Warner Bros.’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan have been hand-in-hand for most of the summer — they were both being primed to be the first big blockbusters that would reopen movie theaters amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they were both delayed three times each, they were both major tentpoles starring a POC lead. But the studios ended up going in very different directions as August neared and the pandemic’s end was nowhere in sight. Warner Bros. decided to release Tenet overseas first before opening it in any operating theaters in the U.S., while Disney chose to take Mulan straight to streaming (and an overseas theatrical release). So, which strategy worked out best?
It’s still too early to say yet, but both did pretty decently considering the weird theatrical release strategy for Tenet and the premium price for Mulan.
Tenet Gets a Respectable Box Office Opening in the U.S.
In the 2,810 American theaters in which Tenet opened, including some in California, the Christopher Nolan espionage film grossed $20.2 million over the five-day Labor Day weekend, Forbes reports. While that wouldn’t break any records (Rob Zombie’s Halloween holds the Labor Day weekend crown with $30.5 million), it’s still a decent number, even if the film didn’t exceed expectations like it did with last week’s overseas opening.
Forbes notes that the hope is that theaters, including domestic theaters that screen Tenet in their biggest non-IMAX screens for 4 to 12 weeks, will benefit from audiences checking out the movie at a slower pace than the usual frontloaded opening weekend haul.
With a roughly $146 million worldwide total haul (thanks to new openings in Russia and China, though it underperformed in the latter), Forbes estimates that Tenet will end its run with $480 million worldwide — certainly a number that will allow Warner Bros. to break even and justify its strange domestic release strategy (which included not allowing drive-in theaters to play Tenet where regular theaters were closed). Now, whether it was all worth endangering the lives of moviegoers is another matter.
Disney+ Downloads Spike Following ‘Mulan’ Release
Mulan was set to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer, and now it will be the biggest guinea pig for whether the straight-to-streaming model can be lucrative. It was uncertain whether Disney+ subscribers would be willing to pony up $30 to watch Mulan on the platform (especially with the film set to be made widely available in December), but following the film’s September 4 Disney+ premium debut, preliminary data shows a spike in Disney+ app downloads.
Sensor Tower, an app download research firm, told Yahoo Finance that downloads of Disney+ spiked 68% from Friday, September 4 through Sunday, September 6, compared to one weekend prior. Consumer spending in Disney+ also spiked 193%, which means a lot of those new subscribers were paying for that $30 premium fee. How does that compare to Disney+’s other major streaming hit? According to Sensor Tower, Disney+ app downloads jumped a bit more in the first three days of Hamilton debuting on the platform (at 79%), but the firm notes that it’s likely because the Broadway musical film was free to stream.
While there are no official numbers yet as to Mulan‘s performance on Disney+, it does seem to indicate that people are willing to pay to see the Chinese warrior in action.
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