office Recovery

Box Office Recovery Imperiled: “Do You Take the Risk or Do You Punt?” – Hollywood Reporter

1:12 PM PDT 9/15/2020


Pamela McClintock

‘Black Widow’ could soon join ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ in deciding to retreat as Hollywood studios once again delay their tentpoles amid the ongoing pandemic and consumer concerns.

Intentional or not, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman-CEO Tony Vinciquerra set off a maelstrom when addressing the state of the box office at a Sept. 9 Bank of America investors conference. “What we won’t want to do is make the mistake of putting a very, very expensive $200 million movie on the market unless we’re sure theaters are open and operating at a significant capacity,” he said.

The comment was considered poor form by those working in the fragile Hollywood ecosystem who are once again trying to release big movies in actual theaters amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Yet Vinciquerra underscored what is fast becoming apparent: The U.S. box office recovery has been derailed as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet stalls domestically, key moviegoing markets such as Los Angeles and New York City remain dark and more studios delay their 2020 tentpoles out of concern that consumers aren’t ready to return to indoor cinemas.

But, in a game of chicken or the egg, theaters both stateside and in many other countries need new Hollywood product to restart (China, boasting a backlog of local product, is a major exception). Vinciquerra didn’t mention Tenet by name despite the fact that the Warner Bros. espionage epic cost $200 million to produce before marketing. Tenet began rolling out overseas — where, unlike in the U.S., many cinemas have now been reopened for weeks — on Aug. 26, followed by select U.S. cities on Sept. 3. Through Sept. 13, the movie’s global gross stood at $207 million, including a massive foreign total of $178 million and a paltry $29 million domestically (or an 86 percent to 14 percent split).

“Warner Bros. knew after last week’s turnout that the domestic release of Tenet was a costly, failed experiment,” says Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations. “Who thought it was a good idea to open theaters a month after China when we are months behind them in taking care of COVID? This movie meltdown could have been avoided had they done their homework. Sorry, but it really was that simple. VOD or a combination of VOD-theatrical is the only answer for blockbuster films going forward until the U.S. gets a handle on this virus. That’s about as diplomatic as I can be right now.”

For much of the summer, Disney’s intention was to open Mulan just after Tenet. But as theater closures continued in the U.S., the company switched course and sent the live-action epic straight to Disney+ at a premium $30 price in the U.S. and other select markets over Labor Day weekend. Mulan is still being released theatrically in major Asian markets, along with Russia, although it bombed in China during the Sept. 11-13 weekend with a $23 million debut.

U.S. cinema owners, who reopened in time for Tenet and Mulan, were devastated by the Mulan decision. Now, they face more heartache. Days after Tenet bowed, Warner Bros., led by CEO Ann Sarnoff, said it is delaying the release of Wonder Woman 1984 from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25. That means there isn’t another all-audience Hollywood tentpole opening until November. And even then, there’s intense speculation that Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow (Nov. 6) will move.

“There just isn’t enough volume of film to sustain any momentum. We are really looking toward November and December before there are big films again,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners.

Adds a top film executive, “Consumers need a movie like Wonder Woman or Black Widow to come back. The problem is that studios will make less money than in normal times,” a top film executive notes. “Do you take the risk or do you punt until next year?”

So far, MGM’s 007 film No Time to Die appears determined to stick to a late November release across the globe (it’s set to hit U.S. theaters on Nov. 20). Pixar and Disney’s Soul also is set for Nov. 20, but whether it keeps its spot at the Thanksgiving table is less clear. Whatever happens, Disney insiders say the animated tentpole will get a theatrical release, versus being sent to Disney+.

Notes Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian, “All these release date changes, while totally understandable, can have a dramatic impact on the accordion-like ebb and flow of the box office.”

Midrange and smaller event pics set for October also are packing up, including the Jordan Peele-produced Candyman. And it remains to be seen whether the adult-skewing event pic Death on the Nile, from 20th Century Fox and Disney, stays on its Oct. 23 date.

The impact is already being felt on the part of consumers. In the lead-up to Tenet’s release, research firm NRG saw significant improvement in terms of whether people felt comfortable returning to theaters, with 52 percent of respondents saying they would be. With Wonder Woman now off the calendar, that score has slipped to 48 percent, according to those with access to the data. Likewise, 50 percent say they won’t return to the cinema for two months or more, up from 42 percent the day Tenet opened.

And survey after survey shows that older adults, and particular older women, are staying away. On Tenet’s opening U.S. weekend, a PostTrak exit poll showed that 66 percent of the audience was 34 and younger. “The primary audience is educated people, and they are staying away in force,” says Bock in reference to Tenet and Searchlight specialty title The Personal History of David Copperfield, which has struggled to hit $1.4 million domestically.

Overall, analysts such as Dergarabedian and Handler remain optimistic that moviegoing will find its stride even if the rest of fall and early winter are light in terms of titles. Ditto for Shawn Robbins of Box Office Pro. “Combined with staying power from Tenet, which we are starting to see signs of and, and specialty titles from smaller studios, there will be options out there,” he said. “It’s far from the ideal scenario, and localized cinemas with smaller population bases may opt to limit operational hours until more films and patrons are available, but something is better than nothing for the industry at the moment. Everyone is writing a new rule book as this all unfolds.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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office weekend

Weekend Box Office: It’s just going to be Tenet for a while, everybody – The A.V. Club


Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon

Over the weekend, while Mulan struggled to justify its existence in the Chinese market, a report came out that revealed Warner Bros. is being a little cagey about how much money Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was (or was not) making at the U.S. box office. Apparently, the studio has decided to break from tradition by not sharing daily earnings for the film out of concern that the numbers will be unfairly misinterpreted by the media and by its competitors as being worse than they actually are. In other words, Warner Bros. doesn’t want anyone to think that the big expensive movie it insisted on releasing in theaters during a global pandemic isn’t doing so well, because the movie was released during a global pandemic so it obviously won’t be doing super well. Which… yeah, obviously.

Warner Bros.’ plan is to just keep Tenet in theaters for as long as possible, so instead of making its entire haul in a couple of weeks like a normal movie, it will consistently make a small amount of money every week for months as more and more theaters around the country reopen. It’s actually not a terrible plan, even if it does hinge on people going to movie theaters at a time when they should not be doing that, since it wisely takes advantage of the fact that there isn’t a whole lot else to see in theaters right now. That (finally) brings us to this weekend’s box office numbers, which—get this—look a hell of a lot like last week’s numbers.

Tenet’s on top, followed by The New Mutants, followed by Unhinged, with those getting $6.7 million, $2 million, and $1.5 million (respectively). Those are followed by the only newcomer this week, the Selena Gomez-produced Broken Hearts Gallery, which pulled in $855,000. The rest of the contenders didn’t even crack $300,000, but they include Bill & Ted Face The Music, Words On Bathroom Walls, The Personal History Of David Copperfield, and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run. This is overall a big dip from last week, when Tenet made $20 million, but this is Warner Bros. “slow and steady” plan in action. Nobody’s going to be making actual big money, but at least Tenet is technically making the biggest money. That’s what counts (for Warner Bros.).

For a more detailed analysis of this weekend’s box office results, head over to Box

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office Tenet

Tenet Box Office: Christopher Nolan’s Thriller Struggles In Its Second Week, But Also Crosses A Milestone – CinemaBlend

Himesh Patel, Robert Pattinson and John David Washington in Tenet

Taking a risk and debuting domestically over the extended Labor Day holiday weekend, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet had what can really only be described as a mediocre opening at the box office. While the film, sporting a budget of approximately $200 million (before marketing and publicity costs), probably would have ended up being one of the biggest release of 2020 under normal circumstances, it ultimately was only able to make about $20 million in its first few days on the big screen.

Given this total (which was reported at the time to just be for Friday, Saturday and Sunday), I noted in my column last week that a standard 40-60 percent drop would yield a second weekend score between $8-12 million… but now the latest numbers are in, and it seems that COVID-19 has taken another bite out of the earnings.

Per Variety, Tenet made only $6.7 million during its second Friday-to-Sunday, which calculates to a 66.5 percent drop from weekend to weekend (though the trade notes that the film actually only made an estimated $9 million in the same three day time span last week, as the $20 million figure came from including Thursday previews and Labor Day holiday estimates). Of course, ticket sales are deeply affected by the fact that not all theaters in America are currently open (major markets like Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco are still keeping them closed) and those in operation around the country are working with limited capacity audiences in promotion of health and safety.

Unfortunately, we can’t say for certain right now how much the movie has made total thus far in its domestic run, as Warner Bros. is currently not providing the industry with normal daily box office reports, with the studio evidently fearing the appearance of the numbers without context

As noted last week, there has been a particular focus on Tenet‘s release given the fact was set up to be a guinea pig of sorts for the industry to get a grasp on the potential of releasing a big blockbuster movie during the on-going pandemic, and thus far the reaction hasn’t exactly been positive. Warner Bros. itself responded to the opening weekend box office numbers by shifting their next big title, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984, from October 2 to December 25 (it’s unclear presently what this means for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, which just debuted its first trailer and is currently scheduled to come out on December 18). Universal Pictures also moved one of its high-profile fall titles, as Nia DaCosta’s Candyman will no longer come out on October 16 and instead will be moved to an unspecified weekend in 2021.

That being said, there are other major titles that haven’t budged. Cate Shortland’s Black Widow is still on the calendar from November 6; and both Cary Fukunaga’s No Time To Die and Pixar’s Soul are scheduled for November 20. Obviously we will keep you updated with any news if those dates change.

The news isn’t all bad for Tenet, however, as the the foreign box office is providing the film with a nice silver lining in its business narrative. While America continues to struggle with the onslaught of COVID-19, other countries that have been more successful dealing with the pandemic are seeing plenty of people buy tickets to see the Christopher Nolan film. Last weekend the blockbuster was on the verge of making $150 million globally, but now it has managed to successfully cross the $200 million milestone. It’s not surprising to see international audiences embrace a new release from Nolan, as almost all of his features have made more money abroad than domestically, but usually the ratio isn’t so extreme.

It only being Tenet‘s second weekend domestically, we can’t say for certain what its fully box office picture is going to look like by the time it’s done with its theatrical run, but it most certainly will be extremely influential on the immediate future of the industry. As always, stay tuned for more details and news as it develops here on CinemaBlend.

    • Eric Eisenberg
      Eric Eisenberg

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      NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.

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office taking

Tech’s Next Big Task: Taking the Office Water Cooler Virtual – The Wall Street Journal

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic struck and the work world went remote, there has been a giant hole where face-to-face interactions used to be. When co-workers can’t see each other, it is more than just a potential morale issue. Proximity and serendipitous encounters have long been associated with increased collaboration and innovation.

So employers are looking to replace their whiteboards and coffee stations with digital products and services that attempt to mimic virtually what we are missing out on in person. Businesses…

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Beijing's office

Beijing’s top Hong Kong office slams U.S. sanctions as ‘gangster logic and bullying’ – Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China accused the United States of “gangster logic” on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law in response to Beijing’s imposition of new security legislation on the territory.

Beijing’s Liaison Office in the Asian financial hub said the move would only damage U.S. interests while having little impact on Hong Kong.

“Unreasonable meddling and shameless threats by the United States are typical gangster logic and bullying behaviour,” the office said in a statement.

“No external force can block China’s determination and confidence to maintain national sovereignty and security for Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.”

The security law imposed by Beijing punishes what China broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Critics of the law fear it will crush the wide-ranging freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability to the city after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests.

Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order to end preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong, allowing him to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and financial institutions involved in the imposition of the law.

China has threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions of its own, and summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest.

The Hong Kong government said on Wednesday it would support any action Beijing chose to take against the United States.

“It is hypocritical for the U.S. to introduce measures to attack China by creating issues in (Hong Kong) under the pretext of human rights, democracy and autonomy out of its own political considerations,” the territory’s Beijing-backed government said in a statement.

Four members of a pro-establishment party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, staged a protest at the U.S. consulate on Thursday demanding the United States “stop interfering in Chinese internal affairs.”

Trump has not ruled out sanctions on top Chinese officials to punish China for its handling of Hong Kong, a White House National Security Council spokesman said on Wednesday.

Among names being pushed by some China hawks is Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who has backed Beijing’s implementation of the security law, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Separately Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law said on Wednesday he feels safe in London but described the extra-territorial reach of national security laws imposed by China as “scary”, and urged Britain to do more to help.

Reporting by Farah Master, Jessie Pang, Carol Mang and Yanni Chow; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry and Stephen Coates

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