More grim news for the American theater industry today, as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, intended to serve as a starting gun of sorts for the return of blockbuster cinema to theaters, has been delayed by Warner Bros. yet again—this time without an immediately announced new date. Both the studios and theaters are clearly facing a reckoning, driven by surging cases of COVID-19 as states backpedal on their reopening plans. Notably, there’s still no timetable for when theaters in the country’s two biggest film markets, New York City and L.A., will be open.
Tenet was originally supposed to open on July 17, but was then pushed back twice to Aug. 12, with small, incremental changes to the release date that were clearly the result of wishful thinking on Warners’ part. This latest change seems to be different—Tenet has been removed from its Aug. 12 release date, and another date has not been announced. Instead, the studio says it will share that date “imminently.”
“We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature,” said Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich in a statement. “We are not treating Tenet like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that.”
That’s some pretty significant wording, as the admission that Tenet will likely not receive a “global day-and-date” release likely implies that the film will open in some markets before it opens in others. That could mean Tenet initially opens overseas, as film markets in Europe and Asia have begun to reopen—not coincidentally, in countries with better coronavirus response that the U.S. As for the U.S., though? It’s impossible to say when the release might be possible, and you have to wonder if this means Disney’s Mulan and other August releases will be the next to be delayed yet again.
“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,” said Emmerich. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to reevaluate our release dates.”
With a less expensive film, going straight to VOD at some point might be an option, but Tenet’s massive $200 million budget practically necessitates a theatrical release at some point if the film would have any hope of breaking even. So we’re just going to have to wait—check out the latest Tenet trailer below in the meantime.