Los Angeles, United States:
After more than three months of coronavirus-related limbo, Hollywood returns to the big screen – hoping that Russell Crowe's road-rage thriller "Unhinged" will boost recovery.
The action film, due to be released on July 10, will be the first release since U.S. cinemas closed their doors in mid-March. Christopher Nolan's much-touted "Tenet" will soon follow.
But will gambling pay off for these fast-paced studios?
While top theater chains across the country are planning to launch their projectors in the first half of July, screens in New York and Los Angeles have yet to get reopening.
And even if social distancing and hygiene measures are strengthened, the enthusiasm of cinema-goers to pile up in dark, closed auditoriums in the midst of a possible "second wave" of virus cases can fluctuate.
AMC, the world's largest theater chain, caused a stir when it initially refused to use face masks and said it did not want to be "involved in political controversy".
After an outcry, this policy reversed on Friday.
Everyone, from indie distributors to blockbuster studios, will watch closely how the experiment continues with new theatrical releases.
"Hollywood is not a place where competitors are known to very often wish them all the best," said Mark Gill, producer of Unhinged.
"And in these special circumstances, everyone is hoping that we are fine."
His film defied the industry trend and postponed its release date from September, when larger studios devoured all of the top opening slots by 2020.
Solstice Studios decided that the lack of competing new titles and the lack of other distractions, such as major sporting events, outweighed the risk of an early flop – which will definitely be reduced for a film with a budget of $ 33 million.
"The more we looked at it, the more risky it is, of course, but it still looked like it was worth it," Gill told AFP.
& # 39; Worth the Risk & # 39;
"Someone had to go first – the risk is definitely worth it," said Jeff Bock, senior analyst for Industry Tracker Exhibitor Relations. "But I think the chances are against it."
While the decision to open "Unhinged" early on caused a sensation – his trailer had 210 million hits in a week – his studio's pockets are less deep than his competitors' when it comes to marketing, he noted.
But "Unhinged" really is a "setup for the other studios," he added, noting that the real litmus test will be the first major studio titles, including Warner Bros & # 39; "Tenet" over $ 200 million released on December 31 July is released.
Nolan – his influential director best known for "Inception", "Dunkirk" and the Batman trilogy "Dark Knight" – has urged his ambitious and mysterious science fiction thriller to be stuck with his early theater release remains.
However, it was recently shuffled back by two weeks, so the screens in New York and Los Angeles were open for opening again.
Disney's "Mulan" is also slated to appear in July – shortly after Disney World and Disneyland reopened – although some analysts predict that it may be switched to a later slot if families are still nervous about going to the theater.
"Word of mouth is no longer based on which films are actually good, but which theaters follow all guidelines," said Bock.
& # 39; you are dead & # 39;
The dangers of weapon jumping were highlighted in China, where theaters in several provinces were optimistically reopened in late March before closing again days later.
The capital Beijing is currently experiencing a new COVID-19 outbreak, which is causing the authorities to block parts of the city.
When new outbreaks are attributed to screens in the United States, "the theaters will be closed very quickly and for a very long time afterwards," Bock predicted.
These concerns emerged in Los Angeles on Friday when bars and tattoo studios were released for reopening – but not theaters.
Still, Gill focuses on the tens of thousands of empty cinemas that are slated to reopen across the country but have nothing new to show – and no certainty whether the audience is ready to return.
"You can open theater and have a good movie and be all alone and do everything right," he said. "But if nobody comes, you're dead."
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)