Warner Bros. isn’t sharing all box Tenet office data?
For as long as I can remember, studios have been pretty open about sharing box office data. It’s one of the few main bits of widespread transparency we have among the rival studios. They may go to crazy lengths to make sure their films perform, but at the end of the day, they’ll report those numbers. Obviously, times have changed, and things haven’t been more drastically different than they have the past year. COVID-19 has changed everything, and everyone’s been adapting ever since.
Tenet is proving to be something of a Petri dish for this brave, new world we’re living in. Warner Bros. took the plunge two weekends back, putting the $200 million original sci-fi thriller out in theaters. And, based on the figures reported thus far, it’s not a huge hit with theatergoers — but we’ll go into that in a bit. First off, what is worth noting is that there is an odd lack of transparency from Warner Bros. on Tenet and its box office data.
Usually, we get daily updates on the box office numbers for a film. However, Warner Bros. has been cagey on those updates, instead opting for full weekend updates. This started in its opening weekend, and industry observers presumed it had to do with Warner Bros. trying their best to make the numbers look better than they are. It turns out that may be true, but not necessarily for the same reasons you’d think.
Variety reports that the main reason has to do with us. The media. We have a tendency to try and connect dots, even when they don’t necessarily align well. The studio was worried the media would labor Tenet as a flop, even while Warner Bros.’ strategy isn’t quite as straightforward. First off, they want it to be understood that major cities like New York and Los Angeles aren’t open, and the major cities generally account for 25% of box office cume in North America. But, apart from that, we need to understand that this is a long-tail game.
Warner Bros. was never expecting a big box office splash from the get-go. Instead, they were expecting to see the film have a long tail. This is further evidenced by their pushing Wonder Woman 1984 to December, giving Tenet room to stretch its wings, to speak.
However, this approach — and lack of transparency — doesn’t come without its issues. Studio executives have complained about the tradition to share box office numbers in the past. While many understand these aren’t normal times, some Hollywood execs have complained in private that Warners isn’t being open enough. Given that major studios generally have access to hourly data from research companies, I can understand the frustration.
This also comes when you have streaming companies like Netflix, who don’t share their data at all. I’m probably connecting the dots a bit too much here, but I can see this as a slippery slope to a world where box office numbers aren’t shared at all. And perhaps that is one of the big fears from other studios. Eventually, we could be left in a world where successes are only inferred, with little data to back it up. If every studio starts keeping things to themselves, everyone ultimately loses. Could Tenet be the film that starts us down that slippery slope?
I personally don’t believe so. Tenet is the first major movie to hit in the midst of a pandemic. And, because of that, I think some leeway is allowed. Perhaps this is an approach that will stick around for as long as the pandemic is, and if so, I don’t think that’d be the worse thing in the world.
But how do you feel about Warner Bros. not sharing all Tenet box office data? Do you think they should be allowed this for fear of the media misreporting its figures? Or do you think all information should be free-flowing, and any stop to that is a slippery slope? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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