Tenet takes more than $50m as film fans return to cinemas

UK moviegoers lead way to see first big-screen release since Covid-19 lockdown in March

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has taken more than $50m at the box office on its opening weekend as movie fans shrugged off the coronavirus pandemic, donned face masks and headed back to big screens.

British movie fans led the way with a $7.1m (£5.4m) UK box office take for Tenet, the first Hollywood blockbuster to be released in cinemas since the lockdown in March. It is the biggest box office take for a film in the UK in seven months, since Sam Mendes’s 1917 in January.

Tenet has been viewed as a litmus test of whether fans are ready to return to movie theatres en masse, as the UK cinema industry aims to salvage something from a year destined to be the worst at the box office in three decades. An enthusiastic, mask-wearing Tom Cruise was among the fans to catch a screening of Tenet in London.

Big Movie. Big Screen. Loved it. pic.twitter.com/DrAY5tRg5P

— Tom Cruise (@TomCruise) August 25, 2020

“We are off to a fantastic start internationally and couldn’t be more pleased,” said Toby Emmerich, the chairman of Warner Bros. “Given the unprecedented circumstances of this global release, we know we are running a marathon, not a sprint, and look forward to long playability for this film globally for many weeks to come.”

After pushing back the global release of Tenet multiple times because the pandemic was continuing to run rampant in the US – the world’s biggest movie market by some distance – Warner Bros took the unprecedented step of launching internationally first. 

A woman wearing a protective mask walks by a billboard of the movie Tenet in South Korea.
A woman wearing a protective mask walks by a billboard of the movie Tenet in South Korea. Photograph: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

Given the reception the film has received, taking $53m internationally and beating analysts’ expectations, hopes are high that it will replicate that performance when it launches in major markets including the US and China at the weekend.

“If this weekend’s stellar box office performance by Tenet offers any indication, the power of one film to jumpstart the industry has been made manifest,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst at Comscore.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

With a schedule devoid of fresh Hollywood blockbusters, cinema owners have had to fall back on low-grossing classics and old hits, with the original Jurassic Park making a return to the top 10 during lockdown.

The box office surge, which follows paltry weekly takes of less than £1m across all films shown in the UK and Ireland since cinemas reopened in July, bodes well for upcoming releases including James Bond: No Time To Die.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Cinemas await Tenet release to test movie-goers' appetite for big screen
Christopher Nolan sci-fi film is first Hollywood blockbuster to open in cinemas since lockdown

Mark Sweney

21, Aug, 2020 @1:01 PM

Article image
Tenet makes healthy start in US with $20m opening weekend take
Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster has had a relatively encouraging US box office debut, following a healthy fortnight on release internationally

Catherine Shoard

07, Sep, 2020 @10:31 AM

Article image
Warner Bros delays release of Christopher Nolan's Tenet again
The big budget sci-fi thriller, originally scheduled for July, has no new release date due to uncertainty over US cinemas reopening

Andrew Pulver

21, Jul, 2020 @12:15 PM

Article image
Christopher Nolan leads industry fury over Warner Bros' streaming move
Tenet director says studio’s decision to release its entire 2021 slate in the US simultaneously in cinemas and on HBO Max is ‘not how you treat film-makers’

Andrew Pulver

08, Dec, 2020 @1:10 PM

Article image
Tenet didn't just fail to save cinema – it may well have killed it for good
Branded the saviour of cinema, Christopher Nolan’s time-travelling sci-fi turned out more of a sacrificial lamb – and has totally spooked the industry

Guy Lodge

06, Oct, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
UK cinemas lobbying government for June reopening
The UK Cinema Association aims to resume business before July release of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Tenet, as studios and distributors scramble to protect theatrical business model

Catherine Shoard

06, May, 2020 @12:30 PM

Article image
No stampede for seats as blockbuster returns to Bristol's cinemas
While cinemas said film fans were ‘flocking back’, the mid-morning screening of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was by no means full

Steven Morris

26, Aug, 2020 @4:17 PM

Article image
Why Godzilla vs. Kong saved cinema, not Tenet
Christopher Nolan’s film baffled audiences – all they wanted in this most bewildering of years was to see a giant ape and a dinosaur going at it for 15 rounds

James Hanton

07, Apr, 2021 @5:12 AM

Article image
As Tenet is delayed yet again, is it time to end cinema's 'America first' policy?
Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated thriller has been delayed indefinitely while the US wrestles with Covid-19. But why should the rest of the world have to wait?

Steve Rose

22, Jul, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Tenet up: listen, Christopher Nolan, we just can't hear a word you're saying
The Tenet director has dismissed critics of his poor sound mixing by blaming us for being too conservative. Why must he keep toying with our perception of sound?

Stuart Heritage

16, Nov, 2020 @2:56 PM