Think of it as a big experiment, this new film called “Tenet,” written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Can a big budget blockbuster by a “name” creator lure people back into movie theaters?
With a cost of $200 million, it’s an expensive gamble.
The early result is “maybe.”
So far the film has pulled in $152 million worldwide, not bad considering that movie houses are operating at limited capacities.
But not good enough, either.
As movie blogger Sonny Bunch concludes, “On the one hand: a $20.2 million domestic opening for a $200 million film from arguably the biggest — possibly the only — brand-name director working today who can draw an audience is bad no matter how you slice it ... On the other hand: We are not in normal times. We are in very abnormal times. We are in times that feature the largest movie-going markets — New York City and Los Angeles — being closed entirely. Only 65% or so of the marketplace was open … when ‘Tenet’ debuted.”
Even so, this was the third-best opening on a Labor Day weekend ever.
Some folks are describing the coronavirus pandemic as an “extinction-level event” for movie theaters. The Harris Poll reports that 70% of American adults think movie theaters are “more dangerous than other types of public gatherings.”
Nevertheless, based on the numbers for “Tenet,” there is a pent-up demand for the cinematic experience.
What’s so special about “Tenet” that it’s luring people into this fearful environment?
Nolan is the British-American filmmaker which gave us “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (2005-2012), “Inception” (2010) and “Dunkirk” (2017). “Tenet” is his 11th film.
He’s known for his epistemological themes that explore mortality and the construction of time. His films often display unconventional narrative structures.
The 50-year-old filmmaker is still waiting for his Oscar, but his handprints are in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. In 2015, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. And in 2019 he was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.
“Tenet” is a sci-fi spy thriller about a secret agent who manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III.
“Tenet” is the name of a mysterious organization whose mission is to protect the human race’s survival. The word is a palindrome, reading the same backwards and forward. Appropriate, in that with this film it’s sometimes difficult to tell who’s coming and who’s going.
That’s the nature of time travel.
“Tenet” stars John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”) as our nameless CIA agent. You’ll recall that he is Denzel Washington’s son.
Robert Pattinson (The “Twilight” Saga) plays the agent’s CIA handler. Elizabeth Debicki (“Widows”) gives us an art appraiser who sells forged Goyas. Sir Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “The Cider House Rules”) makes an appearance as a British intelligence agent. And Sir Kenneth Branagh (“Henry IV,” “My Weekend With Marilyn”) turns up as a Russian oligarch who has the ability to communicate with the future.
Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne consulted with Nolan on “this iteration of the script (that he’d been working on) for about six or seven years.” The McGuffin is an artifact with “inverted entropy” properties that allows one to move backward through time. There’s a “turnstile” that can invert the entropy of objects and people, erasing past events.
Think of it as “James Bond Meets Intersteller.”
So, will “Tenet” save movie theaters?
The audience is unsure.
According to the Harris Poll, 58% of respondents said they’re worried about theaters not surviving the pandemic and 57% said they’ll miss theaters when they’re gone.