Everybody’s watching Tenet. No, I don’t mean watching Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi blockbuster in cinemas – though there are a bunch of people doing that despite the current pandemic risks – but rather industry analysts and the bean counters over at Warner Bros. are keeping a close eye on the film’s box performance in the face of COVID-19 to see if the movie business is starting to find its feet again.
And based on Tenet’s earnings thus far, it’s definitely getting there… at a measured pace. After exceeding expectations with a $53 million international debut last week, Tenet hit the big two this weekend past, with limited openings in the US and China where the film had been delayed since July. And it did alright!
Let’s start with China where Tenet earned $29.6 million across the three-day weekend, just narrowly unable to unseat local war epic The Eight Hundred which kept its top spot for the third weekend with $32.3 million. Local cinemas actually started the weekend with more screenings for Tenet than The Eight Hundred, but then swung allocations back the other way when demand for the latter increased. It’s being reported that the mindf–k nature of Nolan’s film may not be appealing too much to the Chinese audience, and with that, local pundits are predicting that Tenet may not have such long legs and will probably cap its run in the key Asian market at around $70 million.
In the US, Tenet got off to a fairly… average start actually. Like, about as average as you can get for the US Labor Day holiday weekend in a year that isn’t the rampant freakshow of 2020, which is actually kind of remarkable. Traditionally, the four-day holiday weekend has been a slow earner at the US box office, and as things currently stand, after opening three days ago, Tenet is sitting on $20.2 million. Technically speaking, today’s public holiday earnings still need to be added to that “weekend” total, but that figure is already enough to put the film smack-dab in the middle with the fifth-highest labor day weekend openings ever. Predictions have it topping out at $30 million for the four-day total, which is actually not bad at all.
Combined with an additional $28 million earned from other international markets this weekend past, and Tenet is currently sitting on a worldwide total of $146.2 million. In light of the challenges it’s faced with numerous delays and limited openings in several countries – which includes most venues only operating at 50% capacity max – this is definitely a figure Warner Bros. should be happy about. But as the studio itself stated last week, this is a marathon and not a sprint. With Tenet costing over $200 million to make before you even begin to add in the expensive marketing and distribution costs, Warner Bros. is hoping that the lack of major competition over the next month or so will carry the blockbuster into the black. And we’ll be watching very closely to see if that actually happens.
Last Updated: September 7, 2020