The Only Mystery Bigger Than Tenet’s Plot: Its Box Office

The Only Mystery Bigger Than Tenet’s Plot: Its Box Office

Despite the initial fanfare surrounding Tenet crossing the $100 million mark in global markets, Warner Bros. has taken unusual steps to make determining the true numbers of the Christopher Nolan film’s domestic take difficult, according to a report in Variety.

Red flags concerning transparency began last week. BoxOfficePro referred to the North American sneak preview numbers as “the wild west,” citing a lack of reporting. After the film officially opened on Thursday, Sept. 3, the studio waited until Sunday, Sept. 6 to officially announced grosses, instead of offering daily numbers. The domestic tally was eventually reported to be $20 million, the largest amount by far since the start of the pandemic, but significantly low for a movie of this scale.

With theaters limiting ticket availability due to social distancing rules, many still questioning the safety of cinemas right now, and theaters in the two biggest markets of New York and Los Angeles closed, the total was never going to be high. Variety says the studio was understandably concerned that there would be early reporting on this without context, and the assumption of a total flop.

However, the studio has taken the unusual move of keeping a lid on things, even involving the reporting service known as Rentrak. The costly data resource allows industry professionals to view film grosses as they are updated moment-to-moment. Rentrak reportedly had to get special permission from other studio executives to withhold Tenet’s grosses. (They allowed it, figuring Warner Bros. was acting as something of a canary in the coal mine with their release of Tenet.)

After that first weekend there have been no additional reports concerning Tenet’s domestic finances.

Denying the public access to box office statistics on a substantial theatrical release comes after years of studio criticism against streamers like Netflix, whose metrics remain vague. (Earlier this year they disclosed their rule that “two minutes of play” is a view, even if someone has conked out on the couch with autoplay on after a hard day at the office.)

Warner Bros. and Rentrak’s parent, Comscore, declined to comment to Variety, however a source did say that comparing the 2020 release of Tenet to any other movie is “apples and kumquats.”

On Friday, Warner Bros. announced another in a series of delays for Wonder Woman 1984. Its October 2 date has now been pushed to Christmas Day. Other big December titles still on the calendar include Steven Spielberg’s take on West Side Story, the long-anticipated Eddie Murphy sequel Coming 2 America, and Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune.

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