There are serious concerns about whether many cinemas in the US will be able to survive the pandemic, especially after disappointing returns for Tenet, the $200m spy-fi thriller directed by Christopher Nolan that was supposed to give a lift to the beleaguered industry.

After months of lockdown, cinemas were hoping Tenet would spur moviegoers to return in large numbers, but the movie grossed only $9.4m in its first weekend in North America and just $29.5m over its first two weeks.

Although Tenet fared well internationally, raking in about $200m, it bombed in the US, where approximately 30% of cinemas remain closed, including the crucial markets of New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

According to The New York Times, other movies released in August haven’t fared much better at the box office, including The New Mutants and Unhinged, which made $15m and $14m respectively.

The poor showing has prompted studios to postpone the release dates of other major movies. Warner Bros., the producer of Tenet, has moved the opening of Wonder Woman 1984 from October 2 to Christmas Day, while MGM/Universal has pushed back the remake of Candyman to next year.

Marvel’s Black Widow and Pixar’s Soul are both supposed to come out in November, but that is now in question, and there are worries too about the new James Bond epic, No Time to Die, which is supposed to be released on November 20.

If the studios remain “skittish” and the key markets of New York and Los Angeles don’t open, then cinema operators may have to take “dramatic steps” to weather the storm, The New York Times warned.

Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, said cinemas may start reducing operating hours to minimise expenses or perhaps screen movies only at the weekend.

Summing up the industry’s predicament, John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said: “We’re learning that markets being opened, cinemas having safety protocols and studios releasing movies are all tied together.

“Open markets need safe cinemas, movies need open markets, cinemas need movies. All these things raise audience awareness and comfort in returning to movies. You can’t do one at a time.”

Sourced from The New York Times