Christopher Nolan gives his thoughts on Tenet’s box-office performance

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Christopher Nolan has been chatting about the conclusions being drawn from the release of Tenet in cinemas over the summer.

Christopher Nolan has spoken for the first time about the box-office performance of Tenet, arguing that he believes studios that are perceiving it as a failure need to shift their expectations, especially as their misconceptions are hurting cinemas, the LA Times  has reported.

Speaking at a Q&A with the writer Tom Shone, Nolan gave his view on Tenet’s performance for the first time in public, stating:

“Warner Bros. released Tenet, and I’m thrilled that it has made almost $350 million. But I am worried that the studios are drawing the wrong conclusions from our release — that rather than looking at where the film has worked well and how that can provide them with much needed revenue, they’re looking at where it hasn’t lived up to pre-Covid expectations and will start using that as an excuse to make exhibition take all the losses from the pandemic instead of getting in the game and adapting — or rebuilding our business, in other words.”

It’s a stark take, and one that will resonate with those who feel like studios have left exhibitors to almost completely feel the hefty economic sting of the Covid pandemic. Tenet’s lukewarm box office in the US totalled $55m, with several major markets such as New York and LA closed. The film has since taken $347m worldwide.

Whilst Nolan acknowledges that wasn’t enough for the film to break even, when discussing the future of filmmaking he also made the point that studios were sitting astride a very healthy profit line from the previous year, implying that they could afford to incur some losses to support the exhibition industry that in turn supports them:

“Well, it’s a difficult question to speak to. If you’re talking about the acceleration of existing trends, that’s something I started reading right at the beginning of the pandemic. And it ignores the reality that 2019 was the biggest year for theatrical films in history. They’d made the most money. The admissions were huge. Long term, moviegoing is a part of life, like restaurants and everything else,” he continued. “But right now, everybody has to adapt to a new reality.’

From a filmmaker of Nolan’s stature, comments of this ilk serve as a warning shot to studios about the consequences of their inaction this year. Still, from a filmmaker that supports the cinematic experience like no other, frankly, we’d expect nothing less, but it’s still nice to hear somebody say it.

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