In a litmus test for American moviegoing in the pandemic, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” brought in an estimated $20.2 million through the holiday weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters.
The result could be greeted as either the rejuvenation of U.S. cinemas — more Americans went to the movies this weekend than they have in nearly six months — or a reflection of drastically lowered standards for Hollywood’s top blockbusters given the circumstances.
About 70 percent of U.S. movie theaters currently are open. Those in the country’s top markets, Los Angeles and New York, remain closed. Theaters that are operating are limiting audiences to a maximum of 50 percent capacity to distance moviegoers from one another.
“Tenet” played in 2,810 North American venues, about three-fourths in which most major releases typically debut.
Warner Bros. declined to split up U.S. and Canadian box office receipts.
Theaters in Canada, where COVID-19 cases are much lower than in the United States, began showing “Tenet” a week earlier.
The movie debuted stateside with nightly preview screenings Monday through Wednesday before the official opening on Thursday.
Warner Bros. included all of the above in its estimated gross Sunday, along with expected returns for Monday’s Labor Day.
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Fittingly in an upside-down year, the palindromic “Tenet” — a thriller in which time is reversed — essentially began the summer movie season on the weekend it typically ends. Labor Day weekend, this year a historical one at the movies, is usually among the sleepiest weekends of the year at cinemas.