Christopher Nolan's Tenet movie is now going to be released overseas before getting a limited theatrical release in the US over Labor Day (where possible). Tenet is now opening in over 70 countries before it gets to America, as Hollywood tests out another revision of its standard release formula for blockbuster movies, due to the massive disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic. With Tenet now opening wide overseas first, there's a big looming question about whether the film will be ruined for US viewers (among others) due to everything from piracy, to major spoilers leaking online. Will the domestic losses kill Tenet's chances for blockbuster success?
Warner Bros. multiple delays on premiering Tenet in US territories first, shows just how valuable the studio considers that market. WB clearly wanted to keep with the usual rollout plan, and bet that the coronavirus pandemic could be quelled by mid-summer. Christopher Nolan himself stood tall and tried to hold Tenet's theatrical release as a sort of beachhead for the theater industry; after all, Nolan and Warner Bros. maintain that Tenet is the sort of "event film" theaters and their patrons need to galvanize the industry into motion again.
Unfortunately, dreams of Tenet making its mid or even late summer release date were formed during the springtime surge of COVID-19 infections in the US. At that time (if you can remember), the movie industry had just ground to a sudden halt, with everyone scrambling to predict when things could re-open again. During those early days, it seemed like summer could at least be a solid testing ground, with releases like Tenet, Disney's Mulan, and DC's Wonder Woman 1984 all being big late-summer lures for patrons to make a big return to theaters. As it's played out, the early summer re-openings in the US have led to a major uptick in COVID-19 infections across the nation, making everything from movie theaters to schools and universities now struggle with the prospect of how (or if) to re-open.
There is a lot of debate raging across multiple industries (besides entertainment) about how to now do business in the current realities of the marketplace. Many countries are winning their battle with the coronavirus pandemic, and offering sustainable marketplaces for new films to be released. With enough of them working in coordination (the UK, Asia, miscellaneous other territories) the financial benefits will inevitably be worth shuffling the US into a later release slot.
While that is a financial reality of the 2020 year in movies, going forward, it's going to be very interesting to see the cultural reaction as US audiences used to be first and now have to dodge big waves of spoilers for the international crowds. To be fair, the rest of the world has lived with that cinematic reality for years, so they probably deserve this turn to be first at-bat. Arguing that doing so will "ruin" the movie for others is ultimately a myopic view.
For their part, Marvel Studios has been ahead of the times for years now, releasing many of their big movies in UK markets a week before the US premieres. In the end, US fans still manage to enjoy those films without any problem, or threat of mass spoilers, so why not Tenet? If anything, It's Warner Bros. and Nolan who should be worried: with so many US fans having little to no new blockbuster movie content in 2020, piracy of Tenet could quickly spiral out of control...
Tenet will hit US theaters over Labor Day weekend (where possible).
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