‘Tenet’ Limps at Home but Soars Overseas, While Some Old Visitors from a Galaxy Far, Far Away Return for a Top-Five Encore
In an acceleration of recent years' trends, international audiences have become increasingly critical to Hollywood’s bottom line during the current COVID-19 pandemic. While Christopher Nolan’s Tenet passed the $280 million mark at the worldwide box office, thanks to strong overseas turnout, the film continued to lose steam domestically, pulling in $3.4 million in its fourth weekend. In context of the current domestic theatrical space, that figure was still good enough to make the Warner Bros. tentpole the top movie in the US, pulling in $1,192 per-screen average in 2,850 theaters. Still, that only brings the domestic box-office total to a $41.2 million, representing 14.5% of the total worldwide gross.

Yet while all was quiet on the home front, Nolan’s mind-bender, starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, and Elizabeth Debicki continued to perform strongly overseas, where its international total now stands at $242 million, for a cumulative worldwide haul to $283.2 million. Tenet is currently playing in 58 markets, with Japan and China remaining the strongest international territories, adding $3 million and $1.6 million respectively this week. With a budget of $205 million, Tenet will need to keep barreling along abroad to recoup the studio’s investment in the tentpole.

Major studios continue to push back the releases of their high profile 2020 titles like a series of falling dominoes. Last week Disney announced the postponement of three of its splashiest blockbuster hopefuls: Marvel’s Black Widow, which moved from November 6 to May 7, 2021; Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, which moved back nearly an entire year from December 18 to December 10, 2021; and Branagh’s Agatha Christie whodunit Death on the Nile, which moved from October 23 to December 18, 2020. For the time being, the 20th Century Studios is putting its horror film The Empty Man in the pre-Halloween slot of October 23 and keeping its Pixar comedy Soul on its November 20 date, where it is scheduled to go head-to-head with Universal and MGM’s latest James Bond installment, No Time to Die.

Finishing in the runner-up slot yet again was 20th Century Studios' The New Mutants. In its fifth week, the PG-13-rated X-Men spin-off brought in an additional $1.1 million in the US, dropping -37.1% from the previous frame. The New Mutants played in 2,305 theaters and had a $497 per-screen average. Its domestic total now stands at $19.5 million. To date, the film has added $19.4 million overseas, bringing its worldwide total to $38.9 million.

In third place was Solstice Studios’ Unhinged with $1.0 million. In its seventh week of release, the R-rated road-rage thriller starring Russell Crowe played in 2,182 theaters and had a $458 per-screen average, dropping off -22.0%. The film has been one of the season’s biggest surprises at the box office, grossing an impressive $17.2 million domestically and $14.6 million overseas, bringing its global cumulative box office to $31.8 million.

In fourth place was a familiar visitor from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back returned to theaters to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Now a Disney property, the PG-rated film used the Force to score $908,000 in 2,097 theaters for a $432 per-screen average. The original release of The Empire Strikes Back from 1980 racked up a whopping $400 million at the worldwide box office, unadjusted for inflation.

In fifth was Cloudburst Entertainment’s Infidel, which earned $745,000 in its sophomore weekend. The R-rated espionage thriller starring Jim Caviezel fell off -46.2% and had a $395 per-screen average in 1,885 theaters. It has not yet opened internationally.

Elsewhere, a trio of indie debuts clawed their way into the Top 10: Gravitas Ventures’ R-rated creature-feature Shortcut bowed in seventh place with $305,000 in 725 theaters (a $420 per-screen average); Sony Pictures’ R-rated fast-food comedy The Last Shift debuted with $235,000 in 871 theaters (a $269 per-screen average); and Focus Features’ Miranda July-directed heist comedy Kajillionaire opened with $215,000 in 529 theaters (a $406 per-screen average).