With the most recent moves that are expected to be made official soon, as “Black Widow” is expected to vacate it’s November 6 release date, there likely won’t be another major studio film in US theaters until November 20, when “No Time to Die” arrives. And as we’ve seen with its tepid launch, it doesn’t appear that “Tenet” is going to be able to carry the theatrical release industry for two months. That puts cinemas in a huge bind. And according to a new report from Variety, though some cinema owners understand the economic impact of releasing a blockbuster in the current climate, without product, it’s hard to entice people back to theaters.
Speaking to Variety, Mike Sodano, who owns multiple theaters in New Jersey, explained that he is happy that “Tenet” is available for cinemas to screen right now, but he’s not 100% sure that people are ready to venture back to the big screen.
“‘Tenet’ is a big movie, Christopher Nolan is a big director, and Warner Bros. is a big studio, but there’s one thing they can’t control, and that’s their audience,” said Sodano. “I know this is a marathon and not a sprint, but when you look at those numbers, it does not give me confidence that people are ready to come back to theaters.”
The early box office results seem to point to that being the case. Through two weeks, “Tenet” has only earned $29.5 million in North American cinemas (including only $6.7 million during the last weekend). That’s hardly enough to warrant the release of a $200 million action tentpole film. And studios have taken notice, with another round of delays of major films like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Black Widow.”
Now, cinemas find themselves in a position where they need to attract customers, but they have to do so without new blockbusters to entice them. And that has left some cinema owners pretty disappointed with the most recent delays.
“It feels like distribution has kind of abandoned the movie theaters,” says Brian Schultz, CEO of Studio Movie Grill theater chain. “I understand the core economics at play here, but without new product, we can’t keep things going. Christopher Nolan put an amazing stake in the ground with ‘Tenet,’ but now other studios need to follow his lead.”
With the theatrical experience at cinemas being challenged heavily by streaming platforms, the pandemic has shown that the exhibition business is in worse shape than we could have realized. Now, this fall could prove to be the most important season in theatrical history, as cinema chains (both big and small) face the existential threat of a struggling business model being hit with a global pandemic and without the support of major studios. Needless to say, the next two months are going to be incredibly interesting to observe.