Weekend Forecast (Updated): Tenet Eyes Another #1 Finish as Industry Braces for Slowdown Without New Content

Photo Credits: Hoyte van Hoytema & Warner Bros. ("Tenet"), dir. Christopher Nolan

Thursday, September 24 Update: Multiple studios have confirmed or updated estimated location counts for key titles in play this weekend. Our updated forecasts and theater count list are below the original report here.

Among notable changes, Disney is re-issuing Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as part of its continued 40th anniversary celebration this year. Meanwhile, Kajillionaire will not receive as wide of a release as initially expected and Trafalgar Releasing has not confirmed a location count for Break the Silence: The Movie to us directly thus far.

Wednesday, September 23: The news on wide releases has come to a screeching halt again as studios remain apprehensive to support cinemas with more high profile releases, something that is impacting weekend outlooks for the foreseeable future.

Until earlier this month, this weekend had been slated to see the release of STX’s Gerard Butler-led disaster thriller, Greenland. That film is now unset with a tentatively planned fourth quarter release. Today, Disney also announced that Marvel Studios’ Black Widow has been delayed from November 6 to May 7, 2021, while Death on the Nile has shifted from October 23 to December 18 this year.

As such, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic should easily lead the box office again in its fourth full frame. With $36.4 million in the domestic bank through last Sunday, it seems on target to top the $40 million mark this coming weekend after reaching the $250 million global threshold a few days ago. Tenet added an estimated $4.7 million in North America last weekend, which Warner Bros. reported was off 26 percent from the prior three-day haul.

Once again leaving us in the position of having to reverse engineer the math of the film’s earnings, that indicates the studio previously over-estimated (or has simply revised) Tenet‘s second full weekend gross. It was previously reported as $6.7 million, but the studio’s quote of a 26 percent decline during the September 18 – 20 period suggests they are now reporting the September 11 – 13 weekend earned around $6.35 million instead. (The studio has not yet responded to our request for confirmation on this.)

Either way, these holds represent the little bit of good news in the moviegoing space. Tenet, alongside The New Mutants, Unhinged, and other titles are displaying very soft week-to-week declines, and Infidel was a welcome surprise last weekend with its $1.38 million opening — notably above our own expectations.

Despite the overall muted performances of all titles in a domestic market that still lacks the marketing blitz and media support of major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, those who are willing and able to return to cinemas are doing so in consistent numbers. Unfortunately, though, awareness remains an issue. At last report from NRG via NATO, less than 45 percent of consumers even knew theaters were open as of the September 11 – 13 weekend.

While Tenet will continue its dominant footprint in IMAX and other PLF screens, this weekend does see the release of Focus Features’ Kajillionaire. The indie dramedy starring Evan Rachel Wood could provide a moderate boost to attendance in suburbs and cities with open cinemas. We’re still waiting on an official location count to be confirmed, but a true wide release in 1,000 or more theaters could help the picture net a debut of $1 million or higher.

Focus and Magnolia are also re-releasing two archival titles in an estimated 1,000 theaters each, those being On the Basis of Sex and RBG. Both are re-entering the marketplace in memoriam of the passing of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It’s nearly impossible to tell how these re-releases will perform without no comparisons in a pandemic market, so forecasts are significantly more volatile than those of other holdovers.

Meanwhile, Gravitas Ventures will release Shortcut in an estimated 500 locations, this weekend, while Sony and Stage 6 Films will debut The Last Shift in an unreported number of locations.

Estimated Domestic Location Counts (Subject to Updates)

  • Tenet (2,930+) (unconfirmed)
  • The New Mutants (2,305)
  • The Broken Hearts Gallery (2,141)
  • Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (2,097)
  • Infidel (1,885)
  • On the Basis of Sex (~1,000)
  • RBG (~1,000)
  • The Last Shift (871)
  • On the Basis of Sex (829)
  • Kajillionaire (529)
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield (512)
  • Shortcut (500+)
  • Bill & Ted Face the Music (353)
  • The Nest (299)
  • The Way I See It (84)
  • Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles (26)

Weekend Forecast

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, September 27 % Change from Last Wknd
Tenet Warner Bros. $3,600,000 $41,100,000 -23%
Break the Silence: The Movie Trafalgar Releasing $1,350,000 $1,800,000 NEW
The New Mutants Disney / 20th Century Studios $1,300,000 $19,600,000 -20%
Unhinged Solstice Studios $1,100,000 $17,300,000 -14%
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Disney / 20th Century Studios $1,000,000 TBD
Infidel Cloudburst Entertainment $960,000 $2,900,000 -31%
Kajillionaire Focus Features $630,000 $630,000 NEW
The Broken Hearts Gallery Sony / TriStar Pictures $625,000 $3,400,000 -22%
After We Collided Voltage Pictures $220,000 $1,550,000 -28%
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run Paramount $180,000 $4,500,000 -13%

All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of weekend grosses.

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Photo Credits: Hoyte van Hoytema & Warner Bros. ("Tenet"), dir. Christopher Nolan