Over the past year, we have written dozens of articles about Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” And though the film itself would have been written about quite a bit and definitely among our most anticipated of the year, the bulk of the discussion surrounding the action picture is the release date. More precisely, the discussion is about Warner Bros.’ continuing efforts to push for a summer release when the world is still reeling from the effects of COVID-19. Well, unfortunately, it appears the drama isn’t going away anytime soon.
Over the past week, we’ve seen film industry analysts break down the incredibly grim news for theater owners—the summer movie season is dead in 2020. Even though “Tenet” and “Mulan” are scheduled for August release dates, it’s clear that those are unlikely release dates with the spikes in the numbers of US citizens infected with COVID-19. And now, it’s becoming obvious that fall is hardly a guarantee, meaning the idea that “Tenet” is going to arrive in 2020 is becoming less and less plausible.
But why do we talk about the US all the time when it comes to the release date for “Tenet?” Sure, the US is a large chunk of the movie-going population, but it’s expected that Nolan’s film will earn roughly two-thirds of its grosses overseas. So, why not release the film internationally, specifically in countries where the pandemic is relatively controlled? Well, according to a new report from Vulture, it appears that WB and Nolan discussed this idea, but that it was ultimately decided that it would be best to wait for the US to catch up to the rest of the world.
The idea that Nolan wants to wait for the US theaters to reopen reportedly comes from his continual desire to support the theatrical experience around the world. He clearly doesn’t want to do anything that would have a negative impact on the exhibition side of the film industry, as he’s a firm believer in the power of the big screen. And the report claims that he wants to stick to the original plan of releasing the picture around the world at the same time to help show his support for the US theater industry.
Honestly, you can’t blame him, if that’s the case. While Nolan has never wavered from his support of theaters, releasing a film the size of “Tenet” around the world before reaching the US could have some seriously negative side-effects. Piracy would run rampant and spoilers would be prevalent, all before US audiences got a chance to see the film. And as we know, those things can negatively affect the buzz and therefore, the box office.
At this point, we’re all just waiting for WB’s next move. Does the studio delay the film and hope for a fall release, in a market that is already super crowded due to every other studio delaying films? Or does WB and Nolan decide to take 2020 off and look towards 2021, when “Tenet” has the best possible chance of having a major impact on the box office and earning a hefty profit? Like everything regarding “Tenet,” it’s a mystery that we are desperate to figure out the answers to.