Box Office: 'Tenet' Races to $53M-Plus Internationally

Tenet- Publicity still 6-H 2020
Warner Bros. Pictures

Christopher Nolan's movie is the first Hollywood tentpole to hit the big-screen since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

In a major win for the moviegoing experience in the COVID-19 era, Christopher Nolan's Tenet grossed a better-than-expected $53 million-plus as it debuted internationally in 41 markets, including Canada.

Among the grosses reported by Warner Bros., the U.K. led with $7.1 million in the U.K., not that far behind Nolan's Inception and Interstellar. France turned in $5.7 million, followed by Germany with $4.2 million. Warner Bros. didn't provide other territory grosses, but said that 32 markets in Europe, Middle East and African region accounted for $37 million of the weekend's grosses despite reduced capacity.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, the $200 million espionage epic is the first Hollywood tentpole to brave the big screen since cinemas reopened after a prolonged shutdown due to the devastating pandemic. It begins playing previews in the U.S. on Aug. 31 before officially opening where it can on Sept. 3 (the country's two largest moviegoing markets, Los Angeles and New York City remain off-limits).

Nolan is a champion of the theatrical experience, and in tandem with studio Warner Bros., has remained determined to keep Tenet on the calendar, versus pushing the film to a later date or sending it to premium VOD or streaming.

"We are off to a fantastic start internationally and couldn’t be more pleased,” said Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman. “Christopher Nolan has once again delivered an event worthy motion picture that demands to be seen on the big screen, and we are thrilled that audiences across the globe are getting the opportunity to see Tenet."

Tenet did big business in Imax theaters, or $5 million from 248 screens in 38 markets, which compares favorably to Nolan's Dunkirk and Interstellar. The large-format exhibit is reporting a screen average of $20,000-plus for Tenet, despite capacity restrictions. Imax is also reporting sold-out shows across the globe, including in London, Toronto, South Korea and Thailans.

Theater circuits across the world have largely pegged their reopenings to Tenet, starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.

"Thank you to our exhibition partners for their tireless efforts in reopening their cinemas in a safe and socially-distanced way. Given the unprecedented circumstances of this global release we know we’re running a marathon, not a sprint, and look forward to long playability for this film globally for many weeks to come," Emmerich continued.

Tenet rolls out Sept. 4 in China, where the box office has rebounded in a major way. In less than two weeks, the Chinese tentpole The Eight Hundred has collected well north of $200 million. It is the first Asian movie filmed entirely with Imax cameras.

Nolan's film saw its release date pushed several times after originally being set for a mid-July opening. Ultimately, Warners and Nolan decided on a late August-early September release despite the fact that Los Angeles and New York remain dark.