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Christopher Nolan Walks the Walk by Going to the Movies, but Some Hesitate to Follow

The box office is lackluster and theaters will suffer as studios pull titles, but it's hard to assign blame for the laws of cause and effect.

Director Christopher Nolan poses for photographers during a photo at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 12, 2018. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Christopher Nolan

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Christopher Nolan’s commitment to the theatrical experience continues: Regal Cinemas posted a photo of Nolan and his wife (and longtime producer) Emma Thomas, both wearing masks, at the Regal Irvine Spectrum in California. Deadline reported that Nolan was at the theater to watch the Sony-released romantic comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” The week prior, Nolan was reportedly at the theater to check out Armando Iannucci’s Searchlight offering, “The Personal History of David Copperfield.”

“The Broken Hearts Gallery” and “David Copperfield” are two of the few new releases that have opened theatrically amid the pandemic along with Nolan’s own “Tenet,” “The New Mutants,” and “Unhinged.” However, about 30 percent of theaters remain closed in the U.S., including those in top-grossing markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

Audiences remain resistant to returning: “Broken Hearts Gallery” opened to $1.125 million and a $500 per-theater average, while Warner Bros. “Tenet” earned $29.5 million in North America after its first two weekends. Studios have taken note, as Warners pushed the October release of “Wonder Woman 1984” to December, Universal delayed October horror movie “Candyman” to 2021, and Disney is reportedly gearing up to move “Black Widow” out of November and move Thanksgiving offering “Soul” to Disney+ like it did earlier this month with “Mulan.”

That leaves “Tenet” in the awkward position of possibly being the only major release until “No Time To Die” on November 20. (Universal also bumped up the animated “Croods” sequel to November 25.) There are no tentpole releases for October.

To be clear, “Tenet” isn’t responsible for the laws of cause and effect. Audiences aren’t yet keen on theaters, and in turn studios aren’t eager to see their $100 million-$200 million investments put up for sale with a limited pool of buyers. As IndieWire box office expert Tom Brueggemann reported earlier this week: “This leaves theaters in dire straits. This weekend, the average complex grossed under $5,000 (before concessions). More than half of that goes to film rentals. Theaters have staff and other operational costs to pay, as well as rent to landlords. Theaters have a stronger hand in negotiating rent if they’re closed. Once open, they owe, and now they face weeks of operation at a significant loss.”

By sharing Nolan’s latest visit, Regal is hoping to encourage more moviegoers back to theaters. “Tenet” will continue to play nationwide for the foreseeable future.

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