After jockeying release dates imposed by the uncertainty of the coronavirus evolution, Tenet time is finally here. Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Tenet will be released by Warner Bros overseas beginning Wednesday in such markets as the UK, Korea, France, Germany, Australia, Italy and Spain. In total through Friday, there will be 40 offshore markets playing what has been the most highly anticipated film on the part of exhibition and audiences alike around the globe during the COVID-era reopening process.
And in this era, comps basically need to be thrown out the window. Warners is keeping a tight lid on preview grosses and will not be reporting international box office numbers until Sunday, rather than the usual daily updates on major movies. The film is currently carrying n 82 fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and even The Guardian has released a new five-star review. (Read Deadline’s review here.)
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Still, box office-wise, everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt on this film given the uncharted waters we’re surfing.
Industry sources are expecting Tenet have a baseline of $25 million across the five-day offshore opening and some are predicting higher; $30M+ (we’ve even heard $40M+) is a possibility. But in today’s world, there really is no template for what to expect, particularly given capacity and screening limits in almost all markets, and virus resurgences in some key plays. That brings us to Korea, where restrictions have been tightened in recent days and could increase further if Seoul moves to Level 3 of its social distancing guidelines. That’s a real concern and could make Korea the swing market on Tenet. The film did $717,000 in previews last Saturday and Sunday from 590 screens, but the overall market was off by 70% from the previous session.
Nevertheless, the UK, France, Korea, Germany and Australia (though cinemas in the latter are closed in Victoria) should be among the top markets, while Taiwan could also pop given there are no capacity restrictions. Among the South East Asian markets that also have been doing well with new pictures there is also Malaysia.
To get to a $30M opening, the UK and Korea would need to see openings above $5M. Korea has recently shown it is capable of opening a film to a $15M five-day session, but again, even though Tenet presales have been very strong, that was before the current rise in cases and restrictions. The UK has seen steady increases, up 27% across the Top 10 this past session, but those films only generated $1.16M combined. The UK is home turf for Nolan, so hopefully the fans come out in a market that is for the majority open.
France, Australia and Germany would need to do somewhere in the $3M-$5M range. France (which is about 90% open) has also seen jumps, but was down this session likely owing to the fact that the UEFA Champions League final was played between Paris-St-Germain and Bayern Munich on Sunday. Germany, for similar reasons, was likewise down in the past session to $1.19M from the Top 10. The market had about 61% of its cinemas open at the time.
Australia had Tenet previews this past weekend, though we don’t have figures yet and Melbourne is still closed for the moment. The market was down by about half from last session across the Top 10, with no significant new titles.
Spain and Italy for their part would need to come in around $2M+. In the weekend just passed, Spain (almost fully reopened despite new coronavirus waves) was also off from the previous frame, largely because there were no major new offerings. And Italy, which is about 50% open, saw a 184% jump from its Top 10 this past weekend, with Onward finally journeying to the market — but those Top 10 did $540K. Italy does not typically program the summer (save for last year) and Nolan’s films usually open later there. His best opening gross of the last decade was with Interstellar in November 2014 (at historical rates). Still, this is an upside-down year so the rule book should just be tossed.
Taiwan, which recently proved it could launch a movie — ie Peninsula — to nearly $5M in a five-day frame, will be one to watch. Malaysia likewise did nearly $1M at open on Peninsula. It really is all about new movies, and there couldn’t be anything newer or more anticipated at this point than Tenet.
Scandinavia, Holland, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium will make up another chunk while additional opening markets include Ukraine, Turkey, Thailand and Portugal.
Nolan overindexes in the European majors as well as Korea, but his films also tend not to be frontloaded and to leg out over time. That’s partly down to repeat viewings which are generally required to grasp the full scope and intricacies of his narratives. I saw Tenet in a preview screening in Aix-en-Provence, France last night (a microcosm to be sure) and one comment I heard upon exiting was, “I didn’t understand anything.” I wouldn’t go that far, but I’ll definitely be seeing it again.
Tenet has another reason to be looking at a lengthy run, and that’s partly down to audience confidence. As I’ve reported over the past several weeks, the international box office is progressing nicely — never more so than when there is a new title in a particular market. That bodes well for the pent-up demand, but some moviegoers still need to be coaxed back to cinemas.
Not included in the initial suite on Tenet are China and the U.S. as well as several overseas hubs. Canada will go on Thursday, but I am not including the market in the international outlook as those numbers will ultimately roll up to domestic.
Meanwhile, Tenet goes to China next week and right now it’s good timing to not be in China given behemoth local title The Eight Hundred is storming the box office there. When Tenet rolls around on September 4, it is expected to be the next main event (and will benefit from recent re-releases of Nolan’s Interstellar and Inception).
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