Tenet was supposed to be the movie that brought American movie-watching audiences back to the cinemas again or so Christopher Nolan hoped. For the longest time, Nolan was adamant about the film maintaining its July release date. However, Nolan and Warner Bros eventually had to give in and push the film back to August 13 when it became increasingly evident that the United States, under the stewardship of Donald Trump, does not seem to have a handle on the COVID-19 situation at all. But even this decision seemed overly optimistic. Evidence suggests that the US is not even close to solving the Coronavirus crisis. There is no way in hell cinemas in the US will open in August, and even if they do, don’t expect the masses to rush to buy a ticket.
On top of that, Tenet reportedly needs to make more than $US 800 million to be considered a proper financial success, which means it cannot solely rely on the North American box office. Unfortunately, loads of countries around the world are still battling COVID-19, and although most are handling it better than the US, governments have enforced strict SOPs for theatre operators and movie-goers. For example, it is said that Tenet might not be able to hit the big screens in China as the Chinese government has imposed a ruling that only films that are two hours and shorter may be able to screen in theatres. Why? Basically they don’t want large numbers of people to be sitting in a confined space for too long. Furthermore, the attendance of each screening will be capped at 30%.
Surely all of these have been weighing on the minds of the folks at Warner Bros, as at long last they have finally decided to postpone Tenet indefinitely. According to Variety, Warner Bros has removed Tenet from its calendar, with no new release date pencilled in just yet. In a statement, WB chairman Toby Emmerich said:
“We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature. Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theatre partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen.”
In all honesty, I think this is the right move. Sure, it sucks that we might only be able to see Tenet at the end of the year or maybe even next year. It’s a film that many people have been dying to see. It also sucks for theatre operators around the world, who have already opened but are heavily reliant on Hollywood films to draw a crowd in (Malaysia is one example). That said, postponing the film indefinitely is probably a move that makes the most sense financially for Warner Bros. It is also, I believe, the best decision from an audience perspective. It’s the kind of film that demands a wide release all over the world at (roughly) the same time. It’s the kind of film that should be caught on the big screen on opening night, with a packed house.