The first wave of big new movies released since the beginning of the pandemic, including Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller “Tenet” and the long-delayed “X-Men” spinoff “The New Mutants,” arrived in theaters over the weekend, testing the waters of a radically different theatrical landscape. Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” — the most hotly anticipated movie of the year and the one that has repeatedly positioned itself to lead the return of multiplex moviegoing — opened with an estimated USD 53 million overseas in 41 markets, including most of Europe, South Korea and Canada.
Given the circumstances, it was difficult to forecast the performance of the USD 200 million “Tenet,” starring John David Washington Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. But the result exceeded the expectations of most. Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, called it “a fantastic start.” “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,” said Emmerich in a statement.
While many of Hollywood’s largest productions have postponed their release and others have rerouted to streaming platforms, Warner Bros. gambled that “Tenet” could roll out abroad first, and then gradually debut in the U.S. So far, it seems to be working. The overseas opening for “Tenet” was greeted by some as proof that blockbuster moviegoing can be resurrected even while the virus continues to circulate and large indoor gatherings are considered higher risk.
As part of their safety protocols, movie theaters are mandating mask wearing, cleaning cinemas in between showings and operating at 50 per cent capacity to distance moviegoers usually crowded shoulder to shoulder. “The strong international debut of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ is an emphatic statement that audiences around the world are ready to return to theaters where local guidelines allow,” said Rich Gelfond, chief executive of IMAX. The large-format exhibitor accounted for USD 5 million of the film’s box office.
In nine markets, including Ukraine and the Netherlands, “Tenet” did better than any previous movie directed by Nolan, including “The Dark Knight.” It was the largest opening yet in Saudi Arabia, which in 2018 ended its ban on cinemas. In the United Kingdom, “Tenet” accounted for 74 per cent of ticket sales, Warner Bros. said. “Tenet” will open this week in the U.S. and China, the two largest markets. In the U.S., the conditions remain far from ideal. About 60 per cent of theaters are currently open. The largest chains, including AMC and Regal, reopened the week prior. Any new release is trying to coax moviegoers back to the movies — any movie — in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the U.S. over the weekend, the Walt Disney Co.’ “The New Mutants,” a critically panned horror riff for Marvel made by 20th Century Fox before the Disney acquisition, led the domestic box office with an estimated USD 7 million in 2,412 locations. Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of global distribution, called it a success for times requiring recalibrated expectations.