Christopher Nolan’s TENET found itself being the guinea pig to test the waters of moviegoers returning to movie theaters again in the wake of the pandemic. A lot of pressure was put on the film to perform well, even with key box office markets like Los Angeles and New York City being out of play and locations running at limited capacity. When TENET opened, the film’s first-weekend box office numbers were mostly seen as a positive sign but in the subsequent weeks, the film fell sharply on the domestic front and it appeared the Warner Bros. gamble didn’t pay off. Christopher Nolan is finally speaking out about the box office performance of TENET and, maybe because the film has actually performed reasonably well overseas, the director is “thrilled” by the performance of the film so far.
Nolan was speaking with the “Los Angeles Times” and the director said, “Warner Bros. released TENET and I’m thrilled that it has made $350 million.” Even though the director seems pleased with the film’s numbers, he is concerned that other major studios might be viewing its performance in this new age of the pandemic from the wrong angle:
“Rather than looking at where the film has worked well and how that can provide them with much needed revenue, they’re looking at where it hasn’t lived up to pre-COVID expectations and will start using that as an excuse to make exhibition take all the losses from the pandemic instead of getting in the game and adapting, or rebuilding our business, in other words.”
Nolan is probably the biggest cheerleader of traditional exhibition and moviegoing. He makes all of his films for the theatrical experience so it comes as no surprise that he’s continuing to rally for them. I’ve seen many headlines about TENET’S box office and most of them have been negative in regards to its domestic take, which currently stands at $53.8 million. That normal isn’t ideal for a $200 million film but, we are in the middle of a very unprecedented time and the film’s overseas take has made up a lot of ground. Does the film likely need more to break even? That could very well be true, but the film is doing as well as it could probably do with so many obstacles against it. I agree with Nolan. Studios may need to adapt to this new normal instead of fleeing from exhibitors entirely like they mostly have during 2020 as COVID-19 crippled the industry.
Back when the pandemic caused movie theaters to shut down in March, Nolan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post where he made his stance on movie theaters very clear by saying they are “a vital part of social life” that are worth preserving. Nolan doubled down on that notion during the “L.A. Times” interview by saying “Long term, moviegoing is a part of life, like restaurants and everything else, but right now, everybody has to adapt to a new reality.”
What are YOUR thoughts on TENET’S box office performance? Do YOU agree with Nolan that studios need to adapt to the new normal?