Warner Bros. Is Refusing to Share Detailed Tenet Box Office Numbers

From Tenet.
From Tenet.
Image: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. continues to make interesting decisions around the release and distribution of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, this time breaking the generally agreed-upon norms of how box office profits are reported. Apparently, other studios in the business are not happy.

As reported by Variety, WB has failed to report daily numbers for Tenet, instead producing a limited amount of data on a sporadic basis, what Variety calls “carefully selected breadcrumbs” of information to the press and rivals in the film industry. The quiet, according to Variety’s sources, is due to a defensiveness associated with the pandemic—Warner Bros. feared that reporting detailed, by-the-day numbers, as is customary, would lead the film to be deemed a failure, while releasing numbers in larger chunks at less frequent intervals looked generally better.

What’s interesting here, too, is that other studios agreed to Warner Bros.’s initial request to hide the numbers, though they seem to have grown increasingly frustrated by the ongoing secrecy. Numbers are generally reported by third-party research company Rentrak, and it apparently had to get permission from other unnamed studio heads to hide the data. Warner Bros. and Comscore, Rentrak’s parent company, declined to comment to Variety on the situation.


It’s understandable, though, why Warner Bros. would fail to report the numbers: they’re not good, at least not in the United States. During its first weekend, it generated about $9 million dollars, whereas this weekend it only got up to $6.7, a 29% decline in sales. Combined with weekday preview screenings and the extended holiday weekend, that combines to a gross debut of $20 million, which makes that $6.7 million an even more precipitous drop. While the global debut is better, about $200 million, it definitely seems like this was not the time to release the film if Warner Bros. was intending to make a tidy sum of money on it. And the company is (seemingly) eager to obscure that harsh reality if it can.

Tenet is in theaters now, and you shouldn’t go see it.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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Mark my words: VOD before the end of the month.

I’m still just a little flabbergasted at the massive reality disconnect that convinced Warner Bros. and Nolan that Tenet would be so awesome, so inspiring, so amazing that the public would rush back to the theaters en masse to see it. The vast majority of people are just not gonna risk their lives or well-being, or those of their families, just to see a goddamn movie. (And if it was so incredible that it absolutely just had to be seen in a theater, then why not postpone it to next spring?)