Tenet: Christopher Nolan Thinks Studios Are "Drawing the Wrong Conclusions" From Theatrical Release Strategy

The theatrical release of Tenet is one that is going to be discussed and analyzed for years to come. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the mind-bending Christopher Nolan film opened in theaters in the United States on September 3rd, the first Hollywood tent-pole to open after pandemic-related lockdowns lifted, with many hoping that the film would be the start of moviegoers -- and major movies -- returning. That didn't exactly happen and now, two months after initial release, the film has made just around $350 million. For many observers, it's a cautionary tale and may have contributed to the decision to delay other major film releases but Nolan thinks that studios are taking the wrong conclusions from Tenet's release.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Nolan said that there are more factors to consider than simply the pandemic. The filmmaker noted that with 2019 being the biggest year for theatrical film in history , the real question comes down looking at things a bit more in a big picture way -- that we can't make comparisons to the pre-COVID world.

"Well, it’s a difficult question to speak to. If you’re talking about the acceleration of existing trends, that’s something I started reading right at the beginning of the pandemic," Nolan said. "And it ignores the reality that 2019 was the biggest year for theatrical films in history. They’d made the most money. The admissions were huge. So, to me, it’s much more about: What’s the new reality we’re living in?"

Nolan continued that he thinks that focus on the fact that Tenet didn't reach those 2019 heights, studios are missing out on the opportunity to learn from the success the film has had -- and that like it or not, this is our new reality.

"Warner Bros. released Tenet, and I’m thrilled that it has made almost $350 million. But I am worried that the studios are drawing the wrong conclusions from our release — that rather than looking at where the film has worked well and how that can provide them with much needed revenue, they’re looking at where it hasn’t lived up to pre-COVID expectations and will start using that as an excuse to make exhibition take all the losses from the pandemic instead of getting in the game and adapting — or rebuilding our business, in other words," he said. "Long term, moviegoing is a part of life, like restaurants and everything else. But right now, everybody has to adapt to a new reality."

While other studios may see Tenet's box office performance as a cautionary tale, Warner Bros. continues to assert that they are pleased with Tenet's results and Warner Bros. executive Ann Sarnoff stands behind the studio's decision to release the film when they did.

0comments

"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."

What do you think about Nolan's comments? Let us know in the comments.