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Christopher Nolan-helmed spy thriller Tenet has made roughly $30 million domestically since opening in North America two weeks ago, including two dull weekends where the film earned only $9.5 million and $6.7 million at the box office.
Christopher Nolan-helmed spy thriller Tenet has made roughly $30 million domestically since opening in North America two weeks ago, including two dull weekends where the film earned only $9.5 million and $6.7 million at the box office.

Global box office slump a worrying sign for Indian film business

  • Marquee Hollywood productions Tenet and Mulan, which were being considered a litmus test for box office collections have churned lackluster numbers
  • Big-ticket Indian films may not showcase in cinemas until filmmakers and theatre owners can gauge the reception to smaller films or Hollywood offerings

NEW DELHI: After some fairly impressive starts with local offerings in countries like China and Korea, global movie box office seems to be bowing down to the coronavirus-induced fear psychosis to acknowledge people are not ready to go back to theatres yet.

Hollywood’s two big tentpole films, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Walt Disney’s epic action adventure Mulan, both released towards the end of August, have notched up lackluster numbers, signaling further doom for theatres that have just reopened.

Spy thriller Tenet has made roughly $30 million domestically since opening in North America two weeks ago. That includes two pretty dull weekends where the film earned only $9.5 million and $6.7 million at the box office.

“Tenet was positioned as movie theatres' saving grace, the film that would bring cinemas back to life. Instead, it's become yet another harbinger of doom," a report by U magazine Entertainment Weekly said. “As the first tentpole to hit multiplexes amid the covid-19 pandemic, Tenet has been viewed as an acid test for moviegoers' readiness to venture back into theatres. It seems they're not ready yet," it added.

Meanwhile, Disney’s Mulan managed an eight-day total of $31.17 million in China, the world’s second-largest movie market.

“The reasons why the film, which cost $200 million to make, failed to launch in China is likely due to several factors. Predominantly among them is the coronavirus pandemic, which has ravaged the theatre industry. About 90% of theatres in China are open and theatres limited to half capacity," a report by CNN Business said.

To be sure, this is a worrying sign for the film exhibition business in India that is yet to get a nod from the government to even restart operations. Given the unimpressive numbers of Tenet and Mulan and the negative audience feedback to both, it is unlikely that Indian viewers, anyway starved of massy, local language entertainment, will flock to cinemas to watch them in large numbers. However, big-ticket Indian films are unlikely to arrive in cinemas until filmmakers and theatre owners can gauge the reception to smaller films or Hollywood offerings, trade experts say, further delaying the overall cycle of recovery for the business.

“Looking at its relatively poor collections globally and no certainty on India cinema reopening, Tenet too may explore a direct to OTT release in the country if given an attractive offer from the streaming players," Karan Taurani, research analyst at Elara Capital Ltd pointed out.

“If this film goes on OTT, it will be a big negative for Indian exhibitors as Tenet was supposed to be the testing ground for large Indian films to hit cinemas," Taurani added.

The delay in reopening of theatres could further push the release of films like Sooryavanshi and ‘83 that have been scheduled for Diwali and Christmas respectively, Taurani said. With actor Akshay Kumar locking a Diwali release for his horror comedy Laxmmi Bomb on Disney+ Hotstar last week, exhibitors seem to be losing hope by the day.

“None of these larger (Indian) films will release unless a medium-budget or large Hollywood film finds success," Taurani said.

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