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The global pandemic is far from over but in some places, things are beginning to look a little better. Movie theaters are open in several nations, and this past weekend those countries saw their first major box office test in the form of Christopher Nolan's Tenet. The director had been insistent that his movie only opens in theaters, and now, in about 40 countries, that has happened. And while it's difficult to judge what constitutes a "good" box office right now, Tenet did put up a better than expected $54 million globally.
The top nation for Tenet, according to Deadline, was the UK which brought in $7 million, and which accounted for nearly three-quarters of all movie tickets sold last weekend in the nation. Korea, France, and Germany all put up comparable numbers. The numbers put up were especially impressive because even in nations where theaters are open, social distancing measures are put in place, which means theaters were only running at a fraction of capacity. Which makes the fact that some per-screen averages were actually on par with pre-pandemic numbers, though that was largely in smaller nations like Saudi Arabia and the Scandinavian countries, that much more notable.
These numbers are a strong indicator for this coming weekend, where Tenet will open in the world's largest international box office, China, as well as the United States, though theaters are only open in some parts of the country, and so box office numbers here are sure to be very different than we're used to seeing.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Tenet's box office fate shapes up in the coming weeks. While many films made the decision to release strictly at home, or, at the very least, to hedge their bets by opening both in theaters and at home, Tenet is the first major release to go with theaters only. There will certainly be a lot of people who are both able and willing to go to the theater to see it, but between the places where the movie is unavailable, and the fact that seats are at a premium, it's unclear just how much these things will hit the overall response.
Not opening in theaters at all will certainly damage a movie's ability to make money, but we still don't really know how much opening in a hampered box office will really fix that problem. We should know more next week after Tenet opens in China and domestically. Although, with an expectation that theaters may slowly reopen around the world, and movie fans may slowly regain the confidence to go, it could be that movies like Tenet could take months to fully build their box office success. Perhaps Tenet will end up with a global box office take on par with any other blockbuster, but it could take the rest of the year for the movie to get there.