In a litmus test for American moviegoing in the coronavirus pandemic, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” brought in an estimated $20.2 million through the holiday weekend in US and Canadian theaters.
The result could be greeted as either the rejuvenation of US cinemas — more Americans went to the movies this weekend than they have in nearly six months — or a reflection of drastically lowered standards for Hollywood’s top blockbusters given the circumstances.
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About 70 percent of US movie theaters are currently open; those in the country’s top markets, Los Angeles and New York, remain closed.
Theaters that are operating are limiting audiences to a maximum of 50 percent capacity to distance moviegoers from one another.
“Tenet” played in 2,810 North American locations, about three-fourths of what most major releases typically launch in.
Warner Bros. declined to split up US and Canadian box office receipts. Theaters in Canada, where COVID-19 cases are much lower than in the US, began showing “Tenet” a week earlier.
The film debuted stateside with nightly preview screenings Monday through Wednesday before the official opening on Thursday. Warner Bros. included all of the above in its estimated gross Sunday, along with expected returns for Monday’s Labor Day.
“Tenet” opened stronger in China. It debuted there with $30 million in ticket sales from Friday to Monday. Internationally, “Tenet” has exceeded expectations. In two weeks of release, its overseas total is $126 million, with a global tally thus far of $146.2 million.
Warner Bros. has emphasized that the usual opening-weekend calculus is out the window. Few onlookers felt it was possible to gauge how “Tenet” would open. The film, which cost $200 million to make and at least $100 million to market, will need to get close to $500 million to break even.
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