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Thread: Tenet

  1. #1
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    Tenet

    Gene Ching
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    Summer movies 2020

    ENTERTAINMENT MOVIES
    FAREWELL FOR NOW, TENET. HERE’S WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON THAT NEVER WAS
    Farewell for Now, Tenet. Here’s What We Learned From the Summer Movie Season That Never Was
    BY ELIANA DOCKTERMAN
    JULY 20, 2020 11:08 PM EDT

    Summer movie season is canceled for the first time since Jaws became the first warm-weather blockbuster in 1975.

    On Monday, after months of delays and uncertainty, Warner Bros. officially postponed Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated spy movie starring John David Washington, indefinitely. Since the coronavirus pandemic first caused movie theaters to shutter in March, the film industry, theater owners and fans had all looked to Tenet as the must-see-on-the-big-screen popcorn movie that might save the summer of 2020. If anything could lure audiences back to theaters after months of lockdown, it would be a spectacle from the filmmaker behind The Dark Knight, Inception and Dunkirk, a longtime champion of the value of the theatrical experience.

    But as COVID-19 case numbers continued to rise across the U.S., it became abundantly clear that reopening movie theaters would not be safe. Tenet’s release date shifted from mid-July to late July and then to mid-August. As recently as last week, Nolan himself staunchly insisted that Tenet would release this summer. Now, those who had held out hope are facing the reality that one movie could never have borne that much responsibility, much less in the face of a public health crisis far beyond its control.

    It remains to be seen whether other movies currently slated for theatrical release this summer, like Disney’s live-action Mulan, will follow in Tenet’s footsteps. Either way, it will take a lot of time, some box office gambles and perhaps even a vaccine before enough fans are comfortable sitting in a darkened room alongside hundreds of strangers to laugh and gasp in unison—or even just breathe the same air.


    In the meantime, as fans continue to get their movie fix largely on the small screen, here’s what the blockbuster season that never was has taught us about what the future of movies may have in store.

    There was never going to be one film that saved the moviegoing experience


    John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet Warner Bros.

    The narrative that played out around Tenet, and Nolan’s insistence that it be released in theaters this summer, felt like a Hollywood fantasy itself. The trades positioned Nolan as if he were the hero in one of his own films, the man who would swoop in and save the day.

    The obsession with a Nolan movie, specifically, was not arbitrary: Nolan is one of the few—if not the only—directors left in Hollywood who can conjure superhero-level box office numbers with a totally original film that’s not tied to a franchise, comic book or cinematic universe. His movies are big, expensive, immersive experiences best seen in IMAX the weekend of release, lest someone spoil the big plot twist in your social media feed.

    Even before the pandemic, Tenet represented the last hopes of a Hollywood largely lost to the franchise era, a remnant of the days when original dramas could vie for Oscars and break the box office at once. If, against all odds, Tenet succeeded during the pandemic, Hollywood could declare victory over the existential threat the virus poses, over the streaming services competing for audience attention, over the notion that screenwriters had run out of new ideas.

    If all this sounds rather farfetched, let’s cut ourselves a break. It is tempting in these dreary times to pin our hopes on a single solution to an intractable problem: one leader who might save us; one vaccine that might inoculate us; one day when suddenly everything will be back to normal. In reality, the return to normalcy will be slow and halting. Even once a vaccine becomes available, not everyone will receive it at once; we will return to our offices, our friends’ homes and, yes, movie theaters in small groups, then larger ones. Appealing as it was to cling to a symbol of resilience and the shared, communal experiences we yearn for, it was never that simple.

    Movie theaters need ongoing systemic support, not a miracle


    The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on June 26, 2018 in Denver, Colorado Amy Brothers—The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Movie theaters are in dire straits. Even the biggest chains may possibly go bankrupt. They were struggling even before the pandemic: Why spend money on movie tickets, snacks and parking when you can just fire up Netflix from the comfort of your couch for around the cost of a single movie ticket?

    It’s going to take more than a movie like Tenet to help the industry survive and thrive. Movie theaters, like many other types of businesses, are in a desperate situation. The major chains have laid off tens of thousands of employees. Groups of theaters have sued the New Jersey Governor and the Michigan Governor for the right to reopen. Meanwhile, it is looking unlikely that theaters will be able to reopen in two of America’s biggest markets, New York and Los Angeles, in August, as originally planned. Movie theaters will continue to need government aid and local support during the pandemic—they have benefitted from the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in March. And indie theaters will need even more to make it through this unprecedented time.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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    continued from previous post

    Nobody wins in the standoff between studios and Netflix


    Charlize Theron in The Old Guard Aimee Spinks—NETFLIX

    If you feel like the content released during the pandemic has been subpar, you’re not imagining things.

    The pandemic has only accelerated the ascendance of streamers in Hollywood. Studios are worried that even after the pandemic ends, audiences will have gotten so used to having decent, new content served up to them at home that they won’t bother heading to the movie theater. As a result, studios have been hoarding their biggest films rather than releasing them on Hulu, Netflix or video-on-demand services. Why would they charge a family of four $20 to rent a movie on Apple now when they can charge that family of four $20 per person to see that same movie in IMAX at a later date?

    We as consumers are left with a mixed bag of streaming content and too few of the kinds of water-cooler movies that kickstart shared cultural conversations. Netflix has invested heavily in action movies like The Old Guard (released in July) and Spenser Confidential (released back in March), but they spend less money making those movies than Warner Bros and Disney do on the biggest blockbusters of the year, and it often shows. That is not to say that spending more money on a movie guarantees quality—just look at box office bombs like Dark Phoenix or Dolittle—but many critics have observed that the most-watched Netflix movies feel thin, and not quite like replacements for the big summer blockbusters. Fans agree: A 2018 study from Barclays found that audiences reported the quality of Netflix movies “meaningfully worse” than most studio releases.

    Of course, these studios’ strategy is contingent upon the idea that Hollywood will be able to release the movies they’re holding back in theaters sometime this year or early next year. And the truth is, we have no idea when we’ll be able to return to public spaces like theaters. Polls conducted in the spring suggested that many consumers won’t be willing to risk leaving theaters for awhile, even if it means waiting a long time to see splashy releases like Mulan.

    Hollywood may be too dependent on big blockbuster movies


    Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff in Captain America: Civil War Zade Rosenthal—Marvel Studios

    While I would never suggest that Tenet be released straight to streaming—that is a film intended to be enjoyed with a large audience—maybe this is the moment for Hollywood to reconsider its priorities.

    Right now, studios tend to focus onn big-budget superhero films or horror films with tiny budgets that can turn a nice profit. Comparatively few mid-budget comedies or dramas even get greenlit. But those are exactly the types of films suited to streaming. Even if streaming movies on the whole still don’t measure up to theatrical releases, services like Netflix and Hulu have found niches in specific genres that big, older Hollywood studios have abandoned, like rom-coms and serious, mid-budget dramas.

    Maybe if traditional studios had invested in more movies like Hulu’s Palm Springs or Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods, they could be competing with Netflix by releasing them to the streaming market instead of sitting on the Black Widows and Top Gun 2s until the world changes.

    The moviegoing experience is not going to become obsolete


    Death-defying: Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Fallout Paramount

    There is some good news buried in this rather depressing update. The hype around Tenet suggests that people do desperately miss the summer blockbuster experience, and it will not disappear.

    Lately, I have been thinking a lot about some of the best memories I have in movie theaters—the moment when an IMAX audience lost its collective minds when a certain character in Mission Impossible: Fallout got struck by lightning; or the guy who just kept repeatedly screaming “hell yes” as Vin Diesel and his crew dragged a massive safe through the streets of Rio de Janeiro in Fast Five; or how the audience I saw Get Out with were on their feet cheering during the finale of that film.

    We will have that experience again—even if Tom Cruise has to personally build an isolated town for an entire film crew to do so. It may be when Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie No Time to Die drops in November. It may be when Fast & Furious 9 premieres next spring. It may be even later than that. Theaters will be implementing a lot of changes to try to stay afloat in the interim, like reducing capacity or not allowing moviegoers to order food during a film. But—assuming enough is done to keep them afloat before that time—pent-up demand for a fun night at the movies will buoy struggling theaters when things finally do begin to change for the better.
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    Gene Ching
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    Imax Workers’ Early ‘Tenet’ Review: “Oh My God – I Forgot How Great It Was To Be In A Movie”, CEO Relays
    Quibi Pulls Out 10 Emmy Nominations In Much-Needed Bright Spot For Startup
    VIEW ALL
    July 28, 2020 3:39pm


    Warner Bros.

    Due to strong ties between Imax Corp. and filmmaker Christopher Nolan, a number of employees have gotten a look at his long-delayed film, Tenet, as it gets ready to finally make its commercial bow on August 26.

    “Several people at Imax were involved with Tenet at the post-production phase,” CEO Rich Gelfond said Tuesday during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. “Their reaction was, ‘Oh my God – I forgot how great it was to be in a movie.’ Tenet is just a beautifully filmed, beautifully made, wonderful movie. … It wasn’t just one person, at one age. It was a number of Imax employees who spontaneously said that to me.”

    Imax expects about 90% of its global network of about 1,400 theaters to be back open by the end of August. Tenet, which has been pushed several times by Warner Bros, will now open in 70 countries, including Canada, before it gets to the U.S. and other territories in September. The film was made entirely with Imax equipment and Nolan has plugged the experience of seeing it in the company’s theaters, where the screen and auditorium dimensions are super-sized.

    Gelfond didn’t offer additional specifics about those sneak peeks, but earlier in the call he noted that Nolan’s films over-index in the company’s rooms. Dunkirk, his most recent outing in 2017, took in 22% of its domestic gross and 17% of its global haul on Imax screens. “Unlike Dunkirk, which was a European-centric movie, Tenet is a more traditional action thriller blockbuster with the potential for wider global appeal,” the CEO added.

    Descriptions of internal Tenet reactions came in response to an analyst’s question on the earnings call about the company’s staff getting to enter theaters again. That experience has remained out of reach for U.S. film fans for the past four months. CFO Patrick McClymont added to Gelfond’s comments by observing that “a number of our colleagues” were in China last weekend to “try out” the newly refined theatrical setup. Imax said 409 of its locations there have reopened, with several new precautions in place.

    “There are increased safety protocols. You certainly notice that,” McClymont said employees reported. “Once you sit down and the movie begins, it feels like it always has. It was a fun, immersive experience. Prior to getting into your seat, there were differences, but once you were there, it felt quite normal.”

    Gelfond said the environment of Imax compares favorably with sports arenas, concert venues or other public places that are attracting intense scrutiny over COVID-19 transmission.

    “Masks are absolutely crucial,” he said, noting that Imax will continue urging its exhibition partners to require them, as AMC, Cinemark and Regal do in North America. Beyond that, “large auditoriums with high ceilings like you see in Imax theaters compare favorably to small, indoor spaces such as bars and restaurants. In theaters, social distancing, capacity constraints and traffic flow can be managed effectively. Inter-personal contact can be limited. Showtimes can be staggered,” he said.

    Even more crucially, he added, “Sitting in a theater is a relatively static, passive respiratory experience. You sit quietly, socially distanced as per protocol, with people facing the back of each others’ heads, not like a sporting event, where people are screaming and drinking and standing up. And it’s not like live theater.”

    Separately, Gelfond was asked about Universal’s game-changing deal with AMC, which enables films to move to premium video on demand after 17 days. He said it is “not a shocking development” and won’t have a material impact on Imax and indicated that he will need to consult with other exhibitors about their view before determining a stance. “We all have to take a breath,” he said, to get theaters back open “and see how it all shakes out.”
    I just posted on that game-changing deal.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Tenet oked for PRC

    Jul 29, 2020 8:26pm PT
    ‘Tenet’ Approved for Theatrical Release in China
    By Rebecca Davis


    Melinda Sue Gordon

    “Tenet” announced Wednesday that it has passed government approvals for a theatrical release in China, an indication that an official release date is now on the horizon.

    The film has released a poster in Chinese, swapping the English tagline “time runs out” for a clarion call to return to cinemas that roughly translates to “make every second count; invade the theaters.”

    Chinese cinemas reopened in regions at low risk for COVID-19 on July 20, taking in $12.6 million in their opening weekend. Currently, around 44% of its cinemas are back in business, but have been required to operate at just 30% capacity to allow for social distancing, as well as reduce their total number of screenings to half their usual tally.

    Additionally, guidelines for reopening released by the National Film Bureau request that cinemas not screen films that are over two hours long — which could potentially pose problems for “Tenet,” which runs at two hours and 31 minutes.

    This directive was soon contradicted, however, by Chinese authorities’ subsequent approval of numerous films longer than two hours for nationwide theatrical release. These include “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and Nolan’s own “Interstellar” — currently scheduled for a theatrical re-run starting Aug. 2 — as well as local blockbusters already in play like “Operation Red Sea.”

    Until the guideline is more formally lifted, it appears that cinemas in different regions under different levels of COVID-19 threat have been given varied amounts of leeway, or at least have been variously willing to stick their neck out and program longer films.

    All eight of the “Harry Potter” films run over two hours, but they are all currently screening as part of the Shanghai International Film Festival.

    Yet at least two cinemas in Beijing said Wednesday in private chats posted to social media that due to the confusion, they currently didn’t dare program approved, available titles over 120 minutes long — even the patriotic blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2,” which runs 123 minutes.

    Elsewhere in China, however, that film’s re-run has already made $1.1 million since cinemas reopened Monday.

    “Tenet” had to reschedule its release numerous times due to COVID-19 before Warner Brothers this week settled on the unconventional plan of debuting it internationally before it hits North America.

    It is now prepared to open in around 70 countries abroad starting on Aug. 26, including the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and Russia. It will then premiere in select U.S. cities over Labor Day weekend from Sept. 3.

    China is far and away the most important foreign market for “Tenet” director Christopher Nolan’s films.

    The Chinese box office for almost every film he’s made as either director or executive producer has blown away earnings from other territories by a large margin. The only exceptions are “Dunkirk” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” for which China was the second largest market globally behind the U.K., and “Batman Begins,” which hit the Middle Kingdom all the way back in 2005, when its box office was still comparatively nascent.

    Of the Nolan-directed films, “Dunkirk” made $51 million in China in 2017, while “Interstellar” grossed $122 million there in 2014. The “Dark Knight Rises” grossed $52.8 million in 2012 and “Inception” $68.4 million in 2010.

    Films executive produced by Nolan have also seen strong showings in the country. They include “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with $96 million, “Justice League” with $106 million, “Transcendence” with $20 million, and “Man of Steel” with $63 million.
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    How far would you go to see Tenet on the big screen?

    Aug 26, 2020 10:58am PT
    ‘We’ll Do Anything to See ‘Tenet”: Meet the Fans Taking Flights for Christopher Nolan’s Latest
    By Manori Ravindran


    Melinda Sue Gordon

    California resident Tyler Tompkins booked a plane ride to see “Tenet” weeks before movie tickets to Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi epic even went on sale.

    The round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Austin, a three-hour Spirit Airlines journey in time for the Sept. 1 screening, set him back $220. And that’s without accounting for the cinema stub itself, popcorn or soda. His plan? Land in the Lone Star state (where movie theaters have reopened), book it to the AMC Barton Creek Square, and see the movie — twice — before returning straight home.

    “I’m seeing the movie like three hours after I land. That’s the whole purpose of this trip,” says a breathlessly excited Tompkins, who’s traveling with three others. “My friends think I’m crazy, going all the way across the country to watch it, but we want to show support for this film and we’ll do anything to see it.”

    Though 65% of cinemas across the globe are now open, according to Gower Street Analytics, some international fans keen to see rare 70MM IMAX screenings of the film, and Americans in states with shuttered movie theaters, like Tompkins, are willing to cross state and country lines to be among the first to see “Tenet” on the big screen.

    The 24-year-old cinephile moved from Austin to Los Angeles earlier this year with a group of friends, all hoping to break into the film industry as writers, directors and producers. Then, the global pandemic happened, and any glimmer of entry-level work dried up. Tompkins, an evangelical Nolan fan who’s been anticipating “Tenet” for months, gets by working as a server at Yard House in Marina Del Rey. As the situation grew dire for California’s cinemas, he began quietly putting money aside in case an inter-state journey was an option.

    “When we were certain the film was coming out in the U.S. and I saw the theater I used to go to all the time in Austin was showing the movie on Sept. 1, I immediately bought a plane ticket,” says Tompkins.

    The trip will be his first flight since the coronavirus crisis hit, and his first cinema outing, too. Tompkins, who graduated college in 2018, describes the summer anticipating “Tenet” as an “emotional rollercoaster.” “We’re just happy it’s finally happening. Nolan and Warner Bros. are taking a huge chance on this $200 million movie. We want to make sure we support it in any way possible.”

    Tompkins is aware some may balk at the lengths — and perceived risks — he’s taking to see “Tenet,” but there’s little trepidation on his part. Friends who’ve flown since March have assured that face coverings are diligently worn on flights, and AMC’s socially distanced seating plans put him at ease.

    “I’m not too worried,” he shrugs. “If I get sick, that’s my problem, but I want to make sure I don’t get anyone else sick, so I’ll be following the precautions.”

    Another Los Angeles-based fan set to take flight for “Tenet,” who spoke to Variety on the condition of anonymity, likens the experience to “Star Wars” fans camping out for tickets, or Apple users queueing for new iPhones. “It’s stupid, yes,” says the 30-year-old university administrator who’s flying to Salt Lake City over a long weekend, “but it’s something I’m interested in.”

    The film junkie, who plans to catch the film at an IMAX with Utah’s Megaplex Theatres, was able to pay for his flight with air miles, forking out a nominal $13 in taxes and fees. Thanks to free lodging with friends, he reckons he can get by on $50 over the weekend ahead of his Aug. 31 screening, for which he’s taken Monday off.

    Such trips come as the U.S. exhibition sector creaks back to life, with movie theaters in Florida, Texas and Georgia now screening films such as “Unhinged,” which played 1,823 venues in North America last weekend. However, major markets like New York, California and New Jersey remain shuttered, and many are critical of all non-essential travel, let alone for an out-of-state movie.

    “Travel can be a way of spreading vectors and it does give me pause,” he says. “But in general? I think people have been very selfish. People are drinking, gambling, touching cards and chips in casinos, yet there’s less shame for that than a handful of movie nerds who are doing this.”

    There’s a wider principle at stake, too. “This [release] will be a referendum on whether or not theatrical for large blockbusters can happen, and I don’t want these films to go the way of ‘Mulan,’” he says. “If a film is shot for IMAX, I’m interested in seeing it on a large-format screen.”

    Indeed, the lure of IMAX cinemas, especially those equipped to show crisp 70MM prints — the wide high-resolution film gauge once used to project classic films — has prompted some global fans to cross country lines. However, Europe’s resurgence of COVID-19 and knee-jerk government regulations are foiling plans across the continent.

    Lukáš Meinhart, a cinema manager based in Prague, Czech Republic, says the pleasure of seeing a Nolan film in “the biggest analogue format out there” is “absolute perfection.” This year, the feat is especially challenging as London’s BFI IMAX — where Tom Cruise caught an early screening of “Tenet” on Tuesday — is the only IMAX in Europe showing “Tenet” in 70MM.

    Keen to take his wife Bettina, who is based in Vienna, Austria, Meinhart booked London flights out of neighboring Slovakia for mid-September — a trip that will amount to around €300 ($350). However, the U.K. last week removed Austria from its “travel corridor” list — a roster of countries permitting safe travel without a 14-day quarantine period — meaning the couple would need to self-isolate for two weeks upon arriving in London, which they’re not prepared to do.

    “Either they open the borders [again] for Austria by mid-September, or not,” the 29-year-old says warily. “I can either cancel the flights and spend time somewhere else with my wife, or take my brother.” Further complicating matters is whether a cautious BFI IMAX will even screen the film into September.

    “I was pretty sad about it,” says Meinhart. “I just wanted to share it with my wife — to show her what cinema means to me.” Bettina Meinhart says she simply “can’t understand the travel regulations against Austria,” and suggest politics may be involved.

    And yet, the couple regrets nothing. “We shouldn’t stop making plans to realize our dreams, to visit another country and experience something else,” Lukáš Meinhart says. “We should be aware of the regulations, but it shouldn’t limit us.”

    In Paris, France, Franck Laniel similarly found himself in the coronavirus crosshairs. A devout supporter of the BFI IMAX, he booked his Sept. 5 cinema tickets as well as passes for the Eurostar train between London and Paris on Aug. 12. “But by Aug. 13, I started seeing that the British government was putting in quarantine measures [for France]. It was just unbelievable,” says the 43-year-old. “I was devastated.”

    France was plucked off the travel corridor list on Aug. 15, meaning Laniel, who’s traveled to London for every BFI IMAX screening of Nolan’s films since 2012, can’t enter the U.K. without his one-day trip, costing the director of photography and his partner around €179 ($211), becoming a two-week stay in a hotel room.

    “I’ll now have to book either another ride to London…which I obviously won’t need if the movie is no longer available at [the BFI IMAX],” complains Laniel.

    But echoing a familiar refrain, the hassle is worth it for Nolan. “He’s taking lengths to shoot in IMAX so, as far as I’m concerned, if he’s going to do that much work, I’ll try and make the effort to see it in IMAX,” says Laniel.

    “If the movie industry doesn’t realize there’s a difference between a movie made for TV, and a film made for theaters, the business is really going to feel the pain in the coming years.”

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    Gene Ching
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    How far would you go to see Tenet on the big screen?

    Aug 26, 2020 10:58am PT
    ‘We’ll Do Anything to See ‘Tenet”: Meet the Fans Taking Flights for Christopher Nolan’s Latest
    By Manori Ravindran


    Melinda Sue Gordon

    California resident Tyler Tompkins booked a plane ride to see “Tenet” weeks before movie tickets to Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi epic even went on sale.

    The round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Austin, a three-hour Spirit Airlines journey in time for the Sept. 1 screening, set him back $220. And that’s without accounting for the cinema stub itself, popcorn or soda. His plan? Land in the Lone Star state (where movie theaters have reopened), book it to the AMC Barton Creek Square, and see the movie — twice — before returning straight home.

    “I’m seeing the movie like three hours after I land. That’s the whole purpose of this trip,” says a breathlessly excited Tompkins, who’s traveling with three others. “My friends think I’m crazy, going all the way across the country to watch it, but we want to show support for this film and we’ll do anything to see it.”

    Though 65% of cinemas across the globe are now open, according to Gower Street Analytics, some international fans keen to see rare 70MM IMAX screenings of the film, and Americans in states with shuttered movie theaters, like Tompkins, are willing to cross state and country lines to be among the first to see “Tenet” on the big screen.

    The 24-year-old cinephile moved from Austin to Los Angeles earlier this year with a group of friends, all hoping to break into the film industry as writers, directors and producers. Then, the global pandemic happened, and any glimmer of entry-level work dried up. Tompkins, an evangelical Nolan fan who’s been anticipating “Tenet” for months, gets by working as a server at Yard House in Marina Del Rey. As the situation grew dire for California’s cinemas, he began quietly putting money aside in case an inter-state journey was an option.

    “When we were certain the film was coming out in the U.S. and I saw the theater I used to go to all the time in Austin was showing the movie on Sept. 1, I immediately bought a plane ticket,” says Tompkins.

    The trip will be his first flight since the coronavirus crisis hit, and his first cinema outing, too. Tompkins, who graduated college in 2018, describes the summer anticipating “Tenet” as an “emotional rollercoaster.” “We’re just happy it’s finally happening. Nolan and Warner Bros. are taking a huge chance on this $200 million movie. We want to make sure we support it in any way possible.”

    Tompkins is aware some may balk at the lengths — and perceived risks — he’s taking to see “Tenet,” but there’s little trepidation on his part. Friends who’ve flown since March have assured that face coverings are diligently worn on flights, and AMC’s socially distanced seating plans put him at ease.

    “I’m not too worried,” he shrugs. “If I get sick, that’s my problem, but I want to make sure I don’t get anyone else sick, so I’ll be following the precautions.”

    Another Los Angeles-based fan set to take flight for “Tenet,” who spoke to Variety on the condition of anonymity, likens the experience to “Star Wars” fans camping out for tickets, or Apple users queueing for new iPhones. “It’s stupid, yes,” says the 30-year-old university administrator who’s flying to Salt Lake City over a long weekend, “but it’s something I’m interested in.”

    The film junkie, who plans to catch the film at an IMAX with Utah’s Megaplex Theatres, was able to pay for his flight with air miles, forking out a nominal $13 in taxes and fees. Thanks to free lodging with friends, he reckons he can get by on $50 over the weekend ahead of his Aug. 31 screening, for which he’s taken Monday off.

    Such trips come as the U.S. exhibition sector creaks back to life, with movie theaters in Florida, Texas and Georgia now screening films such as “Unhinged,” which played 1,823 venues in North America last weekend. However, major markets like New York, California and New Jersey remain shuttered, and many are critical of all non-essential travel, let alone for an out-of-state movie.

    “Travel can be a way of spreading vectors and it does give me pause,” he says. “But in general? I think people have been very selfish. People are drinking, gambling, touching cards and chips in casinos, yet there’s less shame for that than a handful of movie nerds who are doing this.”

    There’s a wider principle at stake, too. “This [release] will be a referendum on whether or not theatrical for large blockbusters can happen, and I don’t want these films to go the way of ‘Mulan,’” he says. “If a film is shot for IMAX, I’m interested in seeing it on a large-format screen.”

    Indeed, the lure of IMAX cinemas, especially those equipped to show crisp 70MM prints — the wide high-resolution film gauge once used to project classic films — has prompted some global fans to cross country lines. However, Europe’s resurgence of COVID-19 and knee-jerk government regulations are foiling plans across the continent.

    Lukáš Meinhart, a cinema manager based in Prague, Czech Republic, says the pleasure of seeing a Nolan film in “the biggest analogue format out there” is “absolute perfection.” This year, the feat is especially challenging as London’s BFI IMAX — where Tom Cruise caught an early screening of “Tenet” on Tuesday — is the only IMAX in Europe showing “Tenet” in 70MM.

    Keen to take his wife Bettina, who is based in Vienna, Austria, Meinhart booked London flights out of neighboring Slovakia for mid-September — a trip that will amount to around €300 ($350). However, the U.K. last week removed Austria from its “travel corridor” list — a roster of countries permitting safe travel without a 14-day quarantine period — meaning the couple would need to self-isolate for two weeks upon arriving in London, which they’re not prepared to do.

    “Either they open the borders [again] for Austria by mid-September, or not,” the 29-year-old says warily. “I can either cancel the flights and spend time somewhere else with my wife, or take my brother.” Further complicating matters is whether a cautious BFI IMAX will even screen the film into September.

    “I was pretty sad about it,” says Meinhart. “I just wanted to share it with my wife — to show her what cinema means to me.” Bettina Meinhart says she simply “can’t understand the travel regulations against Austria,” and suggest politics may be involved.

    And yet, the couple regrets nothing. “We shouldn’t stop making plans to realize our dreams, to visit another country and experience something else,” Lukáš Meinhart says. “We should be aware of the regulations, but it shouldn’t limit us.”

    In Paris, France, Franck Laniel similarly found himself in the coronavirus crosshairs. A devout supporter of the BFI IMAX, he booked his Sept. 5 cinema tickets as well as passes for the Eurostar train between London and Paris on Aug. 12. “But by Aug. 13, I started seeing that the British government was putting in quarantine measures [for France]. It was just unbelievable,” says the 43-year-old. “I was devastated.”

    France was plucked off the travel corridor list on Aug. 15, meaning Laniel, who’s traveled to London for every BFI IMAX screening of Nolan’s films since 2012, can’t enter the U.K. without his one-day trip, costing the director of photography and his partner around €179 ($211), becoming a two-week stay in a hotel room.

    “I’ll now have to book either another ride to London…which I obviously won’t need if the movie is no longer available at [the BFI IMAX],” complains Laniel.

    But echoing a familiar refrain, the hassle is worth it for Nolan. “He’s taking lengths to shoot in IMAX so, as far as I’m concerned, if he’s going to do that much work, I’ll try and make the effort to see it in IMAX,” says Laniel.

    “If the movie industry doesn’t realize there’s a difference between a movie made for TV, and a film made for theaters, the business is really going to feel the pain in the coming years.”

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  8. #8
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    China is back

    When covid first struck, I thought it would hobble the rise of China's film industry. Now it looks like it was just what was needed to eclipse Hollywood.

    Aug 27, 2020 7:05pm PT
    China Is World’s First Market to Achieve Full Box Office Recovery, Says Analytics Firm
    By Rebecca Davis


    The Eight Hundred
    Courtesy of Huayi Bros

    China this week became the first global market to make a “full box office recovery” according to targets developed by the U.K.-based film industry analytics firm Gower Street, the company said Thursday.

    The firm created five targets to track and compare the paths of different territories’ exhibition sectors back to recovery. The indicators move from stage one — a point when a significant majority (80%) of cinemas are ready to resume operations — to stage five, in which business over the course of a week is equivalent to that of the top quartile of weekly earnings from the past two years.

    After reaching this stage five goal, a particular market “should react as normal, with an ebb and flow dependent on the release calendar,” Gower Street explained.

    To reach that target, post-COVID China needed to generate a weekly box office of $184 million (RMB1.27 billion). According to data from Comscore Movies, China hit this target just five days into the week starting Friday, Aug. 21, having taken in $189 million (RMB1.31 billion) by the end of the day Tuesday.

    China’s national box office for the full week was $252 million (RMB1.74 billion), more than 18% greater than that of the equivalent week in 2019, which saw earnings of around $209 million (RMB1.44 billion).

    More than 90% of Chinese cinemas by market share are now open, although they continue to operate with capacity restrictions allowing them to sell only half their available tickets.

    Despite these limitations, China’s performance stands out worldwide at a time when nearly 65% of global cinemas by market share are now back in business in the wake of COVID-19 closures, up from 55% a week ago, Gower Street said.

    The global box office so far in 2020 is just $6.88 billion, a fraction of the $27.2 billion three year average year to date score. Nevertheless, sales are increasing, with the $200 million collected globally this week marking a rise of 54% from the one previous. China, said Gower Street, was “undoubtedly the driver” of this growth.

    This week’s success was due to massive sales for local war film “The Eight Hundred,” as well as Tuesday’s Qixi Festival, a type of Chinese Valentine’s day, which saw the release of popular local time-travel rom-com “Love You Forever,” which grossed more than $39 million on its opening day.

    Giving the box office a further mid-week boost, local romantic drama “Wild Grass” and Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-winning “Little Women” also premiered Tuesday, debuting to the tune of $5.5 million and $1.5 million on day one, respectively, according to data from Maoyan.

    This week’s box office tally accounts for nearly a third of all ticket sales in China to date this year, with “The Eight Hundred” alone accounting of 27% of the national 2020 box office as of Wednesday. The film has grossed $210 million (RMB1.45 billion) and Maoyan now projects a total of $459 million (RMB3.16 billion).

    ADVERTISEMENTSCROLL TO CONTINUE READING
    The Chinese market’s revival comes just in time for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which is set to further galvanize recovery once it premieres in the country on Sept. 4. A re-release of his “Inception” will compete with “The Eight Hundred” once it hits cinemas on Friday.

    Disney’s “Mulan” has yet to receive an official release date in the territory, but is expected to hit theaters in the near future.

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  9. #9
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    $400M - $73M = fine?

    Sep 9, 2020 11:08am PT
    ‘Tenet’s’ Opening Weekend Was… Fine. Now What?
    By Rebecca Rubin


    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

    For much of the pandemic, Hollywood’s collective attention has hinged on one movie: “Tenet.”

    The time-bending thriller from director Christopher Nolan was expected to answer definitively if audiences would go back to the movies once cases of coronavirus were under control. Theaters were closed for months starting in March to help stop the spread of the virus. That, in turn, has left the studios that routinely supply cinemas with films in an extended state of limbo.

    After a surprisingly strong $53 million start overseas, “Tenet” landed in the U.S. last weekend and generated a more muted $20 million in its debut. That’s by far the biggest domestic haul yet for a new release during the pandemic, but the middling results don’t signal emphatically that the box office will soon be back to normal.

    Now, the film business remains divided over the question of whether or not “Tenet’s” ticket sales justify releasing more big-budgeted films before coronavirus abates or a vaccine becomes widely accessible.

    And with a hazy picture of a film’s commercial prospects, Warner Bros., the studio behind “Tenet,” and its rivals are faced with what could be a multi-million dollar decision: Stick with release dates for upcoming blockbusters scheduled for 2020, or continue delaying buzzy titles until major cities can reopen theaters.

    Part of the ambiguity is that nobody really knows how to assess the results for “Tenet.” Sure, in ordinary times, $20 million would be a disastrous result for a Nolan film. But these are no ordinary times.

    Key markets like New York and Los Angeles still haven’t opened cinemas. That likely slashed ticket sales by the millions. And parts of the country where movie theaters were able to reopen were required to limit capacity to comply with physical distancing measures. Add to that caution on the part of customers who are likely wary of returning to public spaces, and it’s hard to decipher if $20 million is a strong result or a sign that “Tenet” would have done better to wait longer to open domestically.

    “We’re accustomed to looking at opening weekend,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro. “We have to look at box office differently [now]. After a few weeks, we might get a better idea about the longterm.”

    Without much competition on the horizon, Warner Bros. is hoping that “Tenet” will enjoy a longer-than-usual run on the big screen to help recoup its massive $200 million budget. Ticket sales for the film have cleared $150 million globally to date. It needs to make approximately $400 million in box office receipts worldwide to break even and closer to $450 million to turn a profit.

    The issue is that Hollywood may not have time to see the longterm fate of “Tenet” play out before having to make a decision about other upcoming titles.

    For now, “Wonder Woman 1984” is the next big film expected to hit U.S. theaters. The comic book adventure, also from Warner Bros., is scheduled to launch on the big screen on Oct. 2, but there’s been a suspicious lack of promotion for the film. That’s a sign, perhaps, that “Wonder Woman 1984” may soon be postponed again.

    “Wonder Woman” is a hugely important franchise for Warner Bros., meaning the decision about its release date will not be made lightly. Studios often roll out campaigns for major movies about six weeks in advance — so the clock is already ticking on the superhero sequel starring Gal Gadot. By the time that executives on the Burbank lot have a better grasp on the box office performance of “Tenet,” they will have already needed to make a decision about the follow-up to “Wonder Woman.”

    Some analysts believe there’s no sense in forging ahead with tentpoles until the country’s two biggest moviegoing markets are back in business.

    “As we’ve seen with the lackluster ‘Tenet’ debut — New York and L.A. are the sun and moon of the box office solar system,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “If the marketplace doesn’t expand significantly, they would be foolhardy to release ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ in the same manner as ‘Tenet.'”

    Other studios also have plans to unveil high-profile films in theaters this year. James Bond installment “No Time to Die,” Disney’s “Black Widow” and “Soul” and Denis Villeneuve’s star-studded “Dune” adaptation are among the movies scheduled to release in the next few months.

    A sign of optimism: Many countries are ahead of the U.S. in their plans to reopen, and some — such as China — have already seen substantial box office returns. If “Wonder Woman 1984” keeps its release date, industry analysts suggest that foreign markets could help salvage ticket sales.

    But there’s a reason that North America is a pivotal market for most movies. Studios receive more in profits from exhibitors in the U.S. than they do internationally. China, for example, only gives a quarter of ticket sales to studios, which is less than half what Hollywood companies would normally make Stateside. With “Tenet” in particular, Warner Bros. is getting more than 60% of domestic ticket sales, which is much higher than its usual payday. However, it’s unclear how splits will work for future releases.

    “U.S. and Canada has always been the No. 1 marketplace for a reason. I think studios can get away with it for awhile, but ultimately they’ll have to find a way to create revenue through multiple streams,” Bock said, referencing premium video-on-demand platforms.

    Movie theater owners remain optimistic that additional cities will soon get permission to reopen, in turn helping to justify plans to unspool blockbuster-hopefuls. Already, some parts of California have been given the greenlight. When cinemas in New York are able to resume business, it will be “a big landmark,” said Patrick Corcoran, vice president and chief communications officer of the National Association of Theater Owners, the exhibition industry’s main lobbying arm.

    “The major markets that haven’t opened yet are all areas where a Christopher Nolan film would do well,” Corcoran noted. “As more open, there’s a real runway for ‘Tenet’ to continue doing well.”

    Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said 70% of the cinema chain’s 525 U.S. locations reopened in time for “Tenet.” He estimates that opening weekend receipts would have been closer to $30 million if venues across California and New York were able to welcome customers.

    “There’s clearly progress being made,” Zoradi said. “Our expectation is that ‘Tenet’ will have an unusual play pattern compared to your typical movie because new theaters will be opening up each week.”

    Since Brock Bagby, executive VP of the family-owned theater chain B&B Theatres, has been able to reopen locations in July, he has seen a “drastic increase” in attendance each week.

    “We were very pleased with results,” Bagby said regarding turnout for “Tenet” at his theaters. “It was really strong for us, so we’ve been encouraged. Customers were really excited to be back to see a new movie.”

    In the meantime, the challenge facing other exhibitors is reminding the public not only that movie theaters are open, but that they are safe to revisit during a global health crisis. That may help studios gauge the popularity of moviegoing.

    “Studios are looking very carefully at how theaters are performing in particular markets,” Corcoran said. “‘Tenet’ can play by itself for a while. But at a certain point, there has got to be movies for audiences to go see.”
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  10. #10
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    $200 M global

    Less than half of what was needed to break even when advertising is figured in.

    Sep 13, 2020 9:33am PT
    ‘Tenet’ Hits $200 Million Globally, Despite Lackluster U.S. Box Office

    By Rebecca Rubin

    Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” crossed the $200 million mark globally, propped up by overseas grosses while U.S. cinemas struggle to draw audiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

    The time-bending sci-fi thriller generated $6.7 million in the U.S. and Canada during its second weekend of release, representing a 29% drop compared to opening weekend. Initially, Warner Bros., the studio behind “Tenet,” touted a $20 million debut. But a closer dissection of those numbers reveal they were heavily spun to include weekday preview screenings and the long holiday weekend. In reality, “Tenet” only made about $9 million between Friday and Sunday.

    In an attempt to control the conversation around “Tenet’s” box office performance, Warner Bros. has been shielding domestic grosses for the film. Traditionally, studios share box office information on a daily basis, but that hasn’t been the case with “Tenet.” The studio took a bold bet since “Tenet” was the first major movie to debut during the pandemic, and Warner Bros. claims that it wants to ensure that reporters and rivals don’t unfairly contextualize the results and label them a financial flop.

    Warner Bros. knew the film would have a slow start amid the pandemic, but the studio was clearly hoping that “Tenet” would perform better in the U.S. Want a clue as to how they really view the viability of U.S. theaters right now? Less than a week after “Tenet” premiered domestically, Warner Bros. delayed its comic book sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” from October to Christmas Day.

    Roughly 65-75% of theaters in the U.S. have reopened, but major markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Fransisco remain closed. Cinemas that have resumed business have done so at reduced capacity, automatically limiting ticket sales.

    Warner Bros. said it is optimistic that grosses will improve as new markets open for business. “Tenet” played in 100 more locations than it did last weekend, amounting to 2,910 venues in total. That number is expected to grow as cinemas in more cities are given permission to reopen. Thanks to multiplexes opening in Orange County, Los Angeles was the top-grossing region in the country this weekend. Dallas, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Phoenix also saw robust ticket sales.

    The studio has also been encouraged by the turnout for premium formats, such as Imax and Dolby Cinema. Imax screens accounted for $23 million of “Tenet’s” box office haul.

    “Imax has certainly proven to be the perfect cinematic dance partner for ‘Tenet,’” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. “Nolan has been working with Imax for years, so it’s indeed appropriate that ‘Tenet’ would get a nice boost from this long-standing creative collaboration.”

    David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, assessed that “Tenet” had a better-than-projected hold during its second frame. But he said that still might not be enough to compensate for more pressing limitations facing the marketplace.

    “Anecdotally, these drops look slightly better than what would be expected under normal circumstances,” Gross said. “However, they are not close to maintaining a level of business that makes up for the box office lost to the pandemic.”

    “Tenet” has made bigger waves overseas, where coronavirus appears to be more under control and movie theaters have reopened to a more significant degree. Part of the reason that Warner Bros. opted to release “Tenet” during the pandemic is because Nolan’s films often make more money abroad than they do stateside.

    Ticket sales for “Tenet” reached $177.5 million at the international box office and $207 million globally. Given its $200 million production budget, the movie needs to reach approximately $400 million worldwide to break even and closer to $450 million to get out of the red and into the black.

    “Tenet” brought in $10 million in China, the world’s second biggest moviegoing market, boosting its haul in the country to $50 million. It landed behind “Mulan” and war epic “The Eight Hundred” on local box office charts, though neither “Tenet” nor “Mulan” amassed inspired ticket sales from theaters, despite 90% of locations reopening.

    Disney’s live-action remake of the 1998 cartoon collected $23.2 million during opening weekend, an underwhelming result for a movie that was all but engineered for its appeal to Chinese audiences. So far, “Mulan has made $37.6 million globally. The $200 million-budgeted fantasy epic is forgoing a theatrical release in the U.S., and instead is available to rent on Disney Plus for $30.

    Even without the pandemic, “Mulan” has been mired in controversy. It came under fire for filming in Xinjiang, a region in China where minorities have been forced to live in labor camps. In the credits for “Mulan,” the film thanked Chinese government organizations in Xinjiang that have been accused of human rights abuse. And last year, pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong called for boycotts after “Mulan” star Liu Yifei showed support for Hong Kong police during anti-government protests.

    Elsewhere, Sony’s romantic comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery” opened to $1.125 million from 2,204 screens over the weekend. Given the challenging environment, the studio called that number “terrific.” Sony acquired the film for $8 million, so it doesn’t need to reach blockbuster levels to turn a profit. “The Broken Hearts Gallery” — directed by Natalie Krinsky and executive produced by Selena Gomez — was generally well received by critics and moviegoers. It stars Geraldine Viswanathan as a 20-something New Yorker who creates an art gallery with mementos from past relationships.

    “Early numbers are encouraging,” said Adrian Smith, Sony’s head of domestic distribution. “We’re excited to see how the film plays over time and how word of mouth about the film propels it.”

    “The Broken Hearts Gallery” placed behind holdovers Disney’s “The New Mutants” and Solstice Studio’s “Unhinged” on domestic box office charts — though the latter two had a wider theatrical footprint.

    “The New Mutants,” a poorly reviewed superhero adventure, has yet to find its footing in theaters and generated $2.1 million over the weekend. The X-Men spinoff is also flailing overseas, where it scraped together $3.8 million from 36 foreign markets. After three weekends on the big screen, the movie has made $15.3 million in the U.S. and $29 million worldwide.

    “Unhinged,” a road-rage thriller starring Russell Crowe, held steady in its fifth weekend, bringing in $1.5 million over the three-day stretch. That boosts domestic ticket sales to $13.8 million.

    Movie theaters, hit hard by the plague, looked at “Tenet” as a potential savior. Its paltry domestic grosses demonstrate that salvation for the exhibition industry remains a long way off. It will take more than Christopher Nolan to bring moviegoers back to cinemas.
    Gene Ching
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  11. #11
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    Tenet v Mulan

    Tenet Vs. Mulan: Which Was The Bigger Box Office Success
    While Tenet pushed ahead with its theatrical release, Mulan was moved to premium VOD on Disney+. Here's how the two movies compared at the box office.

    BY HANNAH SHAW-WILLIAMS
    4 DAYS AGO

    n
    UPDATE: An earlier version of this article cited reports that Mulan had grossed an estimated $261 million in its first 12 days of premium VOD sales. Those reports have since been flagged as misleading by the analytics company that provided the data, with an updated estimate of $62-93 million in Mulan's first 12 days of release. The article has been updated to reflect this.

    Tenet and Mulan were both early fall movie releases that both tried to make the best of a very bad situation. Whereas Tenet determinedly pushed for a theatrical-only release, with the marketing urging audiences to see it on the big screen, Mulan skipped theaters in the U.S. and went straight to Disney+ for a premium VOD price of $29.99.

    This week has seen another reshuffle of the Disney release slate, with Black Widow - the last Marvel Studios movie that was still hoping for a 2020 release date - pushed back to May 2021. Other releases, like Warner Bros.' superhero blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 and Universal's horror sequel Candyman, were also delayed in the wake of Tenet disappointing at the box office. Instead of saving the cinematic experience as intended, Nolan's film inadvertently became a canary down the coal mine. The resulting exodus has left the theatrical release schedule almost completely deserted for the next two months.

    Obviously the biggest problem for Tenet was releasing in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, when many theaters in the U.S. were still closed and audiences were reluctant to risk sitting in a room sharing poorly circulated air with a group of strangers for over two hours. But Mulan faced its own challenge in convincing Disney+ subscribers to shell out a steep $29.99 just to watch the movie in their own homes. So, which movie was the bigger box office success.

    Tenet's Box Office And Mulan's PVOD Sales

    Though they're obviously very different movies with different target audiences, Mulan and Tenet had similar production budgets of around $200 million, and both released on the same weekend in the United States (Tenet released a week earlier in some international markets). Warner Bros. initially reported that Tenet had grossed $20.2 million in its opening weekend, but it was later revealed that this number included previews and the extended Labor Day weekend. Dissecting the reported box office numbers, Collider estimated that the true opening weekend was around $9.5 million. The international ticket sales have been more robust, with Tenet pushing past $250 million worldwide after a month in theaters.

    Disney+ sales of Mulan have been kept under wraps by the studio, making it difficult to get a concrete idea of how much money Niki Caro's live-action remake has made. An early report caimed that Mulan has grossed $261 million in sales within the first 12 days of release, but this was later corrected to an estimate of $63-92 million. The release of the film did lead to a spike in Disney+ downloads, suggesting that its exclusive availability on Disney's own streaming platform also brought new subscribers onboard. Factoring in the reduced distribution costs of Mulan's Disney+ release, since theaters aren't taking a cut of box office, Forbes estimates that the higher estimate of $93 million would be equivalent to around $186 million at the box office. Since the data is based on U.S. Disney+ subscribers, Mulan has undoubtedly surpassed Tenet's domestic box office, which as of this week was still only at $36 million. Worldwide, however, it's likely that Tenet has the edge.

    Why Tenet Struggled At The Box Office (Even By Current Standards)

    With a quarter of U.S. theaters still closed, and the majority of those in the key markets of New York and California, Tenet was never going to make a huge splash at the box office. Under normal circumstances it would have been targeting a similar performance to Nolan's last trippy sci-fi film, Interstellar, which grossed $693.4 million with a $47.5 million opening weekend. While the coronavirus pandemic was undoubtedly a huge handicap, it did give Tenet a couple of slight advantages to go with all the downsides.

    Along with the long-delayed Fox movie The New Mutants, Tenet was the first new exclusively theatrical release in the U.S. since Onward's short run all the way back in March, and its promise of big-screen spectacle was tempting for moviegoers who had been cooped up all summer. With New Mutants and other releases offering little in the way of competition, Tenet also had a clear run at the box office for many weeks after its release. Warner Bros. was likely counting on the movie having strong legs rather than packing screens full in its opening weekend (which wouldn't be possible anyway, with current social distancing measures).

    As an original sci-fi movie, Tenet wasn't as safe a box office bet as a live-action Disney remake like Mulan. The film was relying on the prestige of Nolan as a director and upon enticingly cryptic trailers to draw audiences in. But unlike Inception, which had a fairly straightforward hook (a heist movie about breaking into people's dreams) as well as rave reviews from critics and strong word of mouth, Tenet's time-inversion premise was harder for general audiences to wrap their heads around, and the trailers were deliberately coy about the actual story. Upon release its critical reception was more mixed, and audience complaints ranged from the sound mix drowning out the dialogue to the plot being incomprehensible on a first viewing. To beat the odds Tenet would have needed to be 2020's must-see film, and the general consensus is that it wasn't.

    Mulan's Disney+ Release Made It An Easier Sell

    In contrast to the unprecedented circumstances of Tenet's release, Disney had the benefit of seeing how other movies had performed with a premium VOD release. An early success story for family audiences was Universal's Trolls World Tour, which was made available to rent for $19.99. VOD sales are harder to pin down than box office ticket sales, but Trolls World Tour grossed an estimated $100 million in rentals within the first three weeks of its release. Though the price tag was calculated to be the approximate cost of two or three people seeing the movie in theaters, there was backlash to the idea of paying $20 for only 48 hours access to the movie.

    Taking cues from both the success of Trolls World Tour and the criticisms of its release, Disney moved Mulan to Disney+ with a higher price point of $29.99, but no time limit on availability and no limit on many times it could be watched. This added rewatch value, something that's a cornerstone of Disney movies (as parents who have heard Frozen's "Let It Go" a hundred times can attest). Though technically Disney+ subscribers who pay the premium fee are still only renting Mulan rather than buying it, since discontinuing the base subscription means losing access, it was effectively set up to feel more like a purchase than a rental.

    Neither Mulan Nor Tenet Were True Box Office Successes



    Neither Mulan nor Tenet proved to be an outright success or failure. These were two films with massive budgets that were suddenly faced with one of the biggest financial crises in the history of cinema. Ten-figure hits like last year's Avengers: Endgame and Joker were never going to happen under the current circumstances. The new best case scenario for Warner Bros. and Disney was to lose as little money as possible, with turning an actual profit as a stretch goal.

    Putting aside the question of whether or not Warner Bros. was irresponsible to push forward with Tenet's theatrical release as COVID-19 cases were rising in the U.S., the film is looking to end its theatrical run with between $325 and $350 million, per Forbes. The studio will lose money and it would certainly be a major flop under normal conditions, but realistically even great reviews and word of mouth wouldn't have been enough to push it past the break-even point. Mulan is arguably the bigger flop, particularly when it comes to its theatrical release. Despite Disney targeting the lucrative market of China, Mulan is set to make less than half of 2019's The Lion King at the Chinese box office.

    The performance of both Tenet and Mulan will already have been put under a microscope by studio analysts, as the film industry fights to adapt to a pandemic-stricken world. So far the main reaction has been to push key releases down the road in the hope that things will get back to normal in 2021. But if the closure of theaters is prolonged by a second wave of coronavirus infections, it's likely that we'll see more movies join Mulan in the move to PVOD.

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