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SYFY WIRE Box Office

Box office: Tenet time-travels to $41 million domestically, spies $280 million worldwide

By Josh Weiss

After four weeks in U.S. theaters, Christopher Nolan's Tenet continues to struggle at the box office amid exhibitor closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Per Variety, the time-bending blockbuster only made $3.4 million in domestic sales this weekend — boosting the U.S. total to $41 million — from nearly 3,000 reopened theaters. Despite a 26% decline from previous weeks, however, America still reported the highest Tenet weekend haul, followed by Japan, with $3 million (which marked a 30% drop in its second weekend of screening the big-budget release).

Since late August, the mind-flaying spy-thriller has been performing much better in foreign markets (where Tenet debuted prior to its Labor Day premiere in the U.S.), which helped bring this weekend's international tally to $19.2 million. To date, Nolan's latest genre effort has racked up $280 million globally, with $215 million coming from non-American markets.

Not the greatest figure in the world, considering that the ambitious project cost Warner Bros. $200 million to make. Still, the studio has admitted that it plans to let the feature play for a long time, until its large investment is recouped. As we've stated over the last couple of weekends, theaters in major metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles are still closed. Those heavily populated hubs usually account for the bulk of ticket sales in North America. In fact, only about 58% percent of domestic theaters are currently back in business as of this writing.

"This weekend is continuing what’s now expected to become a trend of quieter weekends at the domestic box office in the early autumn weeks following numerous release delays since Tenet opened," Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, told Variety. "It’s another good news, bad news scenario as Tenet itself and other films are displaying stronger legs than typically seen in pre-pandemic times, but the volume of total business in the market is lacking due to modest consumer awareness, the absence of four-quad films, and no promotional engine usually driven by the Los Angeles and New York markets."

Disney's live-action Mulan remake netted an additional $3.4 million from 20 markets where Disney+ is not widely available. The film has now made $64 million from theatrical ticket sales outside of America. It's still unknown how much the feature made via the "Premier Access" fee of $29.99 for domestic Disney+ subscribers. Mulan will be made free for platform users in early December. If a sizable profit is being made, the company may decide to skip theatrical rollouts for other major releases (i.e. Soul and Black Widow) in favor of premium streaming. That's probably unlikely, as Disney just shifted a number of blockbusters (including Black Widowto next year.

Now playing in its fifth weekend, The New Mutants (another Disney property) brought in another $2.5 million in worldwide sales, with $1.1 million of that number coming from the U.S. The X-Men film from writer-director Josh Boone has now made just over $35 million globally. Coupled with a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie's less-than-stellar performance marks a somewhat disappointing end for 20th Century Fox's history of comic book adaptations.

"The marketplace is as expected sleepy and uncertain,” Robbins added. "However, there is at least some encouraging news in the fact that where people have the option, film fans are heading to the movie theater while others are seeking out the big screen experience even in neighboring cities if their local multiplex is unavailable."