Tenet Box Office: Christopher Nolan's New Film Still Hitting Big Overseas, But U.S. Struggles Continue

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet

Those who have been watching the development of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet at the box office may have noticed a particular pattern has started to arise. When the would-be blockbuster was released on Labor Day weekend a couple weeks ago, we noted that it was doing so-so business domestically, but at the same time was ready to cross the $150 million milestone internationally. Then last Sunday we reported that the film took a serious dip in U.S. theaters, but that the movie had eclipsed $200 million globally.

Well, it turns out that things didn’t really change at all in the last seven days, as we have a situation that is essentially an echo.

According to Variety, Tenet has now made north of $250 million from ticket sales all around the globe – but that news comes with the unfortunate asterisk explaining that a disappointing fraction of that total comes from theaters in North America where the COVID-19 pandemic remains a persistent problem and large markets remain closed. From Friday to Sunday the film made only an additional $4.7 million domestically, which totals to the feature earning a paltry sum of $36.1 million since the start of the month.

For those curious about the math breakdown but don’t want to do the calculations personally, that means that North American ticket sales only amount to 14 percent of internationally grosses, and that’s surely not something that Warner Bros. is overly excited about. There is a possibility that we could see at least a minor shift start to happen in the coming weeks, however.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Tenet in the United States is the fact that the vast majority of theaters in major markets like Los Angeles and New York remain closed. That’s a serious problem given that those areas are epicenters for the entertainment industry – but the positive spin is that as locations start to reopen in those areas it means that ticket sales could see a spike.

As noted by the trade report, five of the 10 highest grossing theaters showing Tenet this past weekend are located in California. The vast majority of venues in the state remain closed, but as they slowly start to slowly reopen it could result in a significant uptick in ticket sales for the Christopher Nolan film. The bad news is that process is going to be slow, and overall potential will be still limited by occupancy restrictions and other health and safety regulations. The good news is that there isn’t a surplus of competition from major upcoming releases, as Patty JenkinsWonder Woman 1984 and Nia DaCosta’s Candyman moving in recent weeks means that the next blockbuster scheduled to arrive in theaters is Kenneth Branagh’s Death On The Nile, and that won’t drop until November 20.

Tenet remains a fascinating blockbuster theatrical release in the time of COVID-19, so we will continue to track its progress week to week. Stay tuned for more updates here on CinemaBlend.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.