One of the big Hollywood stories this year has been Christopher Nolan’s insistence that his latest film, Tenet, get a regular theatrical release and not get endlessly delayed or dumped onto a streaming service—despite the ongoing pandemic that shuttered all movie theaters in the country for months. Once (some) theaters started to reopen, Tenet arrived on the scene, ready to start selling tickets to people who wanted to get out of the house and didn’t especially care if they put themselves or others at risk of contracting the coronavirus. Tenet did relatively well out of the gate, since making some money is preferable to making no money (as we said at the time), but it quickly became clear that Warner Bros. was up to something: Rather than hoping that Tenet would make a bunch of money at once like movies did in the before-times, the studio was reportedly planning on keeping the film in theaters for as long as possible so it could gradually make good money as more and more theaters around the country opened up. That didn’t work out, though, since the pandemic hasn’t gotten better and theaters have been slow to reopen, and now other movies have come along to dethrone Tenet from the top of the weekly box office.
Tenet has still made nearly $350 million worldwide, though, and Nolan seems pretty happy with that—all things considered. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times (via Variety), Nolan said he’s “thrilled” that it made as much money as it did. The thing he’s less enthusiastic about, though, is that every movie studio seems to have decided that Tenet’s struggles suggest that no big movie should even try to open in theaters at this point. Pretty much everything has been bumped out of 2020 at this point, including No Time To Die and Black Widow, at least somewhat because the market of viable theaters isn’t big enough to justify missing out on a traditional box office rollout with a huge opening weekend.
Nolan seems to think that the studios are being lazy, just sitting on their movies and using the pandemic as “an excuse” to avoid “getting in the game and adapting” or “rebuilding our business.” One could argue that moving movies to streaming is adapting, but Nolan seems to have something else in mind—or at least he thinks that delaying everything until some nebulous future date when everything is “safe” again isn’t sustainable. Either way, at least Nolan is happy with how his movie performed.