Tenet: Warner Bros. Reportedly Considering Second Delay Due to COVID-19 Surges

Warner Bros. is "strongly considering" delaying Christopher Nolan's Tenet another two weeks amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to a new report. The espionage thriller starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson long held its July 17 release date until mid-June, when it was pushed back to July 31 to give re-opening movie theaters an additional 14 days to resume operations. (Its original date was passed to Nolan's own Inception for its tenth anniversary, to be accompanied by sneak peek looks at the upcoming Warner slate.) After pushing director Patty Jenkins' superhero tentpole Wonder Woman 1984 from August 14 to October 2, Warner Bros. could use that now vacated date for Tenet.

The studio is mulling over a decision to shift Tenet to Wednesday, August 12, or another two days later on August 14, according to The Washington Post entertainment writer Steven Zeitchik. Warner Bros. had no comment on the rumored second delay.

Recent marketing materials for Tenet, including a new TV spot aired during WWE Raw, confirmed the film's July 31 date. Another big-budget tentpole — Disney's live-action Mulan, currently scheduled for July 24 as the first major release issued to theaters following months of coronavirus closures — could be the first to vacate the month of July as planned theater re-openings are now endangered by a spike in COVID-19 cases.

A May report from Deadline, citing sources, revealed Warner Bros. required at least 80% of the world's theaters to be open for Tenet to meet its then July 17 release date. Domestically, the requirement included the pivotal Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York territories, which can represent 25% of a film's opening weekend box office.

On June 12, after Warner Bros. pushed Tenet back by two weeks, The New York Times reported the studio — behind Dunkirk and Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy — were "leaning in favor of postponement" while Nolan "was more eager to press ahead" with the film's late July release date. According to that report, those discussions led to a "fraught moment" for Warner, who wants to keep "proven moneymaker" Nolan happy.

Nolan, who has rejected any possibility of a straight-to-digital release, has recently described Tenet as "perhaps the one [Nolan film] that is most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience."

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"This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we're very, very excited for you to see what it is we've done," Nolan said during a CineEurope appearance. "We've made big films in the past, but this is a film whose global reach and level of action is beyond anything we've ever attempted before. I think we only would have been able to pull off this film with the level of experience we've had doing action films in the past."

Tenet is currently scheduled to release only in theaters July 31.