By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Christopher Nolan's thriller "Tenet" finally arrives in U.S. movie theaters this weekend, hoping to revive movie going after a pandemic-induced closure of indoor theaters and a dearth of new content.
Hollywood breathed a sigh of relief last weekend when "Tenet" brought in a solid $53.6 million in Europe and other markets, suggesting that audiences are hungry for new content and prepared to put up with social distancing and masks to see them on big indoor screens.
Now the industry is waiting to see if Americans are equally as keen. The Warner Bros. movie, starring John David Washington and costing a reported $200 million to make, will be the first big budget release from a Hollywood studio since the coronavirus shuttered theaters in March.
The long wait "has elevated this film to the status of being very important symbolically, culturally and financially. It represents a turning point for the theatrical business which has been sidelined for five months," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Although movie theaters in New York City and Los Angeles - the country's biggest markets - remain closed, more than half of the nation's indoor theaters are expected to be open although capacity will be limited to 50%.
AMC Entertainment, America's biggest movie chain, said it was opening another 140 locations this weekend to put a total of 70% of its theaters back in operation.
China, which is challenging the United States as the world's biggest movie market, is also rolling out "Tenet" this weekend. It's the Asian nation's first release for a major new Hollywood title since January.
Dergarabedian said U.S. opening weekend box-office expectations for "Tenet" were fluctuating wildly between $15 million and $30 million. But the film won't be judged on its first few days.
"We know we're running a marathon, not a sprint, and look forward to long playability for this film," Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman, said in a statement welcoming last weekend's results.
"Tenet" has little competition. The 2013 baseball film "42" is getting a limited re-release as a tribute to its star Chadwick Boseman, who died last week, but Russell Crowe thriller "Unhinged," young adult movie "The New Mutants" and comedy "Bill & Ted Face the Music" were released in late August.
It won't be until October that audiences get a new superhero movie, with "Wonder Woman 1984."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Richard Pullin)