Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated Tenet released into theaters last weekend and sort of flopped on its belly upon doing so. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic putting most movie theaters out of service, I don’t think anyone was really expecting a different result. That it grossed $20 million domestically is pretty big given the circumstances. While it will continue to gross more (and has already made a hefty haul overseas), distributor Warner Bros. is playing coy with the box-office numbers and has not reported daily takes for the film this past week.
In a new report from Variety, the outlet writes that rival studios are starting to get distressed with WB here. As per custom over the last few decades, studios have reported their take on films down to the hour to properly gauge interest and demand. That might be a bit excessive, but Tenet was primed to be the film that reignited interest in theaters after a long period of closure. With WB not keeping anyone up to date on its performance, other studios can’t make educated guesses on whether or not to release their own films.
I’d say don’t release anything right now, but there are certain markets where films could potentially do well in 2020. That WB isn’t revealing Tenet’s performance is probably a clear sign that the film isn’t doing well. According to an unnamed source close to Variety, a representative for research company Rentrak -which is owned by Comscore- claimed it wasn’t obligated to share these numbers and that there is no precedent for releasing a film during the current global climate. In an amusing twist on a classic axiom, the source said comparing Tenet to other films is like comparing “apples to kumquats.”
Whatever is really happening here, this could potentially set a precedent that studios no longer need to release up to the hour grosses for their films. I don’t see that as a big loss, but I’m also not an overpaid CEO in Hollywood.