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‘Tenet’ Earns Solid $20 Million at US Box Office, Nears $150 Million Globally

Christopher Nolan’s film meets restrained expectations as nearly 70% of North American theaters reopen

Amid ongoing pandemic, Christopher Nolan’s new thriller “Tenet” is meeting tempered expectations for Warner Bros. with an estimated $20 million 4-day opening at the U.S. box office as its global total hits $146.2 million after two weekends in theaters worldwide.

“Tenet” has the widest domestic release of any film since the start of the pandemic with 2,810 locations, as distributors report that approximately 70% of the entire U.S. theater circuit has reopened. While Warner Bros. did not release any studio projections, analysts and theater owners who spoke to TheWrap said that a $20 million start was a reasonable goal given the lack of open theaters in many major cities and 25% capacity limits on theaters in many states like New Jersey, which allowed theaters to open this weekend.

“Our partners in exhibition have gone to extraordinary lengths to provide a safe return to theaters, and we applaud and support their efforts,” Warner Bros. said in a statement. “Moviegoers are excited to be able to enjoy movies the way they were meant to be seen–on the big screen–and ‘Tenet’ is the perfect film to welcome them back.”

Warner Bros. will be hoping for more theaters to reopen later this month, allowing for strong legs through September if word-of-mouth continues to build. While the deliberately cryptic nature of “Tenet” alienated some audiences and critics, word-of-mouth has been mostly positive with a 74% critics Rotten Tomatoes score, an 80% RT audience score, and a B in CinemaScore polls. By comparison, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” received a B+ and 87% RT score.

Along with the U.S., “Tenet” was also released in China, where it faced stiff competition from local hit “The Eight Hundred.” While the two films are neck-and-neck on the weekend charts, “Tenet” still earned a solid $30 million opening, the highest ever for a Nolan film in China.

That total includes $5.3 million from 649 IMAX screens in China, with the premium format taking in just over $11 million for “Tenet” this weekend. As with previous Nolan films, IMAX heavily invested in “Tenet,” providing cameras and heavy promotion. While the pandemic has weighed down numbers, IMAX turnout for the film in the U.S. and China has still given the company its best ever weekend in the month of September.

Among holdovers, 20th Century Studios’ “The New Mutants” will take in an estimated $3.5 million 4-day total along with $4.2 million overseas as it opened in the U.K., Mexico, Australia, Russia and Italy. That pushes the Marvel horror film’s global total to just over $20 million. Solstice’s “Unhinged” took in an estimated $1.6 million 3-day total in its third weekend, bringing its domestic total to $11.2 million. Searchlight Pictures expanded “The Personal History of David Copperfield” to 1,550 screens and grossed an estimated $470,000, bringing its total to $1.13 million as it waits for the major cities that usually drive the specialty box office to open.

Meanwhile, Disney’s “Mulan” was released as a $30 premium on-demand title for Disney+ subscribers in most parts of the world, though it did receive theatrical release this weekend in a handful of Asian markets and earned $5.9 million. Among the countries screening the remake in theaters were Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. “Mulan” will be released theatrically next weekend in China, a country long considered to be critical to the film’s box office.