The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) has been all over the news lately, as the organization attempts to navigate the best path for cinemas around the US to reopen in a timely, safe manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization has also defended its membership (movie theaters) against perceived threats, such as what we saw recently with Universal. But right now, according to a new interview with Variety, NATO boss John Fithian is looking toward the future, with the hope being that Christopher Nolan’s film, “Tenet,” can be the industry’s saving grace in July.
In the interview, Fithian said the plan is for the majority of cinemas in the US to be reopened in time for the July 17 release of “Tenet.” Obviously, given the situation surrounding COVID-19 changes all the time, there’s no guarantee that this will happen, but the current plan is for theaters to open with older studio titles in the weeks leading up to July 17, prepping for the arrival of the first big post-pandemic blockbuster.
“We don’t need 100% of markets to be in business, but we need a majority of them,” said Fithian about the requirement for studios to release a new major film.
The NATO boss also said there’s added benefit for studios such as Warner Bros. and Disney (who is releasing “Mulan” later in July) for dropping new films early. Fithian explained that the lack of new releases means theaters will be better suited to devote more screens to “Tenet” and the first few blockbusters.
“Theoretically that’s something we can do,” he said. “We’ve been having conversations with Warner Bros. and Chris Nolan about ‘Tenet’ and with Disney about ‘Mulan.’ It’s not like we will have had five weeks of new releases leading up to those films, so we can devote many more auditoriums to screening them.”
Ultimately, NATO believes that studios that have been holding out for theaters to reopen (versus taking films and putting them straight-to-VOD) will be making the right move.
“I think that traditional windowing will make sense for these movies,” Fithian explained. “They will play a lot longer in theaters than they would have a year ago. They won’t open to the kind of numbers they would have a year ago, but there’s going to be tremendous word-of-mouth. People are going to love ‘Tenet’ and share that on social media, but they’re also going to talk about how impressed they are with how seriously theaters are taking their responsibility to provide a safe environment. These films will also have staying power because people will be so sick of being stuck in their houses that they’re going to flood to cinemas.”
As mentioned, “Tenet” is expected to open on July 17, followed by “Mulan” merely a week later, on July 24.