Warner Bros. has removed “Tenet” from its release calendar, delivering a big blow on the exhibition industry at a time when movie theaters had hoped to peg their re-opening to the late summer debut of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller.
Though necessary given the mass uncertainty over when cinemas across the globe can safely reopen, the decision further complicates Hollywood’s already bumpy plan to revive moviegoing. “Tenet” was originally scheduled to debut on July 17 but was pushed back twice until Aug. 12. It’s unclear when it will now welcome audiences, but the studio plans to share a new release date “imminently.”
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“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.”
The studio also announced that “The Conjuring 3” has been postponed to June 4, 2021. The eighth entry in Warner Bros.’ horror franchise was schedule to debut in theaters on Sept. 11. However, “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” was supposed to have additional shoots scheduled for April. Since production across the globe hasn’t been able to resume, it wouldn’t be ready in time for its target release date.
“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,” Emmerich said. “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.”
Sources at Warner Bros. stress that they will have to be flexible with its plans to release “Tenet,” which means it will not have a traditional theatrical rollout. Movie theaters overseas have already started to reopen, so there’s a chance it could launch internationally prior to a domestic release. That would be welcome news for exhibitors in Europe and Asia, two robust moviegoing markets that haven’t had a new Hollywood movie to entice audiences in months. In their plans to reopen, movie theater owners recently expressed concern to Variety that the global box office has all but been “forgotten” by U.S. studios. Previous films from “Nolan” have earned more than 50% of box office revenues from theaters overseas.
While most studios have postponed their major movies into late 2020 or 2021 and beyond, Nolan has high hopes that “Tenet” can usher audiences back to theaters, which have been closed since March to help stop the spread of coronavirus. For that reason, Warner Bros. had previously decided to incrementally move “Tenet” back weeks at a time, rather than postpone it to a significant degree until cinemas across the country are able to safety reopen. Now, insiders at Warner Bros. say they could more forward in select U.S. cities where public health and government officials deem it safe.
It’s still unclear when movie theaters, especially in major markets like New York City and Los Angeles, will be able to resume operations at a large-scale level. When they do reopen, there’s no telling how eager people will be to return to the movies. Warner Bros. shelled out $200 million to produce “Tenet,” not including hefty marketing fees, meaning it’s no small gamble to unveil the film to the masses.
Other anticipated titles from the studio — including “Wonder Woman 1984” (Oct. 2), Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” remake (Dec. 18) — remain scheduled for 2020. However, they could be moved if coronavirus infections continues to surge. In recent months, the studio also shuffled around opening weekends for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “In the Heights” (June 18, 2021) and “The Batman” with Robert Pattinson (June 25, 2021).
“Tenet” stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. Nolan, whose credits also include “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Interstellar,” wrote and directed the film, about a secret agent tasked with preventing another world war. The cast includes Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Kenneth Branagh.
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