Tenet: Nolan’s Blockbuster Debuts to $20M in U.S., Nears $150M Globally

‘Tenet’ Debuts to $20M as U.S. Theaters Reopen, Nears $150M Globally


Tenet- Publicity still 6-H 2020
Warner Bros. Pictures

The tally includes previews both in the U.S. and Canada.

In pre-pandemic times, a domestic start of $20.2 million would be considered poor (it’s Nolan’s lowest since The Prestige in 2006). But considering current circumstances–limited capacity and the fact that only 65 percent of the U.S. market are open–Tenet was always expected to come in well below Nolan’s recent films.

It certainly scored the top gross domestically of any film that’s rolled out since theaters reopened.

The situation is much brighter overseas where many countries have been able to reopen more quickly than the U.S. Internationally, Tenet has earned $126 million through its first two weekends for an early global total of $146.2 million.

In China, it grossed $30 million to come in No. 2 behind local Chinese war epic The Eight Hundred (some had thought Tenet might do more, but it is still Nolan’s biggest opening in the Middle Kingdom.)

Warners believes Tenet will have a longer run in theaters than is usually the case, versus boasting a mega-opening weekend.  Most analysts agree, saying the film has a shot at earning $500 million worldwide. If it doesn’t, it will likely lose money.

Nolan’s film is the first Hollywood tentpole to brave debuting on the big screen in the COVID-19 era. Releasing a big-budget title at the present moment is risk for Warner, considering Tenet‘s $200 million production budget before marketing. Among other challenges, Los Angeles and New York City — the country’s two largest moviegoing markets — are still off-limits.

Last week, just as Tenet prepared to open in the  U.S., the list of states fully closed in terms of movie theaters narrowed to three (New York, North Carolina and New Mexico) as New Jersey and Maryland opened. States that are only partially open include California, where cinemas are now open in San Diego.

Tenet, starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh, received a B CinemaScore.

The movie did big business in Imax theaters, where Tenet earned $11.1 million from 43 markets, or 14.2 percent of the total weekend box office.

Warners and Nolan, a noted champion of the cinematic experience and theater owners, wanted to provide theater owners with a high-profile title upon reopening. Tenet was originally set to roll out in mid-July before being delayed several more times. Most Hollywood studios have abandoned the fall corridor in terms of their big-budget fare.

Disney pulled Mulan from its theatrical release in the  U.S. and select markets, opting instead for a Labor Day premium release on Disney+. Mulan, however, is still opening on the big screen in some international markets, including China (Sept. 11). Over the weekend, Mulan earned a strong $5.9 million from a handful of Asian territories and posted the highest-grossing weekend to date in both Singapore and Thailand.

In its second weekend, 20th Century and Disney’s The New Mutants is estimating a four-day Labor gross of $3.5 million for an 11-day domestic total of  $12.3 million through Monday (the film was skewered by critics). Overseas, it took in $4.2 million from a raft of markets.

Solstice Studios road-rage thriller Unhinged is estimating a four-day gross of $1.7 million for a domestic tally of $11.3 million to date. The indie road-rage thriller, starring Russell Crowe, opened 3 weekends ago and was the first new wide release to get a big-screen release in the U.S. as cinemas began to reopen.