Was ‘Tenet’ the Wrong Film to “Save Cinemas” in a Pandemic?

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2020 was not Hollywood’s year.

The U.S. box office was down 80% from 2019, according to Comscore. When COVID-19 struck North America in March, theaters were the first to shut down. Studios quickly shifted their upcoming release schedules and the ripples from those moves are still being felt today.

Movies began to be sold off to streaming services or head to PVOD. However, one film was slowly being hyped as the film to save cinemas from all going bankrupt. Christopher Nolan wanted Tenet to hit theaters in the summer of 2020. He made no exceptions. He believed that if his film was released that it would drive audiences back to the cinema, COVID be damned.

And… it didn’t exactly go well. The film only amassed a total of $46 million in the U.S. and Canada and $362 million globally. In the aftermath of this box office misfire, I saw a lot of people wonder if Tenet wasn’t the best film to launch cinemas’ comeback. It was an interesting question that stuck with me for the next few months.

So the question I ask today is: was there a film, originally scheduled to release in 2020, that would have been better primed to be touted as the “Movie to Save Theaters”?

Black Widow and F9 immediately jump to mind as two films that might have had a better shot. The MCU and The Fast Saga have legions of fans that I think would have gone back to the theaters to see the latest entry in their respective franchise if it was the only place to see it. I still don’t think the box office numbers would have been extremely high, but either film would have definitely made more than $46 million dollars. Heck, F9 could have really utilized the drive-in resurgence we saw last year. There could have really been some good marketing there (“bring your fast car to the drive-in to see F9“).

So what about you, folks? Even if you think it was too early to re-open theaters, you must still have an answer? Do you think there was a better film to bring people back to the cinemas?

I’ll see you in the trenches.

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"