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Director Christopher Nolan poses at the 71st Cannes Film Festival before a screening of "2001: A Space Odyssey" presented as part of Cinema Classic. Photo by Stephane Mahe/REUTERS

'Tenet' launches with $53 million in overseas gambit at box office

NEW YORK — The first wave of big new movies released since the beginning of the pandemic, including Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" and the long-delayed "X-Men" spinoff "The New Mutants," arrived in theaters over the weekend, testing the waters of a radically different theatrical landscape.

Warner Bros.' "Tenet" — the most hotly anticipated movie of the year and the one that has repeatedly positioned itself to lead the return of multiplex moviegoing — opened with an estimated $53 million overseas in 41 markets, including most of Europe, South Korea and Canada. Forecasts were hard to handicap but that result exceeded the expectations of most. Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, called it "a fantastic start."

"Given the unprecedented circumstances of this global release we know we're running a marathon, not a sprint, and look forward to long playability for this film globally for many weeks to come."

While many of Hollywood's largest productions have postponed their release and others have rerouted to streaming platforms, Warner Bros. gambled that "Tenet" could roll out abroad first, and gradually in the U.S. Theaters remain closed in some states, including New York and California.

People purchase refreshments inside the foyer of the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square cinema, on the opening day of the film "Tenet", amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, August 26, 2020. Photo by Henry Nicholls/ Reuters.

So far, it seems to be working. The overseas opening for "Tenet" was greeted by some analysts as proof that blockbuster moviegoing can be resurrected even while the virus continues to circulate and large indoor gatherings are considered higher risk. Movie theaters are mandating mask wearing, cleaning cinemas in between showings and operating at reduced capacity to distance moviegoers usually crowded shoulder to shoulder

In nine markets, including Ukraine and the Netherlands, "Tenet" did better than any previous movie directed by Nolan, including "The Dark Knight." It was the largest opening yet in Saudi Arabia, which in 2018 ended its ban on cinemas. In the United Kingdom, "Tenet" accounted for 74% of ticket sales, Warner Bros. said.

"Tenet" will open this week in the U.S. and China, the two largest markets. In the U.S., the conditions remain far from ideal. About 60% of theaters are currently open. The largest chain, including AMC and Regal, reopened the week prior. Any new release is trying to coax moviegoers back to the movies — any movie — in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the U.S. over the weekend, the Walt Disney Co.' "The New Mutants," a 20th Century Fox film and a horror riff for Marvel, led the domestic with an estimated $7 million in 2,412 locations.

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