‘Tenet’ surpasses $200 million globally, but U.S. box office sluggish

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson star in “Tenet,” an upcoming spy film written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

Warner Bros.

Domestic audiences just aren’t ready to return to movie theaters.

While Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” has managed to haul in more than $200 million globally, folks in the U.S. aren’t flocking to cinemas. 

During its second weekend in the U.S. and Canada, “Tenet” garnered $6.7 million in ticket sales, a 29% drop from the week prior. Initially, Warner Bros. released a $20 million figure for the film’s opening weekend, but revealed that number actually included preview showings dating back to Aug. 31. So, “Tenet” actually only sold around $9.4 million worth of tickets during its opening run domestically.

“It just means what I’ve always believed,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations, said. “Audiences aren’t ready to come back. And cinemas, unfortunately, will struggle to survive domestically.”

In pre-Covid times a drop in ticket sales between 40% and 60% wouldn’t be unheard of from opening weekend to the second weekend. These days most films have seen much smaller differences between weekends.

Of course, only around 70% of movie theaters in the U.S. are open and those closed are in large metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles, where ticket prices are much higher. Audience caps are also in place, limiting the number of people who can attended each showing.

Over the weekend, “Tenet” scored an additional $37.3 million from foreign markets, bringing its international tally to $177.5 million. In total domestically, the film has picked up $29.5 million in ticket sales. That brings “Tenet” to around $207 million, just more than its $200 million production budget.

Of course, Warner Bros. also spent money on marketing, so “Tenet” hasn’t quite become profitable, yet.

“The fact that ‘Tenet’ has become a $200 million blockbuster within the context of an extraordinarily challenging marketplace during a pandemic shows the drawing power of a brand new, big budget movie from a notable director to potential moviegoers around the world,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said.

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