Tenet easily took home the last Weekend Box Office crown, making $20 million from the select theaters around the country that have reopened, but its haul wasn’t exactly impressive by pre-pandemic standards—at least for a much-hyped Christopher Nolan movie. We even asked in our box office write-up if all of the delays and Warner Bros.’ insistence that Tenet had to be released in theaters in 2020 (rather than go on-demand or be pushed into next year) were worth it for an opening weekend of only $20 million.
Unsurprisingly, it seems like Warner Bros. really doesn’t want people asking questions like that now, with Variety reporting that the studio has decided not to share daily box office details for Tenet in favor of specifically cherry-picking numbers that may sound a little better (like last weekend’s $20 million take, which was significantly higher than any other movie). Rather than a scheme to make Tenet sound more successful than it is, though, the studio is apparently doing this so “reporters and rivals” won’t “misinterpret or unfairly analyze results.” Variety says Warner Bros. wants the media to make it clear that ticket sales in September 2020 can’t possibly be what they were before the pandemic, so it’s hoping that Tenet will just continue to run for months and months without really having to fight any other movies for attention.
Obviously it’s silly to say “Tenet is a flop,” which is why we didn’t do that when we wrote about its numbers, so we do see where Warner Bros. is coming from here. That being said, obfuscating these numbers does potentially set an extremely annoying precedent. After all, Netflix rarely ever shares specific numbers on how its content is doing, and when it does offer more information about which of its movies are the most popular, it does it in a way that’s even more annoying than if it had kept everything a mystery. If Warner Bros. gets away with this with Tenet, future theatrical movies could start pulling Netflix bullshit and just make up whatever statistics it wants to about something’s popularity.
It’s not really a big problem in relation to the world’s actual problems, but movie commercials already do the “number one comedy in the country!” trick to hide the fact that some non-comedy made way more money, and that’ll be even more meaningless if they start saying some movie is “number one in the country based on secret metrics that only one person knows.”