‘Tenet’ Gets a B CinemaScore, Christopher Nolan’s Lowest Since ‘The Prestige’

The audience approval measure arrives as the movie slowly starts to open up across U.S. markets.
Warner Bros.

Audience word-of-mouth is in on Christopher Nolan’s time-bending return to screens “Tenet.” According to CinemaScore, which polls audiences to grade films on a scale from F to A+, “Tenet” has received a B rating. That’s not a death knell, but it’s likely below expectations for audience-beloved Nolan and “Tenet” distributor Warner Bros., already fielding mixed reviews for the movie starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson (including from IndieWire). It’s Nolan’s lowest since “The Prestige,” one of the filmmaker’s more modest-grossing, and also more modestly budgeted, efforts.

Past Nolan CinemaScores are as follows: “Insomnia” (2002): B; “Batman Begins” (2005): A; “The Prestige” (2006): B; “The Dark Knight” (2008): A; “Inception” (2010): B+; “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012): A; “Interstellar” (2014): B+; and “Dunkirk” (2017): A-. To be fair, the “B” stamp is also the first CinemaScore we’ve seen in some time, though YA dramedy “Words on Bathroom Walls” did score an A. (CinemaScore also reportedly doesn’t list movies on less than 1,500 screens on its website. “Tenet” is right now on about 2,800 screens in the United States.)

Reviews, meanwhile, have been scattered between accusing the film of being overly complicated in its conceit combining espionage and science-fiction, and hailing “Tenet” as a messianic return to theaters. Audiences are reportedly also being challenged, as is par for the course with Christopher Nolan, by the movie’s sound mixing. “Tenet” also packs in a lot of exposition to explain its plot.

Per IndieWire’s review, “What kind of picture is it? Big, certainly: IMAX-scaled, and a hefty 150 minutes even after a visibly ruthless edit. It’s clever, too — yes, the palindromic title has some narrative correlation — albeit in an exhausting, rather joyless way. As second comings go, ‘Tenet’ is like witnessing a Sermon on the Mount preached by a savior who speaks exclusively in dour, drawn-out riddles. Any awe is flattened by follow-up questions.”

Even without New York or Los Angeles markets, “Tenet” is still faring well at the box office stateside and abroad. “Tenet” is projected to gross more than $100 million internationally over the Labor Day weekend, and is also currently ruling the box office in China, with more than $20 million so far.

While the box office is shut down in most of New York and California states, as well as New Mexico, North Carolina and parts of Washington, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, Warner Bros. is hoping that “Tenet” will help theaters, wherever possible, get back on their feet.

Tom Brueggemann contributed reporting.

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