It's safe to say at this point that the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan's Tenet didn't quite go as well as the studio and filmmaker intended. In an industry put on hold due to COVID-19, Nolan insisted that his mega-budget spy thriller be the film to save movie theaters. WB pushed the release date from July to September but ultimately released it into an uncertain market where theaters in New York and Los Angeles weren't even open. The overall performance wasn't up to the task at hand, as Tenet has barely covered its production budget after nearly two months in theaters.
On Thursday morning, AT&T CEO John Stankey spoke about Tenet's release during the company's quarterly earnings call. Stankey admitted that, while he now feels better about the state of TV and film productions in the wake of the pandemic, the future of the theatrical business is still uncertain. This came with the acknowledgement that Tenet was, in fact, "no home run."
Stankey did go on to say, however, that he was "happy" Warner Bros. ultimately decided to release Tenet in theaters. It was a bold move to try and restart the theatrical business, it just didn't work out the way the studio had hoped.
In the wake of Tenet's release, Warner Bros. moved many of its films around to avoid a theatrical release in the very near future. Roald Dahl's The Witches, which stars Anne Hathaway, was sent straight to HBO Max, skipping a theatrical release altogether. Wonder Woman 1984 was delayed once again, aiming for a December release, while the Dune reboot was pushed to next fall.
According to Stankey, the upcoming holiday season will be "the next big checkpoint" when it comes to testing the waters for movie theaters. This could mean that Wonder Woman has a chance of keeping its 2020 release date after all, but Warner Bros. will be making some "game time decisions" when these releases get closer.
Tenet certainly had a ripple effect on the rest of the theatrical industry, especially for the upcoming slate at Warner Bros. Fortunately, it seems like the HBO Max streaming service is thriving, so the company has an option if the decision is made to move more films online.