It's no secret Tenet did not making the same kind of money at the box office as it would have had it released under normal circumstances around the world. Instead, the Christopher Nolan thrill ride dropped into theaters in the midst of a global pandemic while many theaters around the world, especially in the United States, remained closed. It's not an ideal scenario for any major-budget Hollywood film to have to maneuver but Warner Bros. executive Ann Sarnoff stands by the studio's decision to release Tenet when they did.
WB chair-CEO Sarnoff joined Variety for a conversation about the film industry, as the same studio faces another difficult decision with Wonder Woman 1984 on the horizon.
"We're very pleased with the results of Tenet," Sarnoff says. 'A couple of things: we knew it would over index in the international markets. Christopher Nolan has a huge, following, of course in the U.S., but his other movies have typically over indexed in international markets. If you remember back in June, July, August, the international markets were more open. We had this amazing movie, I don't know if you've seen it, that really deserved to be seen on the big screen."
The full clip can be seen in the tweet from Variety below.
Warner Bros. chair-CEO Ann Sarnoff says she has no regrets about releasing #Tenet in theaters: “We’re very pleased with the results... We knew it would over-index in the international markets” | Variety #PowerOfWomen: Conversations presented by @lifetimetv pic.twitter.com/bPwZEkPJQA— Variety (@Variety) October 28, 2020
"We could've sat and waited or taken it out there and in theaters that were open and, granted, socially distanced," Sarnoff explains. "Because there weren't as many movies, theaters were willing to work with us. If it's one-third capacity in a given theater, they'd give us three times as many theaters so we had effective the same capacity. So, here we are, we're getting close to $350 million in box office which is really good in a pandemic. Over $50 million in the U.S., the rest internationally."
After looking at the options, Warner Brothers decided to go ahead and get a big new movie in to the market, with one benefit being a lack of competition from titles which would follow it.0comments
"The other thing that we did differently was we decided not to make it about the big splashy opening weekend," Sarnoff says. "In the U.S., only about 75% of the markets were open when wee launched in late August, so it made no sense to spend all of your marketing money upfront if you couldn't go to theaters. We decided to call it more of a marathon versus a sprint. We spread out our marketing dollars so wee didn't have the same kind of hurdle or expectations that we previously had pre-COVID."
As for the future in regards to more box office dollars for Tenet and other films hitting their release dates, Sarnoff is optimistic. "We just got good news that New York State's gonna be opening up this coming week. Counties surrounding LA are opening. We're kind of circling LA hoping it opens soon, as well as San Francisco," Sarnoff adds. "A lot more to come, I guess, is what I'll say but we're very pleased. The theaters of course were very grateful to have this amazing movie and the fresh content coming in."