Tenet’s Box Office Taught Hollywood The Wrong Lesson, Says Christopher Nolan


Christopher Nolan says that Hollywood is taking the wrong lessons from Tenet’s box office take, instead of looking at the ways to move forward.

Christopher Nolan says Hollywood is taking all the wrong lessons from Tenet‘s box office take. Nolan is a known advocate for the moviegoing experience, insisting on releasing Tenet in theaters. Nolan also continues to shoot on film and use practical effects over CGI as much as possible. After the initial delay of Tenet because of the coronavirus pandemic, the film was seen as the savior of the US box office. Many thought that the film’s release at the beginning of September would revive stagnant box office revenues after a terrible summer.

Unfortunately, Tenet fell short of expectations. While the film fared well internationally, it tanked at the US box office, the largest exhibition market. Its current box office take sits at around $350 million, well short of the projected $500 million it needed to break even. Only $53 million of that comes from the domestic box office. Even Warner Media CEO John Stankey doesn’t think the film’s release was a success. After it’s release, studios slowly vacated 2020, moving most of their major films to 2021 and beyond, leaving theaters with nothing to show until Christmas, when Wonder Woman: 1984 hits theaters.

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Related: Why Tenet Was A Box Office Success In China (But Not The U.S.)

Nolan’s comments come from a new interview with the Los Angeles Times. He discusses his involvement in a new book about his films, but also touches on Tenet‘s box office take and how he thinks Hollywood is looking at it the wrong way:

“But I am worried that the studios are drawing the wrong conclusions from our release — that rather than looking at where the film has worked well and how that can provide them with much needed revenue, they’re looking at where it hasn’t lived up to pre-COVID expectations and will start using that as an excuse to make exhibition take all the losses from the pandemic instead of getting in the game and adapting — or rebuilding our business, in other words.”



Nolan isn’t necessarily wrong in his interpretation. Tenet was going to be seen as a failure, no matter what. Nolan is one of the biggest box office draws in the world, reliably putting out original blockbusters. Releasing one of those blockbusters in the midst of a pandemic, when theaters aren’t even able to fill seats normally, made it inevitable that Tenet would make less money than it typically would if it were released at the height of the blockbuster season. The idea that exhibitors and studios alike should look at the successes of Tenet is a sound one. In a world where the state of moviegoing is so up in the air, focusing on the ways in which studios and exhibitors can bring back revenue is of vital importance.

As studios debate the merits of sending some of their biggest films to streaming, Nolan is right in his insistence that studios and exhibitors look at the ways in which they can bring in revenue to keep the theater business alive. Many theaters are shutting down or on the verge, with AMC (one of the largest exhibitors in the world) expected to run out of money by the end of 2020. With the calendar void of blockbusters until Easter 2021 (except for Wonder Woman: 1984), theaters have little output to make a huge profit. Focusing on the ways that theaters could make a profit, instead of how Tenet failed expectations, is a more productive conversation. Nolan has always advocated for the cinematic experience, and his continued advocacy for it might be the very thing that keeps it alive.

More: Tenet Vs. Mulan: Which Was The Bigger Box Office Success

Source: Los Angeles Times

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Updated: November 4, 2020 — 3:10 am

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