Christopher Nolan, acclaimed director of a trilogy of Batman movies and mind bending pieces about time, recently discussed Tenet’s run at the pandemic box office with author Tom Shone through The Los Angeles Times. Shone is writing a book on the director entitled The Nolan Variations.
Nolan says, “Warner Bros. released Tenet, and I’m thrilled that it has made almost $350 million. But I am worried that the studios are drawing the wrong conclusions from our release — that 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,”
The US film industry seems unprepared for marketing their tent poles in other countries, at least before an initial release in the Untied States. Instead of releasing films to foreign markets, they hold them back and are unable to adjust to the new normal. After the release of Tenet many studio tent poles that were scheduled for Fall and Winter releases, delayed their dates to 2021. Black Widow and No Time to Die are now 2021 films just to name a couple.
In 10 weeks at the domestic box office, the John David Washington and Robert Pattinson action film has made around $53 million. To contrast, Nolan’s last two films Dunkirk and Interstellar each made $188 million during their runs at the domestic box office, nearly four times Tenet’s box office.
Nolan films are the type of movies that are big budgeted and must be seen in theaters, so the studio made the correct decision in trying to release it. Overseas, it did rather well, but the main issue was with Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco theaters remaining closed through Tenet’s run. Though now, the US closures are not the only ones anymore as the UK, Italy, and France have now closed their theaters and gone back into serious lockdowns.
It’s a shame Tenet could not do better in the US, and now Hollywood might be more hesitant to put as much money in movies if the pandemic does not end anytime soon.
Nolan looks toward the future near the end of the interview saying “Long term, moviegoing is a part of life, like restaurants and everything else.” Continuing, “But right now, everybody has to adapt to a new reality.”