Warner Bros. has removed “Tenet” from its release calendar, delivering a big blow to theaters at a time when they had hoped to tie their re-openings to the late summer debut of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller.
Though necessary given the mass uncertainty over when cinemas across the globe can safely reopen, the decision further complicates Hollywood’s already bumpy plan to revive moviegoing. “Tenet” was originally scheduled to debut on July 17, but it was pushed back to July 31 and then Aug. 12. It’s unclear when it will now welcome audiences, but the studio expects to announce a new release date “imminently.”
“We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature,” said Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich in a statement. “Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen.”
In what would be a surprise move, Warner Bros. may release “Tenet” overseas before it opens in the United States. Though North America remains the biggest moviegoing market in the world, international cinemas look to be ahead of the States in their efforts to reopen. Sources at the studio stress they will have to be flexible with plans to unveil “Tenet,” suggesting the film won’t have a traditional rollout.
“We are not treating ‘Tenet’ like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that,” Emmerich said.
“Tenet,” which stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, is intentionally shrouded in secrecy — and a staggered rollout could raise concerns about piracy and spoilers in a way that could impact demand to see the film. However, it would be welcome news for exhibitors in Europe and Asia, two robust film markets that haven’t had a new Hollywood movie to entice audiences in months. In their blueprints to reopen, movie theater owners recently expressed concern that the global box office has all but been “forgotten” by U.S. studios. Previous films from Nolan have earned more than 50% of box office revenues from theaters overseas, and major tentpoles can generate as much as two-thirds of ticket sales from international venues.
But “Tenet” faces a unique caveat in China, the world’s second-largest movie market. Currently, its exhibitors cannot screen movies that exceed two hours in length. “Tenet” runs at just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Unless the country eases up on that restriction, there’s no sense of when it will be able play in China.
Warner Bros. also announced Monday that “The Conjuring 3” has been postponed to June 4, 2021. The eighth entry in the studio’s horror franchise was schedule to debut in theaters on Sept. 11. However, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” was supposed to have additional shoots in April. Since film production hasn’t been able to resume, it wouldn’t be ready in time for its target release date.