Russell Crowe and ‘Hamilton’ Will Compete for The Fourth of July Audience

Meanwhile, there’s a rumor that Amazon is looking to buy AMC Theatres.
Russell Crowe In Unhinged
Solstice Studios
By  · Published on May 14th, 2020

Where do you want to be as America celebrates its 244th birthday, at the movie theater defending your freedom to go out or at home enjoying a musical about our Founding Fathers? Apparently those are two very real options this year, along with the usual customs of cookouts and fireworks.

According to Solstice Studios, their movie Unhinged will be the first nationwide theatrical release following the cinema shutdown, hitting screens 10 days before Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, on Wednesday, July 1st. That will give fearless (reckless?) moviegoers something to see on the 4th of July weekend.

Ironically, Unhinged is the kind of movie that will remind you why it’s better to avoid interacting with other human beings entirely. It stars Russell Crowe as a man who becomes violently obsessed with a woman and her son (Caren Pistorius and Gabriel Bateman) after a seemingly minor traffic incident.

But who more appropriate than Crowe (maybe Mel Gibson?) to beckon Americans back to movie theaters in the name of Freedom? Especially with a thriller about a guy who will chase after you and your family if you set him off with a honk of your horn communicating that he can’t just do as he pleases?

Well, if you’re not yet ready to go out during the Independence Day holiday — or even if are but could easily be kept home by something worthy — Disney has you covered. Their streaming service, Disney+, will debut the phenomenally popular Broadway musical Hamilton on July 3rd.

Disney spent $75 million on the show — specifically a single taping from 2016 of the original cast performing the show on stage — back in February and had planned for a fall 2021 theatrical release for the Lin-Manuel Miranda production. Now it’s heading to the small screen (presumably with some censoring) more than a year early.

Hamilton is the second title Disney has decided to move to Disney+ since the COVID-19 pandemic caused movie theaters to close. The first was Artemis Fowl, which was set to open on the big screen on May 29th. Instead, the fantasy adaptation, which wasn’t drumming up a lot of excitement through its initial marketing anyway, is now arriving on the small screen on June 12th.

Hamilton‘s release wasn’t affected by the coronavirus, so the decision to move it up and onto Disney+ is a huge surprise. The studio could have made a lot of money on the Hamilton “movie” at the box office. But it could also be just the thing to push Disney’s streaming service (which recently passed 50M subscribers in the US) over Netflix (about 70M subscribers in the US).

What does AMC Theatres think of Disney’s Hamilton move? There’s no official statement yet, but considering the cinema chain showed a lot of excitement over the show heading to the big screen (“it’s sure to be a unique theatrical experience you’re not going to want to miss.”), they can’t be too happy now.

AMC has already announced a boycott of Universal titles from their screens following that studio’s decision to put some planned theatrical releases (so far including Trolls World Tour and the upcoming The King of Staten Island plus now their Focus Features title The High Note) on VOD instead of delaying them.

Disney’s strategy for both Hamilton and Artemis Fowl isn’t that much different, save for them having their own streaming service as an exclusive dumping ground (meaning AMC can’t even benefit via their new VOD service if they wanted to). Warner Bros. is doing it, too, releasing Scoob! on VOD this week.

Perhaps AMC Theatres won’t have much reason to disapprove of the VOD and streaming service options in the near future, however. Rumor has it, sparked by a report by the Daily Mail, that Amazon has been looking to buy the cinema chain, which is the world’s largest but could use financial help.

Wherever we’re at with moviegoing in the US at the start of July, the audience for Disney’s Hamilton offering is greater than the crowd interested in a small road-rage thriller starring Russell Crowe (Hamilton will win his duel this time!). And that seems to be a big loss for the movie theater industry.

But neither AMC nor any other cinema chain should be too concerned with the choice since some say the stage version of Hamilton on Disney+ will only build a fanbase for the eventual true movie version to hit theaters down the road. And that’s going to be a big win for the big screen.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.