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Movie Theater Reopening Trials Have Failed

Movie Theaters Struggle To Justify Reopening

Last month, most American movie theater chains began to open their doors in advance of Tenet, the Christopher Nolan genre piece that was supposed to bring audiences back to theaters. Some other movies made their debut beforehand (shout out to The New Mutants and Unhinged), but Tenet was the blockbuster that would make a potential financial impact.

Tenet grossed just above $20 million domestically during the extended Labor Day weekend, which is not an absolute disaster considering we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Just for comparison, Nolan’s last film, Dunkirk, grossed over $50 million domestic in its opening weekend, and Inception, an original film that opened during the summer like Tenet was supposed to, grossed over $60 million domestic in its opening back in 2010.

To date, Tenet has grossed just over $36 million domestically

It’s worth noting that two major markets, Los Angeles and New York, have not reopened movie theaters as of this time. Those are huge markets where movies make a lot of money, and without them, the movie studios aren’t going to be making the kind of money they want. Luckily for Tenet, it’s making a good amount of cash internationally, grossing over $250 million worldwide as of now. With no other releases in immediate sight, I expect it’s going to play the long game and continue to make money for the foreseeable future.

Tenet Empty Movie Theater
Photo Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Tenet tried to save theaters

There are rumors that executives at Warner Bros. were pretty hesitant to release Tenet when they did, but released it to appease Christopher Nolan, an outspoken supporter of the movie theater experience. The fact that Wonder Woman 1984, another WB release, was pushed from its October release date to Christmas, is pretty telling that WB isn’t too pleased with the Tenet receipts.

Regal Movie Theater
Photo courtesy of Regal

With this week’s news that Disney is delaying Black Widow, West Side Story, and others into 2021, it’s safe to go ahead and carve out a sad gravestone for movies in 2020. I would not be surprised if Wonder Woman 1984 shifts from December into 2021, and I would be shocked if No Time to Die, the new James Bond film, holds firm to its November release.

Photo Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

We originally thought movies just needed theaters to reopen so they could make money, but it appears that people just aren’t ready to return to theaters amidst the pandemic, despite all of the safety precautions the theaters are trying to take. Some movies have had a lot of success in going to premium video-on-demand releases, so I would think studios might start giving some upcoming films more serious consideration of a digital release (No, there’s no way Black Widow releases on Disney+).

I know I miss my routine weekly movie theater outings but with nothing to see, I’ll just stay home for now.

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