Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated and very secretive Tenet has only managed to bring in $10 million over its opening weekend. Big things were anticipated for the film, which marked Nolan’s eleventh feature film effort to date. As yet another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer saw Tenet’s release date pushed back numerous times. Nolan remained defiant throughout all the setbacks created as result of the pandemic, as well as due to the global lockdown measures.
With theatres forced to close in many countries around the world, there was initially the option for the film to be released through VOD – a popular model for many other films that had their summer releases ruined. However, Nolan didn’t want to take that route, as Tenet was being billed as a big summer film that required the perspective provided by a theatrical release. It was hoped by many involved with the release that the film could be the catalyst to bring audiences back into theatres, regardless of the fact that COVID still wasn’t under control. Unfortunately, though many critics and fans have praised Tenet, its opening weekend fails to prove that audiences are back.
According to a new report from IndieWire, Tenet’s opening weekend in North America has resulted in a stunningly meager $10 million take. This contradicts initial reports from Warner Bros. who had stated that the film brought in $20 million over the weekend. However, because Warner did not break the total down by days, that total actually included a Thursday opening, three days of sneak previews and nine days in Canada, as well as the Labor Day holiday in both the United States and Canada. While those initial estimates weren’t clear about this, neither a $10 million nor a $20 million opening weekend is on par for a film of Tenet’s expected calibre.
The opening tallies appear to be a substantial let down for Warner Bros., as well as Nolan. But such financial matters should not be strictly mistaken for Tenet not being worth audience’s time. Because of theatre closures, 25% of potential audiences in North America haven’t been able to see the film, which is a major portion of the film-going public. In addition to this, even in cities where theatres were screening Tenet, fears of COVID have kept people at home instead of venturing out to cinemas. Ultimately, the film’s failure to make its intended impact has likely proved that much of the world still isn’t in a place where a return to pre-COVID days is possible. Worst of all, if an expected blockbuster such as Tenet can’t bring significant numbers into cinemas once more, other upcoming films such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Dune are certainly going to have their work cut out for them.
With these box office numbers now set to influence the fate of cinemas as well as future Hollywood releases, the question of whether or not Nolan was right to disregard a VOD option remains persistent. It’s true that recouping Tenet’s massive budget (roughly estimated to be somewhere around the $200 million mark) would have been virtually impossible through VOD, but at the very least, the film could have been seen by far more people.