Tenet vs. Mulan: Who has won at the box office in times of COVID-19?

Tenet and Mulan were two of the great Blockbusters of 2020 but the Coronavirus pandemic changed the rules of the game. Which of the two will have won their particular fight for the box office?

In this article we offer an update on Mulan's collection data for premium sales that we published a few days ago on cinemascomics.com

Tenet and Mulan has been two of the most prominent early fall releases that tried to make the best of a very bad situation. While Tenet lobbied for a theatrical-only release, with marketing urging audiences to see it on the big screen, Mulan skipped theaters and went straight to Disney + for a premium supplement price of € 21.99.

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This week we saw a new reorganization of the list of Disney releases, with Black Widow, the last Marvel Studios film that was going to be released on October 30 of this year, postponed until May 2021, as well as some of the Warner Bros releases, such as the long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 and Universal's horror sequel Candyman, have been delayed due to Tenet's disappointment at the box office. Rather than salvage the movie experience as planned, Nolan's movie became an alarm bell for future theatrical releases. The resulting exodus has left the theatrical release schedule almost completely deserted for the next two months.

Obviously, the biggest problem for Tenet was the premiere in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, when many theaters in the US were still closed and audiences were reluctant to sit in a room sharing the circulating air with a group of strangers for more than two hours. But Mulan faced her own challenge by convincing Disney + subscribers to fork out € 21.99 just to watch the film in their own homes. So which of them has been a box office hit?

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Although they are obviously very different films with different audiences, Mulan and Tenet had similar production budgets of around $ 200 million, and both were released on the same weekend in the United States (Tenet was released a week earlier in some international markets. ). Warner Bros initially reported that Tenet had raised $ 20.2 million in its opening weekend, but it was later revealed that this number included previews and the extended Labor Day weekend. Looking at the reported box office numbers, Collider estimated that the actual opening weekend grossed about $ 9.5 million. International ticket sales have been stronger, with Tenet topping 250 million worldwide after a month in theaters.

Mulan's Disney + sales have been kept a secret by the studio, making it difficult to have a concrete idea of ​​how much money she has raised. A report published by the analytics research firm 7Park Data, indicated that almost 29% of Disney + users in the US who accessed the application between September 1 and 12 bought the Mulan movie, far exceeding others. popular (and free) titles on the platform stating that Mulan had grossed 261 million in sales within the first 12 days of its release, but those figures were later rectified by the company that provided the data, giving an updated estimate of $ 62 million to $ 93 million in its first 12 days on the platform. It's true that the movie's release sparked a spike in Disney + downloads, suggesting that its exclusive availability on Disney's own streaming platform also attracted new subscribers. Considering that distribution costs have been reduced for Mulan's premiere on Disney + and given that theaters are not receiving a box office, Forbes estimates that the highest estimate of 93 million would be the equivalent to around 186 million in Box Office. Given that the data is based on US Disney + subscribers, Mulan has certainly surpassed Tenet's domestic box office, which was still 36 million earlier this week. However, worldwide, Tenet is likely to have an advantage over the Disney premiere.

Why has Tenet had problems at the box office in addition to the pandemic?

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With a quarter of American theaters still closed, and most of those in the key markets of New York and California, Tenet was never going to cause a big buzz at the box office. Under normal circumstances, it would have been targeting a similar gross as Nolan's latest sci-fi film, Interstellar, which grossed $ 693.4 million with a opening weekend of $ 47.5 million. While the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly been a major disadvantage, it gave Tenet a couple of small advantages to go along with all the disadvantages.

Along with the long-delayed Fox film The New Mutants, Tenet was the first theatrical release in the US since Onward in March, and its promise of a big-screen spectacle was tantalizing to moviegoers who had spent all summer without turning up. the halls. With The New Mutants and other less important releases offering little competition, Tenet also had a distinct run at the box office for many weeks after its release. Warner Bros were counting on the film to have enough buzz to fill theaters on its opening weekend, which is unlikely considering current social distancing security measures that limit the capacity of theaters.

But, Tenet wasn't as safe a box office bet as a live-action Disney remake like Mulan. The film relied on Nolan's prestige as a director and tantalizingly cryptic trailers to appeal to audiences. But unlike Origen, which had a fairly straightforward hook, as well as rave reviews from specialized critics and strong word of mouth, Tenet's time-investment premise was harder for the general public to understand, and the trailers were deliberately shy about the real story.

After the release of Tenet, critics were divided between those who elevated it and those who did not like it at all, and complaints from the audience ranged from the mixing of sound drowning out the dialogue to a plot that was incomprehensible at first glance. To exceed expectations, Tenet would have had to be the must-see movie of 2020, and the general consensus is that it wasn't.

Mulan's Disney + premiere made things easier

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In contrast to the unprecedented circumstances of Tenet's release, Disney had the benefit of seeing how other movies had performed with a premium VOD release. One of the first success stories for family audiences was Universal's Trolls World Tour, which made the film available for rent for $ 19.99. VOD sales are harder to pin down than box office ticket sales, but Trolls World Tour raised an estimated $ 100 million in rentals within the first three weeks of its release. Although the price was calculated to be the approximate cost of two or three people who saw the film in theaters, there was a lot of criticism for the idea of ​​paying $ 20 for 48-hour access to the film.

However, Disney + following the signs of both the success of Trolls World Tour and the criticisms of its premiere, Disney decided to release Mulan on Disney + with a higher price of $ 29.99 but without a time limit on availability and without limit times that you could see. This added value of rewatching, something that is the cornerstone of Disney movies. Although technically Disney + subscribers who pay the premium rate only rent Mulan instead of buying the film, therefore, if these subscribers unsubscribe from the platform, they would not be able to enjoy it again on their devices, but obviously the strategy of the company was to make its subscribers feel that being was more of a purchase than a rental.

Neither Mulan nor Tenet have been a total failure

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Neither Mulan nor Tenet have turned out to be a total success or failure. They were two big budget movies that were suddenly faced with one of the biggest financial crises in movie history. Ten-figure hits like Avengers: Endgame and Joker from last year were never going to happen under the current circumstances. The new best-case scenario for Warner Bros and Disney was losing as little money as possible and making a real profit as an inflated goal.

Putting aside the question of whether or not Warner Bros was irresponsible for going ahead with Tenet in their idea of ​​releasing it in theaters with COVID-19 cases on the rise in the US, the film is trying to end its theatrical run. of cinema with 325/350 million according to Forbes. The studio will lose money and would certainly be a huge failure under normal conditions, but realistically, even good reviews and word of mouth would not have been enough to break even. Mulan is arguably the bigger flop of the two, particularly when it comes to its theatrical release. Although Disney has targeted the lucrative Chinese market, the reality is that Mulan will make less than half of 2019's The Lion King in the Asian country.

The results of Tenet and Mulan have already been followed by analysts as the film industry struggles to adapt to a world ravaged by a pandemic. So far, the main reaction has been to delay key releases in the future in the hope that things will return to normal in 2021. But if the cinema closings are prolonged by a second wave of coronavirus infections, it is likely that Let's see more movies join Mulan in the switch to PVOD.

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