Cinemas hope Tenet gets film fans back to the big screen  

Forecasts predict ticket sales of £605m in the UK and Ireland this year - less than half last year's box office take

John David Washington
John David Washington stars in Tenet, the first blockbuster release since cinemas reopened in early March Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

Cinemas are hoping that the arrival of Christopher Nolan's Tenet - the first blockbuster release since they reopened in early March after months of lockdown - can get film fans flocking back to the silver screen.

The lack of new releases since reopening, along with audience caution, means ticket sales have been at historically low levels.

Takings were just over 2pc of the 2019 average in the first week and have only risen to 6pc. While operators are relieved to see the numbers moving in the right direction, that increase has mostly been driven by the steadily growing number of cinemas reopening. 

The significance of Tenet is hard to overstate for cinema operators. If audiences do not come flooding back, forecasts for the rest of the year and beyond will have to be downgraded.

The latest forecast from Gower Street Analytics, which offers a release date optimisation tool to film studios, predicts a £605m box office take for the UK and Ireland this year. That is less than half the £1.35bn taken in 2019.

Gower Street has also issued its predicted chart for this year's top 10 films, led by the latest James Bond outing No Time to Die which was postponed from April to November.

No Time to Die was postponed due to coronavirus Credit: MLADEN ANTONOV/ AFP

Only two of the 10 – 1917 and Sonic the Hedgehog – have already had their cinema runs. Actual ticket sales for the other eight films – No Time to Die, West Side Story, Pixar animation Soul, Tenet, Peter Rabbit 2, Death on the Nile, Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow – still remains to be seen. Some sectors of the audience may remain cautious about cinemagoing, but at least a strong slate awaits those who do venture out once more.

Several of 2020’s strongest-looking titles have been pushed into 2021, including Minions: The Rise of Gru, Marvel’s The Eternals, Top Gun: Maverick and Fast & Furious 9.

In theory, these all give a big boost to next year – but, equally, many strong titles originally set for 2021 (including the latest instalments of Avatar, The Matrix, Indiana Jones, Thor and Doctor Strange) have similarly been pushed back to 2022.

Gower Street is yet to put 2021 into its crystal ball and much depends on how audiences respond to Tenet.

However, its director of theatrical insights Robert Mitchell says: “We wouldn't be surprised to see 2021 box office down 20pc to 30pc on recent years as recovery continues and uncertainties remain.”