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Tenet hits US$200m globally, Mulan has slow start in China

Los Angeles

CHRISTOPHER Nolan's Tenet crossed the US$200 million mark in ticket sales globally, even as cinemas in the US and elsewhere struggle to draw audiences during the pandemic.

The time-bending sci-fi thriller generated US$6.7 million in its second weekend of release in US theatres, representing a 29 per cent drop compared to opening weekend.

Last weekend, Warner Bros, the studio behind Tenet, touted a US$20 million debut. But a closer dissection of those numbers reveal they were heavily spun to include weekday preview screenings and the long holiday weekend. In reality, Tenet only made about US$9 million between Friday and Sunday. In an attempt to control conversation around Tenet's box office performance, Warner Bros has been shielding domestic grosses for the film.

Traditionally, studios share box office information on a daily basis, but that has not been the case with Tenet. The studio wants to ensure that reporters and rivals do not unfairly contextualise the results and label them a financial flop.

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But a sign of the studio's confidence in the viability of moviegoing? Not even a week after Tenet premiered, Warner Bros delayed its comic book sequel Wonder Woman 1984 from October to Christmas Day.

About 70 per cent of theatres in the US have reopened, but major markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Fransisco still remain closed. Cinemas that have resumed business have done so at reduced capacity.

Warner Bros said it is optimistic about new markets opening for business. Tenet played at 100 more locations than it did last weekend, amounting to 2,910 venues in total - a number that is expected to grow as cinemas in more cities are given permission to reopen. The studio has also been encouraged by the turnout for premium formats, such as Imax and Dolby Cinema. Imax screens have accounted for US$23 million of Tenet's box office haul.

Tenet has made bigger waves overseas, where coronavirus appears to be more under control and movie theatres have reopened to a more significant degree. Part of the reason that Warner Bros opted to release Tenet during the pandemic is because Nolan's films often make more money internationally than they do stateside.Ticket sales for Tenet reached US$177.5 million at the international box office and US$207 million globally. Given its US$200 million production budget, the movie needs to reach approximately US$400 million at the worldwide box office to break even.

Tenet brought in US$10 million in China, the world's second biggest movie-going market, boosting its haul in the country to US$50 million. It landed in second place on box office charts behind Mulan, although neither film amassed inspired ticket sales from Chinese theatres despite the fact that 90 per cent of its cinemas have reopened.

Underwhelming result

Disney's live-action remake of the 1998 cartoon collected US$23.2 million during its opening weekend in China, an underwhelming result for a movie that was all but engineered for its appeal to Chinese audiences. So far, Mulan has made US$37.6 million globally. The US$200 million-budgeted fantasy epic is forgoing a theatrical release in the US, and instead is available to rent on the Disney Plus streaming platform for US$30.

Mulan has been mired in controversy for numerous reasons. It came under fire for filming in Xinjiang, a region in China where minorities have been forced to live in labour camps. In the credits for Mulan, the film thanked Chinese government organisations in Xinjiang that have been accused of human rights abuse. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong called for boycotts after the movie's main star Liu Yifei showed support for Hong Kong police during anti-government protests.

Among new releases, Sony's romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Gallery made US$1.125 million from 2,204 screens over the weekend. Given the challenging environment, the studio called that number "terrific". Sony acquired the film for US$8 million, so it does not exactly need to reach blockbuster levels to turn a profit.

The New Mutants, a poorly reviewed superhero adventure, has yet to find its footing in theatres and generated US$2.1 million over the weekend. It is also flailing overseas, where it scraped together US$3.8 million from 36 foreign markets. After three weekends on the big screen, the movie has made US$15.3 million in the US and US$29 million worldwide.

Unhinged, a road-rage thriller starring Russell Crowe, held steady in its fifth weekend, bringing in US$1.5 million over the three-day stretch. That boosts North American ticket sales to US$13.8 million. REUTERS

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