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411 Box Office Report: Tenet Opens to $20 Million Domestically

September 6, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

Tenet finally had its day in US theaters, getting off to a $20 million start over the weekend. The Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi espionage thriller opened with $20.2 million this weekend to mark the first film to gross over $10 million for a weekend in almost six months. Tenet opened in 2,810 theaters nationwide and scored a solid number, considering how only 68% of theaters are open right now across the country and the fact that many people are tentative at best about venturing out to a movie theater due to the pandemic.

Of course, Tenet’s opening isn’t what Warner Bros. would have wanted in a perfect situation, but nothing about right now is a perfect situation for movies. Tenet’s domestic start marks the first opening in the teens since March 13th, when Disney’s Onward was in its second weekend amid the shutdown and dropped 73% to $10.5 million. (That was, not coincidentally, our last box office report here at 411). Tenet came with a hefty price tag, registering at $224 million. Add in a start-and-stop marketing campaign by necessity, and Tenet is in a somewhat rough position.

Things aren’t a total loss for the film, though. For one, Tenet has literally no real competition until October 2nd when Wonder Woman 1984 (as of now) opens. There is a definite possibility of more people being becoming confident enough to venture out to theaters in the coming weeks, and combined with Nolan’s propensity for long box office runs it means that Tenet could actually show some pretty solid legs. A damper on that is the fact that the film is below the Nolan average with critics at a 74% RT average, while the CinemaScore is also lower with a B (as opposed to the typical B+/A-). It’s also doing well overseas, where it has $126 million thus far for a $146.2 million worldwide cume. There are far too many variables to predict final box office gross, but while it will probably lose money it won’t come as a black mark against Nolan considering the situation.

Coming in at a distance #2 was The New Mutants, which brought in $2.9 million. That’s down 59% from last weekend’s $7 million gross. The PG-13 horror spinoff of The X-Men arrived in theaters after a lengthy series of delays and a host of negative buzz, and the reviews have not been kind with a 32% RT average. That’s better than Dark Phoenix’s 22% but is otherwise the worst aggregate score of the franchise. There was no CinemaScore polling for the film, but the RT user average is a not-great 53%.

Many expected Disney at some point to dump The New Mutants, a last relic of the 20th Century Fox purchase, on a streaming platform or put it up for VOD/Digital rental. Not that wasn’t possible due to a host of reasons, notable a requirement as part of the Fox acquisition that all their films get a theatrical release. In addition, HBO has first streaming rights so it couldn’t just be tossed onto Hulu or Disney+. The film currently has $11.6 million domestically and $20.1 million worldwide thus far, and seems unlikely to top $20 million in the US which means that Disney will have to wait for Digital before they can start looking at hopes of a breakeven point. And even then that seems unlikely for a film that reportedly cost $67 million or so — cheap for a superhero film, but still well out of range for how the film is currently doing.

#3 went to Russel Crowe’s Unhinged, which is now in its fourth weekend and notched $1.7 million. The psychological thriller was the (along with The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run) the first major film to open theatrically when it launched in 299 theaters the weekend of August 14th, then went wide the week after. The $33 million film about a deranged man with a case of road rage has been mildly received with 47% on RT, with critics, but audiences have liked it with 76% approval there. It has a total gross of $11.3 million domestically and $19 million worldwide. Much like New Mutants, this one won’t see a profit or $20 million in theaters but should be able to make money once it hits digital.

We only have numbers on three other films this weekend, and their rankings aren’t certain. The Dev Patel-starrer The Personal History of David Copperfield grossed $361,000 in its second weekend, bringing its totals to $1.0 million domestically and $10.9 million worldwide; with a $15.6 milllion budget it should be able to break even. The SpongeBob Movie brought in $345,000 in its fourth weekend, with a total of $3.5 million thus far against a reported $60 million budget (sorry, SpongeBob). And Roadside’s teen romantic drama Words on Bathroom Walls starring Charlie Plummer and Taylor Russell scored $282,370 in its third weekend for a $1.5 million total against a $9.3 million budget.

Next weekend does have a new release in the rom-com The Broken Hearts Gallery which stars Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, and Bernadette Peters. The film is currently well-liked with critics at an 86% RT score. But there’s no way to even guesstimate what it will do in its first weekend.

BOX OFFICE TOP THREE (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Tenet – $20.2 million ($20.2 million total)
2. The New Mutants – $2.9 million ($11.6 million total)
3. Unhinged – $1.7 million ($11.3 million total)

* The Personal History of David Copperfield – $361,000 ($1.0 million total)
* The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run – $345,000 ($3.5 million total)
* Words on Bathroom Walls – $282,370 ($1.5 million total)