Movies

In a Big Box-Office Test, ‘Tenet’ Grosses $20 Million

Normally, a Christopher Nolan film would bring in $50 million in North America during an opening weekend. But moviegoing is not normal these days.


By Brooks Barnes

LOS ANGELES — Warner Bros. said on Sunday that Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated “Tenet” collected an estimated $20.2 million in wide release at North American theaters over the weekend and in previews. It was Hollywood’s best domestic result since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic forced cinemas to close.

With the coronavirus still spreading widely in the United States — Friday and Saturday brought 93,908 new reported infections — the arrival of “Tenet” was seen as a crucial test for Hollywood. Big turnout? All systems go for movies scheduled for release this fall, including “Wonder Woman 1984” and the latest James Bond extravaganza, “No Time to Die.” Sparse? Perhaps better to push big-budget movies into next year (and pray for a vaccine) or reroute them to streaming services, as Disney did with “Mulan,” which was made available to Disney+ subscribers on Friday for $30.

The outcome was not quite definitive.

David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a film consultancy, assessed the domestic turnout for “Tenet” as “fair.”

“Audience concern with theater safety remains a deterrent,” he said in an email. “‘Tenet’ is a strong release, and Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. deserve enormous credit for their effort. For now, this is as good as it gets.”

He estimated that “Tenet” would have collected about $50 million over its first three days under normal circumstances. “Tenet” cost roughly $200 million to make, not including marketing costs. Ticket sales are typically split 50-50 between studios and cinemas, but Warner Bros. was able to negotiate a 65 percent share, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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