This weekend marks the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began to spread with force in the United States that blockbuster movies are being released. The long delayed Warner Bros. feature Tenet is now playing in movie theaters around the country where it's able, and Disney's live-action remake of Mulan is available for streaming on the Disney+ platform at a premium cost. Two major movies that have been pushed back considerably by the pandemic, and two release strategies that are wildly different by the biggest studios in town. Speaking in a pair of interviews, Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff didn't mince words about Disney's diametrically opposed decision to WB.
“I don’t know if I completely understand the strategy, but anyone who is releasing movies right now, I’m rooting for them," Sarnoff told Deadline. "It is a different strategy that they’re taking in the U.S. versus international, and we’ll watch closely to see how they do. I think the silver lining of COVID is that we’re all experimenting in different ways and watching closely what the other does. Hopefully as an industry we’re stronger having had multiple experiences."
In a separate interview with THR, Sarnoff echoed her sentiment while also trying her best to sell the idea of going to a movie theater despite potential public health issues.
"I don’t completely understand Disney’s strategy, but they are releasing Mulan internationally in some theaters. I’m rooting for anybody who is getting a movie out. Fans are anxious for new content. I actually went to see Tenet last night in Connecticut. I’m in Bedford, New York, and drove 10 minutes to the theater with friends. And it was amazing. It was safe. There were no crowds. I even found a way to eat popcorn with a mask on. Of course my mask smells like popcorn now."
With its release in theaters this weekend Warner Bros. is banking on a longer than usual engagement for Christopher Nolan's latest. As opposed to the modern method of a major opening carrying a film's box office success through for a few weeks, the studio is eager to see it play on screens for months at a time.
"We’re using the old marathon-versus-sprint approach," Sarnoff said in an interview with Variety. "We’re in it for the long game. It’s so unprecedented to launch it this way. We’re feeling good and waiting for some numbers to start coming in."
Tenet is now in theaters and IMAX (where available), while Mulan can be watched from your home on Disney+.