Movie theaters opened across the US and the globe. They were supposed to be a sign that our economy was ready to reopen and theaters would be okay.
But they are far from it.
While only around 70% of theaters are open in the United States, this past weekend, Tenet only earned $6.7 million at the box office in the United States. That's down 29% from the week prior when it only had $9.5 million taken in.
According to Box Office Mojo, here are the totals as of right now:
- DOMESTIC (14.3%): $29,500,000
- INTERNATIONAL (85.7%): $177,500,000
- WORLDWIDE: $207,000,000
Obviously, these numbers are okay, but with Tenet's budget estimated to be around $200 million, and that's not even counting marketing, it looks nearly impossible for Warner Bros. to turn a profit on this original science fiction movie.
John David Washington and Christopher Nolan on the set of 'Tenet'
Look, while many top-grossing locations in New York and Los Angeles remain closed, these numbers are still very depressing.
Theaters and the people who run them are suffering massive losses. Those losses are felt not only in jobs for people (high fives to anyone who has ever worked at a movie theater) but also the very idea of having theaters not run by Hollywood studios.
On top of that is the constant battle we are fighting to have original stories with actual scope and scale. Tenet was a Christopher Nolan movie, it should have done gangbusters, but it was instead relegated to a subpar turnout.
That could dissuade studios from taking chances on less famous writers and directors.
On the other side of this coin, we know that Mulan made a ton of money on its digital release while struggling in international theaters, especially in China.
Warner Bros. and Nolan were so determined to release Tenet in theaters, it is maddening they didn't even consider a simultaneous release on digital. You have to think the movie would have had an insanely profitable run. It's a PG-13 actioner with recognizable stars and the most famous director working right now.
So what happens next?
You have to think Warner Bros. will explore releasing Tenet online, while also leaving it in theaters as long as it still makes money. But for the future of Hollywood, it looks like movies are really hamstrung by coronavirus, limited capacity, and public fear.
Will studios sell off titles to Netflix or Apple?
Will they make them available for digital download instead of even attempting theaters?
And how long will these huge theater chains be able to remain open if no one is filling the seats?
There are no clear answers, but I think we're going to see studios begin to dump smaller titles into streaming and move huge titles like Wonder Woman 1984 deep into next year. If a studio wanted to get ahead, I say take a page from Disney and release it online ASAP. Especially if you have family titles.
People are dying for things to watch and paying $20-30 to do so.
Let us know in the comments.