The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to profoundly shape the entertainment industry, as worries about the virus' spread are pushing back a lot of social gatherings. Movie theaters have been especially affected by the ordeal, with the release of new blockbusters essentially at a standstill since early March, and the question of when theaters will be able to safely reopen slightly up in the air. Christopher Nolan's Tenet has been at the center of that debate, with the director reportedly optimistic that the film will help revitalize the movie theater landscape. With Tenet's release date already being delayed twice, and speculation that it might not keep its current August 12th date, it's unclear if and when that movement will happen, something that seems to be reflected behind the scenes.
A new report from Vulture dives into Warner Bros. and Nolan's efforts to get the film released, and while it stated that the two are "in concert" about distributing the film in a safe and timely manner, there has seemingly been a debate about how a release could play out. Sources suggest that Nolan and Warner Bros. had discussed releasing the film internationally prior to in North America, but that Nolan continues to want to support American theaters by having the film open worldwide on the same date.
As the report puts it, even having an international-first release could be risky, as the film's mysterious plot would surely be spoiled by some sort of international piracy. There's also the problem of whether or not theaters are open in other international markets, with the majority of China's theaters still shut down.
“Do you really just open a movie in Europe?” a rival studio exec says in the report. “Europe is terrible. South America is terrible. International is still a huge question mark.”
It will remain to be seen what the future holds for Tenet, and whether or not it opens internationally in August or opens worldwide at a later date. Given the fact that the film needs to reportedly gross $800 million to break even, releasing before general audiences are ready to return to theaters could be a significant risk.
“Between now and the end of the year, 50 percent loss is probably the best-case scenario,” The Ankler editor Richard Rushfield says in the report. “It’s probably more like 80 percent. There’s no way you can open a movie anytime between now and, say, February, and have any confidence that the box office is going to be anything resembling normal.”
Tenet is currently scheduled to be released on August 12th.