Tenet has been in theaters for roughly two months now and has just crossed a box office milestone. With the weekend grosses, Christopher Nolan's time-bending blockbuster has earned $350 million globally. For most movies, especially in the current climate, that would be a win. In this case, it's not so simple, as Warner Bros. spent a small fortune on the movie expecting that Nolan's name and an intriguing premise would bring out moviegoers in droves. In a normal year, that very well may have been the case. But 2020 is not a normal year by any definition.
With the weekend's totals added in, Tenet has earned $55.1 million domestically and $295.6 million internationally. That adds up to $350.7 million in total box office. But that spread is truly something to behold. Overseas markets have accounted for just shy of 85 percent of the movie's total box office take. While international earnings have become a much larger part of the equation in Hollywood over the years, blockbusters are rarely ever that lopsided, in terms of where those box office dollars come from. It is also important to note that in many cases studios see better returns on domestic ticket sales.
Christopher Nolan has become one of the most bankable directors in the business, having helmed huge hits such as The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Dunkirk. Not to mention that Nolan is one of few directors behind blockbusters at that level that also earns huge critical acclaim and awards season accolades. That is why Warner Bros. wanted to stay in the Nolan business. And that is also why they gave him a massive $200 million production budget for Tenet. Not to mention that Nolan has a unique deal in place that sees him taking home 20 percent of the overall box office. It is estimated that the movie needed to make around $400 million just to break even. The studio is going to have to take a pretty big loss on this one, it seems.
The hope was that Tenet could help save movie theaters. That hasn't really been the case. The movie, which stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, simply didn't become a must-see, especially in the U.S. Christopher Nolan has argued that studios are learning the wrong lessons here and is personally "thrilled" with the results. At the same time John Stankey, head of AT&T, Warner Bros.' parent company, said that it was not a "home run." So there are conflicting views to contend with.
It is impossible to say what the movie might have done under normal circumstances, or if Warner Bros. had waited to release it until the market stabilized. For those who didn't rush out to see Tenet in a theater, it was recently revealed that it will arrive on Blu-ray and digital starting December 15. It will be interesting to see if home video sales can help make up some of the losses for Warner Bros. These numbers come to us from Box Office Mojo.