‘Tenet’ Arrives In U.S. And Looks To Bring Normalcy Back To Box Office – Global Weekend Preview


How seemingly fitting it is to have the box office prospects for a time-travel thriller like Warner Bros.’ Tenet changing in real-time.

That’s not to say that opening weekend projections are going in reverse, rather the last minute reopenings of New Jersey, Maryland, and some parts of California are providing the commercial potential for the long-awaited Christopher Nolan-directed feature; a movie that represents on several levels, the hopeful comeback of moviegoing and the multiplexes after a near-six month shutdown.


With a majority of big box office hubs California and New York shutdown, as well as New Mexico, North Carolina, and parts of Washington, Florida, Michigan, Oregon and Pennsylvania, complete with reduced auditorium capacities, the yard stick at which we measure box office success will need to be tossed out — at least for a while. And as Warners has stated before, they’re rewriting the playbook on distribution with this title. For a big estimated $200M feature not to have Los Angeles and NYC in its opening mix; that’s mindblowing. But whenever those cities reopen, that will provide this Nolan noir with another B.O. boost.

Given the unpredictable nature of the domestic marketplace right now as it reopens, Warners isn’t providing any official box office projections for Tenet. Their focus, as previously reported, is on the long game. Rival studios are rooting for them: If Tenet wins, everyone wins, and even if Tenet opens the doors to movie theaters slowly, the industry couldn’t be more grateful. Tenet is the grease which will prime the machine, and could enable studios to potentially rethink the theatrical distribution plans for certain movies, perhaps, returning them to the 2020 calendar, that is if COVID-19 cases remain at manageable levels.

After opening to a strong $53.6M in 40 overseas markets and Canada this past weekend, the John David Washington-Robert Pattinson-Elizabeth Debicki-Kenneth Branagh movie is projected to add another $50M from new offshore territories launching alongside the U.S. this session. They include China, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Nigeria and Ghana.


Here in the states, Warners has access to all the open screens it needs at an estimated count of 12K at 2,8K+ theaters with the additional electricity of Imax, Dolby, 70MM, and Motion Seat premium tickets. After drive-ins led the charge in the wake of all big circuit closures, including last weekend for Disney’s The New Mutants where the Paramount and Van Buren Drive-ins in the Los Angeles DMA were among the top grossing sites for the pic in the nation last Friday and Saturday night, this weekend is a time for multiplexes to stomp again. Industry estimates hope that Tenet could clear a 3-day weekend of $20M; that would be a very healthy start in this distressed economy even though it’s light years from Nolan’s top opening feature, 2012’s The Dark Knight Returns ($160.9M) and his originally scripted 2010 Inception ($62.7M), but again, it’s not a box office sprint, rather a marathon. That projection comes with many asterisks as we don’t know what the moviegoing habits will be during this upcoming Labor Day weekend, which is typically when turnstiles slow down. However, it’s a very different Labor Day weekend: There’s been no summer season at the box office, and movie theaters are largely reopening. Last weekend, Disney’s New Mutants was hoping to pull in $8M-$10M and came in at $7M, but that’s a whole different animal next to Tenet; a Marvel movie that was long delayed with rumored production mishaps and its fanboy audience was well aware of that. Numerous studies have shown that moviegoers are keen to come back to the seen now as long as proper safety protocols are in place.

If you check out some of the weekend showtimes for Tenet at some of the more notable mulitplexes in the U.S., they’re several. On Friday, the AMC Dine-In Disney Springs 24 in Orlando will show Tenet over 35 showtimes, approximately every 15 minutes starting from 12noon to 10PM. The AMC Northpark in Dallas will show Tenet across 17 showtimes on Friday; 18 at the AMC Regal Boulder in Las Vegas, NV.

Warners will let everyone know how Tenet is doing domestically on Sunday AM. We do not know how the studio will break out grosses. Since Tenet opened last weekend to No. 1 at the Canadian B.O., and has been in previews in the U.S. since Monday, it’s possible that Warners could report one solid 11-day domestic (estimtated) figure on Sunday. In the past when the studio has had previews, i.e. A Star Is Born, they’ve included that money in a film’s running total, outside of its 3-day take.

Movio spotted that advance ticket sales for Tenet were pacing ahead of Nolan’s Dunkirk and Interstellar in the U.S., UK and Australia as we first told you. We hear from exhibition that Tenet‘s presales have been healthy. But no one is rushing to comp it to other tentpoles. Note, that many moviegoers will be going ticketless, and purchasing online, under new COVID-19 safety protocols. Also note, it’s typically, NYC, LA and San Francisco that drive ticket presales, and without those cities in the mix, it throws any kind of box office estimate off wildly.


For those thinking that Disney+’s presentation of its long-awaited tentpole Mulan might eat into Tenet grosses, that’s arguably not so. First, both films are catering to two different audiences, The 18+ crowd for Tenet and families and girls for Mulan. Also, it’s been proven before that competing mediums, i.e. a big video game debut vs. a tentpole film, can share the weekend together, and not eat into the other’s revenue streams.

As AMC Boss Adam Aron told us, consumers aren’t making Sophie’s Choices when it comes to going to the movies or streaming options like Netflix. “Netflix was in business when Black Panther opened, and they’ll do good business when Avengers: Infinity War opens. The American consumer and the global consumer can handle all this content. We can survive healthy side-by-side with all these other means of getting content.”

Mulan starts streaming on Sept. 4 in those territories that have Disney+ at the cost of $29.99. At that price, a subscriber gets to keep the movie in their Disney+ menu. The Niki Caro-directed movie will hit the big screen in Croatia, Czech Rep, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, Slovakia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey, followed by China on Sept. 11.

Tenet‘s launch in China is looking at around a $40M three-day, though some see higher, even projecting $50M. This is partially dependent on how local smash The Eight Hundred holds. It dipped only 15% across the FSS this weekend and hit $300M yesterday. Tenet currently leads pre-sales in China for the coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Most IMAX screens will roll over from The Eight Hundred to Tenet, which was shot with the large format exhibitor’s cameras.

Of all offshore markets back in operation, China is one of the stars, bolstered by eventized reissues (including Nolan’s Interstellar and more recently Inception which grossed $2.9M this past weekend) and new local titles. Since reopening on July 20, it has not had any coronavirus-related setbacks, but it can still be changeable.

Russia got back to bigger business this weekend with a 41% jump on the previous frame across the Top 10 titles. Tenet pre-sales we hear are good, though some regions in the market are still understood to be offline, but there is promise.

'Tenet' in South Korea

In terms of holds, Tenet is expected to do continued solid business as the major new Hollywood offering and as consumer confidence grows with regard to the safety of movie theaters. Korea remains an unfortunate question mark with the possibility looming of cinemas closing again there.

As we noted Sunday, however, IMAX sees overall positive signs of a lengthy theatrical run with stronger than normal midweek grosses and shallower week-to-week drops.

'The New Mutants'

The New Mutants rolls out in another 20 markets this weekend, including Italy, UK, Russia, Australia, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ukraine, Finland, Iceland, Norway, South Africa, Vietnam, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Uruguay. The Josh Boone-directed Marvel feature made close to $3M in ten offshore markets last weekend.

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