Tenet and Mulan are both serving as the bellwether by which the movie industry will figure out how it can move forward amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – Warner Bros.’ Tenet as the marker for box office success in the U.S., and Disney’s Mulan as a test on the power of streaming. But a week after both of their stateside releases, Tenet and Mulan are facing major box office struggles, with Tenet hitting a wall domestically and Mulan faltering in China.
Every Christopher Nolan movie is shrouded in secrecy, but box office analysts and rival studios probably didn’t expect those secrets to extend to the box office numbers. Warner Bros. is reportedly keeping a lid on the details of the Tenet domestic box office results, which continue to be extremely low despite the espionage film crossing the $200 million mark globally.
Variety reports that Tenet only raked in $6.7 million in the U.S. and Canada during its second weekend of release, a 29% drop from its opening weekend. An opening weekend that was apparently a little inflated to begin with, as Warner Bros. had initially touted a $20 million debut which was revealed to be boosted by weekday preview screenings and the long holiday weekend. Tenet actually only made about $9 million between Friday and Sunday, according to Variety. Warner Bros.’ secrecy regarding Tenet‘s box office numbers are starting to frustrate rival studios, but the studio reportedly wants to make sure reporters and industry experts don’t “unfairly contextualize the results and label them a financial flop,” per Variety.
But Warner Bros. really didn’t want Tenet to flop, it shouldn’t have released it during a pandemic when major markets like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are still closed and the theaters that have reopened are operating at reduced capacity. In addition to that pesky pandemic that increases transmission indoors, there are also economic factors like record job losses, which probably discourages U.S. moviegoers from going to the movies.
While Disney may have made the smart move in regards to U.S. audiences by releasing Mulan straight to Disney+, its missteps with the Niki Caro-directed remake have been well-documented and came to roost in China, where the film failed to make a splash. Mulan took in only $23.3 million in its three-day opening in China, Deadline reports. Low social scores (7.6 on Chinese websites like Maoyan and 4.9 on Douban) and piracy, with the film’s prior release on Disney+, are partially being blamed, but the irony is not lost that a film that was transparently made to appeal to Chinese audiences has flopped in China. But it almost doesn’t come to a surprise, as Chinese audiences have become increasingly savvy to (and thus, increasingly irritated at) Hollywood’s attempts to pander to them, and have begun to favor homegrown films.
Mulan‘s China opening was still 23% ahead of Aladdin, which ended its run with $53 million in China. It reached a total $37.6 million total global haul with an additional $29.1 million from 17 offshore markets, with openings in Korea and Hong Kong set next weekend.
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