Weekend Forecast (Updated): The New Mutants Targets $5M+ Domestic Debut As Exhibition’s Restart Continues; Tenet Begins Overseas Rollout with Healthy Pre-Sales Reports

Photo Credits: Peter Deming & Disney / 20th Century Studios ("The New Mutants"); Warner Bros. ("Tenet"); Skip Bolden & Solstice Studios ("Unhinged")

August 27 Update: This report has been updated to include our pinpoint forecasts for all five films in wide release, along with studio-confirmed estimated location counts, featured in the table below.

August 26 Report: We’re almost one week into exhibition’s restart across the United States, and early results have been encouraging. Solstice Studios successfully launched Unhinged to $4 million last weekend from 1,823 locations, landing at the high end of expectations even with seating capacities in play and not quite reaching the projected 2,000-theater count.

With the first wide release in the COVID-19 recovery era under the industry’s belt, we now look to the next marker for progress: the first wide release from a major studio, Disney and 20th Century Studios’ The New Mutants.

A Long Road to Release

Fans and astute followers of the business are well aware of this film’s dodgy history over the past few years. The film, an off-shoot of Fox’s X-Men franchise featuring characters never before introduced on screen, was originally set to debut in April 2018. For reasons varying between re-shoots, rumored story changes, avoiding competition with other films, and ultimately, the Disney buyout of 20th Century Fox, the film ended up with delays to February 2019, August 2019, and eventually April 2020.

The latter target was the subject of our Long Range Forecast at one point earlier this year, but of course, the pandemic resulted in that release also being nixed.

At long last, though, The New Mutants will see the light of day this weekend — albeit, under very different circumstances than it would have before.

Box Office Expectations

Our aforementioned forecast for the film (two months out from release) originally called for an opening weekend between $15 million and $25 million, and a domestic finish between $35 million and $55 million. The latter range could still be a reasonable expectation, but the former is almost certainly off the table with the current realities facing exhibition and the restart of moviegoing.

The good news is that a second wave of stateside theatrical re-openings will arrive this weekend as major chains continue to expand their footprint of resumed operations. Disney confirmed to us that 62 percent of the domestic market, in terms of total grossing capacity, will be open this weekend. That share is on par with recent expectations in the restart as the industry builds towards Tenet‘s domestic release next week.

States such as California, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland, and New Mexico — as well as regional city areas Seattle, Miami, Portland, and Philadelphia — remain closed, though. That should again help many drive-in locations perform very well this weekend, as was the case with Unhinged‘s top performing markets in densely populated areas during its first U.S. frame.

Pre-sales for The New Mutants have been encouraging at face value, but we emphasize the pressing need to throw every comparison out the window for the foreseeable future until consumer habits return to something resembling normal.

Compounding the unique situation of the current time, this is a film that was already facing the challenge of releasing soon after Dark Phoenix — a film that underwhelmed at the box office in a notable way for such a big franchise. Mutants also lacks a unified marketing identity for casual moviegoers given the widespread fan knowledge that it has nothing to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe curated by Disney, who are now distributing this film after inheriting it in the Fox deal. It is, essentially, the last of Fox’s X-Men era.

The upside: moviegoers comfortable with returning to theaters are starved for new content, and the franchise’s branding could at least help Mutants build upon the kind of opening Unhinged put on display as a completely original title. The lack of competition will be a benefit for any film releasing right now, but we still expect a much less front-loaded run even for a series well known to burn off much of its demand in the opening days.

The New Mutants will open in approximately 2,400 domestic locations this weekend, including 205 IMAX screens, 450 Premium Large Format auditoriums, and 75 D-Box/4D screens. Preview shows will start on Thursday evening at 6pm, picking up the pre-pandemic trend of early weekend lead-ins.

According to The Boxoffice Company’s Showtimes Dashboard, New Mutants currently represents 30 percent of all booked shows among reporting theaters (1,744 in this film’s case, as of Wednesday morning) between Thursday night and the end of Sunday. That leads Unhinged (17 percent), The Personal History of David Copperfield (9 percent), and Words on Bathroom Walls (7 percent), and Inception (4 percent). Notably, Bill & Ted Face the Music — receiving a simultaneous PVOD and theatrical opening this weekend — accounts for 3 percent of showtimes from 475 locations.

Based on continuously adaptive models during this recovery process of theatrical operations that aim to weigh seating capacities, market availability, and other factors as best as possible, we are currently forecasting a domestic opening weekend between $5 million and $10 million — with a heavy lean toward the low-to-middle end of that range, particularly given the lack of reviews available..

As noted, it’s probably safe to expect a longer tail beyond opening weekend than usual with very few new releases entering the market before October and an eased return to cinemas by patrons. (Disney itself cites a recent poll that 40 percent of moviegoers are comfortable returning to the theaters immediately.)

Internationally, New Mutants will open day and date in France, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Unhinged will expand to an estimated 2,300 locations domestically this weekend. If it follows the pattern of holdover performances in other countries to date, a weekend north of $2.5 million looks very likely, potentially hitting $3 million or more. It will lose many of its premium screens to The New Mutants, though.

Domestic Weekend Forecast Ranges

  • The New Mutants ($5 – 10 million opening)
  • Unhinged ($2.5 – $3.5 million)
Film Distributor Weekend Forecast % Change Estimated Location Count
The New Mutants Disney / 20th Century Studios $7,500,000 NEW 2,412
Unhinged Solstice Studios $3,000,000 -25% 2,300
Bill & Ted Face the Music Orion Pictures $2,200,000 NEW 1,007
The Personal History of David Copperfield Disney / Searchlight Pictures $875,000 NEW 1,360
Words on Bathroom Walls Roadside Attractions $375,000 -11% 1,357

Tenet Begins Global Rollout with International Release

Not to be forgotten (how could it?) is the much anticipated start of Tenet‘s theatrical run in international markets this week.

The roll-out begins with 25 territories on August 26 (including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain, and Christopher Nolan’s home base of the United Kingdom). Another 12 will open over August 27 and August 28, leading up to the United States launch on September 3 alongside Russia, followed by China on September 4. Brazil and Mexico will follow on September 10, followed by Japan on September 18.

Given the important nature of this film’s meaning to the global exhibition market, expectations are conservative for the opening days of play with virtually all parties involved planning for a months-long run fueled by the film’s event-level status and forthcoming word of mouth. Nolan’s films are historically leggy to begin with, so it stands to reason that these expectations are quite realistic in a market with only one other major tentpole (October’s Wonder Woman 1984) opening before November.

That being said, Warner Bros. is mum on details thus far and various sources have told us not to expect box office reports from the international release until late this weekend at the earliest. From there, coupled with sneak previews in the United States on August 31, September 1, and September 2 (which have shown strong pre-sales trends, as have other overseas markets), we can expect to be able to report on the film’s initial box office performance by — hopefully — early next week, leading into the official domestic wide release before Labor Day weekend.

Based on very preliminary numbers, pre-sales, sneak preview earnings in Australia earlier this week, and the success of lower profile openers in various countries throughout the summer, it’s conceivable that Tenet could net $35 million or more internationally by Sunday’s close of business. Again, though, the rule book of forecasting right now is that there is no rule book.