Christopher Nolan Walks the Walk by Attending Movie Theaters, but ‘Tenet’ Is Harming Them

Given Christopher Nolan’s commitment to the theatrical experience, it’s no surprise he’s been attending movie theaters at a time when the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten the future of film exhibition. Regal Cinemas posted a photo of Nolan and his wife and longtime producer Emma Thomas (both wearing masks, mind you) at the Regal Irvine Spectrum in California. Deadline reports Nolan was at the theater to watch the Sony-released romantic-comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” Nolan was reportedly at the theater the week prior to check out Armando Iannucci’s Searchlight offering “The Personal History of David Copperfield.”

“The Broken Hearts Gallery” and “David Copperfield” are two of the few new releases that have opened theatrically amid the pandemic along with Nolan’s own “Tenet,” “The New Mutants,” and “Unhinged.” None of these theatrical releases have lured enough U.S. moviegoers back to theaters to be considered hits. “Broken Hearts Gallery” opened to a paltry $1.125 million and $500 per-theater average. About 30 percent of theaters remain closed in the U.S., including those in top-grossing markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

Warner Bros. release of Nolan’s “Tenet” has come under fire by box office pundits for potentially doing more harm than good for movie theaters. The industry banked on “Tenet” to help bring moviegoers back to theaters, but the film’s $29.5 million domestic haul after two weekends proves most Americans aren’t ready to return to the movies. Studios have taken note, as Warner Bros. pushed the October release of “Wonder Woman 1984” to December, Universal delayed October horror movie “Candyman” to 2021, and Disney is reportedly gearing up to move “Black Widow” out of November and move Thanksgiving offering “Soul” to Disney+ like it did earlier this month with “Mulan.”

About 70 percent of movie theaters reopened their doors earlier this month to accommodate the opening of “Tenet,” but that decision is now resulting in a dearth of new product for weeks. Should Disney move its November tentpoles, there will not be another studio tentpole in theaters until the James Bond film “No Time to Die” on November 20. While Universal just bumped up the animated “Croods” sequel to November 25, there remains no tentpole releases for October.

As IndieWire box office expert Tom Brueggemann reported earlier this week: “This leaves theaters in dire straits. This weekend, the average complex grossed under $5,000 (before concessions). More than half of that goes to film rentals. Theaters have staff and other operational costs to pay, as well as rent to landlords. Theaters have a stronger hand in negotiating rent if they’re closed. Once open, they owe, and now they face weeks of operation at a significant loss.”

By sharing Nolan’s latest visit, Regal is hoping to encourage more moviegoers back to theaters. “Tenet” will continue to play nationwide for the foreseeable future.

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