TENET: Box Office Data is Being Withheld by Warner Bros. from Rival Studios and the Public


Robert Pattinson John David Washington Tenet

Tenet Box Office Data is Being Withheld by Warner Bros. from Rival Studios and the Public

Warner Bros. is holding Tenet‘s Box Office numbers close to the vest, withholding those numbers from rivals and the public. With Covid-19 raging, limited movie theaters open, and even fewer people willing to venture to those movie theaters, Warner Bros. doesn’t want Tenet to be considered a flop or a near flop based on its available numbers. To stop that from occurring, Warner Bros. is declining to release Tenet‘s box office numbers.

The numbers previously released for Tenet, over $ 20 million over eleven days of release, may not be what they seem when examined more closely. The speculated break down of the numbers: “$ 2.5M for the first weekend in Canada, $ 11.2M for the 3-day, around $ 12M for the 4-day and the rest in previews.”


To say that this situation is unusual, both the landscape, and Warner Bros.’s reaction to it, would be an understatement:

Though it is unusual for a major studio like Warner Bros. to shield grosses for perhaps the buzziest movie of the year, other Hollywood players had given the company a pass for opening weekend because “Tenet” was the first significant movie to debut since coronavirus struck. Rival studios are closely watching the Nolan film as a test to see if people would go to the movies during the pandemic. The results, in effect, would help Hollywood decide whether or not to continue releasing big-budgeted tentpoles in the middle of a global health crisis.

During usual times, movie studios use the box office numbers from a film from a rival studio to dictate their own strategy when releasing their film (or films):

As movie theaters make their money each hour on titles, distributors and exhibitors can observe how a film is doing at the box office and project what it will make for the day or the weekend. Rival studios pull from this data, create their own internal top weekend industry box office chart twice a day (or more) on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and throughout the week, and share this with their top brass and filmmakers.

That information would be exceedingly useful during this time-period:

Essentially not having access to box office hourlies prevents distribution executives from doing their job and providing their filmmakers and top executives with the health or lack thereof in the marketplace. If they can’t drill down and see how theaters in Chicago, Detroit, or Tupelo are doing, how can they decide whether it’s good or bad to release a movie right now?

Some have taken a different view of the situation, giving Warner Bros. far more rope and latitude as all of the studios are in an evolving, unprecedented situation:

According to individuals familiar with the situation, Rentrak had to get permission from major studio heads before concealing daily numbers for “Tenet.” Though executives were initially reluctant, they ultimately agreed for the first weekend as a courtesy, believing that Warner Bros. was taking a bold bet in testing the waters and needed their support.

Bold or not, I think it was a big error by Warner Bros. to release Tenet this year. They should have moved Tenet to the second or third quarter of 2021 instead of the move, move, move, hide shenanigans they executed with the release date and eventual premiere of Tenet. Warner Bros. effectively released a big budget film onto the art-house circuit on a limited run, hoping people would risk their health on a two hour and thirty minute film, and are now having to withhold their own numbers so their film won’t be perceived as a box misfire.

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