‘Tenet.’

Exhibitors are anticipating a blockbuster opening this Thursday, even with caps on seating capacity, for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet after a sizable turnout for paid previews last weekend.

Warner Bros’ international spy thriller starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh played on more than 500 screens.

The distributor imposed a worldwide block on figures for the previews, which will be folded into the opening weekends in about 70 markets, but exhibitors’ feedback was highly positive.

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari tells IF: “We were extremely happy with the weekend business, which met my high expectations. The Orpheum had its best trading weekend since reopening by a wide margin.”

The audience at his venue, which is operating at about 30 per cent capacity, spanned a wide demographic, from teenagers to seniors.

“We have extremely high hopes for Tenet’s release this Thursday and expect a long and profitable run for all involved,” he added.

The paid previews generated more than 60 per of the weekend takings at Hoyts Cinemas, whose CEO Damian Keogh said: “It demonstrated clearly that customers will come to back to the cinema to see quality first release content. The results should give the heads of local studios enough confidence to fight for local release dates to be maintained rather than being moved back by their Hollywood bosses.”

Attendances at Majestic Cinemas’ eight locations, where capacities range from 25-40 per cent, were a bit lower than CEO Kieren Dell hoped for, but he said previews usually don’t do big business at his circuit.

Noting the reactions were positive, he said: “I expect it will have a big opening week as the marketing kicks in, and it should finish with $20 million-plus.”

Wallis Cinema’s programming manager David Simpson described the previews as a “solid start,” observing: “Ludwig Göransson’s score is extraordinary and worth multiple visits.”

Pattinson and Washington play agents who are recruited on a top-secret mission to prevent World War III planned by rich Russian arms dealer Andrei Sator (Branagh).

Debicki plays Sator’s wife Kat, who works in the art world. Michael Caine is British Intelligence officer Sir Michael Crosby and Clémence Poésy is a scientist in the vein of Bond’s Q.

To the extent that critics have any influence on ticket sales, the reviews are largely positive with an 80 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although there were relatively few unqualified raves.

Nine newspaper’s Sandra Hall declared: “No doubt avid students of the Nolan formula will get months of entertainment out of repeated viewings but for me it was oddly tantalising – full of good things but ultimately frustrating.”

IndieWire’s Mike McCahill found the film a “humourless disappointment” while The Wrap’s Nicholas Barber called it a “head-scratching James Bond homage.”

Variety‘s Guy Lodge responded to a “big, brashly beautiful, grandiosely enjoyable movie that will provide succour to audiences long-starved for escapist spectacle on this beefy, made-for-Imax scale.” But he added the caveat: “It’s not, however, a film with much of consequence to say about the real world it’s finally entering.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Leslie Felperin opined that it’s “easy to admire, especially since it’s so rich in audacity and originality, but almost impossible to love, lacking as it is in a certain humanity.”

‘Lowdown Dirty Criminals.’

Apart from Tenet, it was another soft trading session in Australia as Numero reported the top 20 titles generated nearly $1.5 million, down 38 per cent on the previous frame.

Studiocanal’s Unhinged reigned again, making $320,000 in its fourth frame. The road rage thriller directed by Derrick Borte stands at $2.8 million.

Madman Entertainment’s Made in Italy ranked second, fetching $214,000 in its second weekend, dipping by 17 per cent. Actor-turned director James D’Arcy’s comedy starring Liam Neeson and his real-life son Micheál Richardson has collected $578,000.

Heritage’s Saint Judy, a biopic on Judy Wood, the US immigration attorney who instigated a landmark case that changed the laws of women seeking asylum in the US, entered with a modest $45,000 on 87 screens. Sean Hanish directed the movie starring Michelle Monaghan, Leem Lubany, Common, Alfred Molina and Alfre Woodard.

Monster Pictures’ Kiwi import Lowdown Dirty Criminals was D.O.A., taking $26,000 on 83 screens. Directed by Paul Murphy, the crime caper stars James Rolleston and Samuel Austin as best friends who naively conclude a life of crime may lead them to the wealth and standing they crave.

When they mess up their first job, that leads to a confrontation with The Upholsterer (Rebecca Gibney) and her henchmen Semo (Robbie Magasiva) and Roy (Cohen Holloway).

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