Once upon a time Tenet was supposed to save the movies from the pandemic. (Actually, once upon a time it was supposed to open in a world not overrun by a highly contagious super-virus, but let’s not split hairs.) And while Christopher Nolan’s latest super-sized head-scratcher did manage to make a pretty penny elsewhere around the globe, in countries that more or less got COVID-19 under control, it struggled in America, where it barely eked past the $50 million mark — although at least it’s made over $350 worldwide.
Still, there’s one person who isn’t worried about those numbers: Christopher Nolan. In a new interview with The Los Angeles Times, the ever-ambitious filmmaker opened up about what happened to Tenet. His reaction? A mix of excitement and frustration, although neither side is divvied up the way you may think.
“Warner Bros. released Tenet, and I’m thrilled that it has made almost $350 million,” Nolan told the publication. Still, his optimism came with a caveat:
“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.”
And yet Nolan remained positive when it came to movie theaters coming back — even though many, especially in the United States, are in considerable financial danger. “Long term, moviegoing is a part of life, like restaurants and everything else,” he said. “But right now, everybody has to adapt to a new reality.”
Tenet may have failed to bring movies back in its native America, but let’s not kid ourselves: No movie, even the latest from the guy who saved Batman, could have revitalized movie theatergoing when a pandemic was raging, largely uncontrolled, across the nation. It still managed to earn around $295 million elsewhere, and even brought Tom Cruise back to multiplexes, so maybe that counts as a win? Still, Nolan is right to be worried that studio execs — infamously short-sighted, eternally cost-cutting, rarely adventurous — may not see it that way.