Well, would you look at that? It’s Monday and I’m talking about box office numbers. Haven’t done that in a while and it definitely feels good to be back. Probably not as good as Warner Bros and director Christopher Nolan though whose sci-fi blockbuster Tenet hit some international cinemas this weekend past. The studio and filmmaker had been very vocal about wanting to lead the charge back to normalcy for the industry in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would appear that audiences share their sentiments as Tenet overshot early box office estimates by quite a bit.
With the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming and various venue restrictions in place, estimates last was sitting around $25 million with some optimistic pundits suggesting an opening as high as $30 million. However, playing in 41 markets outside of the United States, Tenet surpassed all predictions by earning $53 million over the weekend. It had opened a few days earlier in some Asian regions like South Korea, but the market breakdowns of the new openings included over 20 000 screens from Europe, Middle East, and Africa with Canada being the only North American region.
As expected, seeing as there really wasn’t much in terms of competition, Tenet was the no.1 movie in all markets where it’s currently playing. The highest-earning regions so far are the United Kingdom ($7.1 million), France ($6.7 million), and South Korea ($5.1 million). IMAX accounted for 9.4% of the film’s overall earnings, which is actually on par with Nolan’s previous major releases like Interstellar, despite the 50% max capacity restrictions in place because of COVID-19. In fact, IMAX reported hundreds of sold-out shows with some sites adding additional showtimes to meet audience demand.
While Tenet did overachieve on its opening, with it boasting an estimated production budget as high as $225 million, it’s still a long way off from breaking even (which should probably be around the $400 million mark once advertising costs are factored in). But as Warner Bros Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich commented in a press statement, this is “a marathon, not a sprint”.
We are off to a fantastic start internationally and couldn’t be more pleased. Christopher Nolan has once again delivered an event worthy motion picture that demands to be seen on the big screen, and we are thrilled that audiences across the globe are getting the opportunity to see Tenet. Thank you to our exhibition partners for their tireless efforts in reopening their cinemas in a safe and socially-distanced way. Given the unprecedented circumstances of this global release we know we’re running a marathon, not a sprint, and look forward to long playability for this film globally for many weeks to come.
This coming Friday will be the biggest test of Tenet’s attractiveness in the face of the pandemic, as the film hits cinemas in the US and China, the two biggest movie markets in the world. And with new releases still very sparse over the next few weeks, Tenet will very much have the run of the box office.
The only other new release that could have potentially competed was The New Mutants, which opened in the US this weekend past. Perhaps dragged down by some terrible reviews (currently sitting on 32% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes), it only earned $7 million. Outside of the US, The New Mutants could only bring in an extra $2.2 million for a current $9.2 million global total. Even factoring in audiences staying away due to America’s alarming COVID-19 figures and The New Mutants’ relatively small $67 million production budget, that’s still a rather modest opening for the X-Men spinoff (which Disney inherited from Fox).
And it’s not as if the film didn’t have the venues it needed as nearly 50% of all North American venues – including drive-ins, like Disney’s own new Rose Bowl pop-up – have actually reopened. Unless something drastic happens this coming weekend when more venues open, I predict that it’s only a matter of weeks, if not days, before the House of Mouse yanks The New Mutants from theatres and pushes it over to their Disney+ streaming service where it can maybe pull in some new subscribers.
As for Tenet, I’m almost certain that once the pandemic has eventually quietened down, many studios will probably do theatrical re-releases for their biggest films. I’ll probably have to wait until then to see it on the big screen, but right now this is my official stance about going to the cinema.
Last Updated: August 31, 2020