Having charted box office every week for the last few years, I’ve learned there’s a lot of guesswork and just plain going on faith involved. While the analysts do their thing to crunch numbers, ultimately the studios are expected to share box office data and do it honestly. In the case of Tenet, which has a lot riding on its $200M shoulders, Warner Bros. is keeping quiet.
Variety reports analysts and rival studios are upset over a“surprising lack of transparency” from Warner Bros. in regards to Tenet’s box office. The studio has reportedly refused to offer the usual daily updates, with the first numbers only arriving on Sunday, September 6th rather than early estimates on Friday. You may recall that Tenet was reported to have made $20M domestic last weekend, but Deadline says the total is closer to $12M. Ouch.
Warner Bros. has a big PR problem on their hands, too. If Tenet only makes $7.5M this weekend, that would amount to a massive 62% loss from last weekend, if we continue to cite the bogus $20M figure. But if it made around $12M before, and $7.5M now, that 33% drop looks like a movie that is holding very well.
Deadline adds that Sony is covering up numbers for The Broken Hearts Gallery, as well. The rom-com opened in theaters this weekend.The data blackout was supposed to only last one week for Warner Bros., but they’ve continued it into this one. It’s unclear how long Sony will keep theirs up.
That data isn’t just used for us in the press to report the figures. It’s used by distributors, marketers, and others to keep track of the overall health of the industry. Of course, rival studios use these numbers, as well, for their own internal calculations. But releasing the box office data is a good way for filmmakers and distributors to figure out how a movie is doing in specific markets, and whether they should do more in those areas or less. The box office is pretty important.
We could be looking at the start of a trend, honestly. Movies are going to be earning a lot less for a long time, most likely, and when you’ve got a budget in the hundreds of millions to account for, revealing the true numbers is an embarrassment. We could see blockbusters treated the way Netflix does their content, which is to only reveal what they want us to know when they want us to know it, and only when it looks very good.