woman 1984’

Adding to the uncertainty: Russell Crowe action movie "Unhinged" goes to PVOD after 60 days, two weeks early, even as it's in theaters.
"Wonder Woman 1984"
"Wonder Woman 1984"
Warner Bros.

More than anything, domestic theaters want to know that Warner Bros. will keep its December 25 release of “Wonder Woman 1984.” Diana Prince is a beacon of hope as exhibition continues to be battered by decisions and policies beyond its control, but sources say Warners’ final call comes down to opening theaters in Los Angeles and New York. Current events suggest there is no guarantee that both will be fully open.

After a surge of reported COVID-19 cases, two California counties saw their restrictions elevated to the highest level. That means theater closures in Riverside County. (2.4 million people) just to the east of Los Angeles, as well as the far north Shasta County (major city Redding).

The state’s order, which goes into effect Friday, will last at least three weeks; it could suggest other states may follow suit if they see cases increase. This is also true outside the U.S as some central European countries have taken similar actions. Los Angeles County, which represents 30 percent of the state’s theatrical gross, remains closed and the new order does not suggest that will change soon.

Also of note: “Unhinged” starring Russell Crowe, which Solstice opened in theaters on August 21, made its Premium VOD debut Tuesday. It opened 61 days ago and, until now, the minimum gap between initial theatrical release and PVOD was 70-75 days. It’s also protocol that the distributor lets theaters know when their films have a PVOD date. Per exhibition sources, Solstice did not inform all theaters. One said their company learned about it a few weeks ago, but only when tipped off by an outside source.

Pre-COVID, this breach would lead to theaters pulling the film; however, for 1,276 theaters it remains a welcome addition to a limited release schedule. That a new distributor would feel comfortable making this move on its own speaks to the theaters’ weak position. Per a spot check of open theaters, including AMC and Cinemark, “Unhinged” plays until next week. (Regal, the no. 2 chain, is largely closed.)

The film is available on FandangoNow, Vudu, Amazon Prime and others at $19.99; it will be available on Apple TV November 17. Also among its launch platforms is AMC Theaters Video on Demand.

As an action film with a name male star, “Unhinged” will likely do very well in home rentals — especially as a current film that is unseen (outside of drive ins) in parts of the U.S. However, “Unhinged” may be more noteworthy as the film that created the 60-day precedent.

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