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Christopher Nolan’s new movie Tenet delayed two weeks as theaters figure out the future

As America slowly reopens, Warner Bros. is rejiggering the release plan

john david washington with an oxygen mask on his face in tenet Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

As people around the globe take measured action to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Hollywood continues to rethink the release schedule in a world cautiously reopening but still without open movie theaters. The latest high-profile change comes from Warner Bros. Pictures, who has shifted Christopher Nolan’s Tenet just two weeks, from July 17 to July 31.

“We are excited that our partners at Warner Bros. will offer a new generation of film fans the opportunity to enjoy Tenet the way it was originally intended to be seen — on the big screen,” the National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Over these last months we have been keeping Warner Bros. closely informed of our work towards reopening our theatres in accordance with governmental health and safety requirements, and we are looking forward to audiences enjoying Tenet in our theaters all around the world on July 31st.”

The mid-July release turned Nolan into a blockbuster brand all his own. The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Dunkirk each opened between July 16 and July 21 in their respective summers. Tenet, would have continued the trend, which has earned the director and Warner Bros. over $2.5 billion in combined grosses.

Oddly enough, after movie theater closures, Walt Disney Pictures moved Mulan to the weekend after Tenet, which looked optimistic in March, but now appears less sturdy to hold after WB’s shift. But for now, with Tenet later in the month, It’s now up to Disney to relaunch movie theaters — and the excitement of moviegoing.

Besides a cryptic, Bond-like teaser trailer and an the Fortnite-debuted “explainer” trailer (that, uh, didn’t really explain much) we know little about Tenet. The film has a loaded cast, including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh, and Nolan shot the film with a mix of IMAX and 70mm film in seven countries. This is to say, it’s massive, and never would have been an option for HBO Max. Warner Brothers describes the film as “an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage.” True to Nolan’s character, the film appears to play with time in some capacity.

While a number of studios have detoured films’ theatrical releases in favor of streaming platform premieres, Nolan is a purist who revels in the theatrical experience. The film is an event, and one designed for multiplexes, whenever they resume business. Whether audiences will feel ready to go back to the movies is an entirely different question; as AMC Theaters, the largest chain in the U.S., warned that it expects to report a net loss of between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion for the first quarter of 2020, American multiplexes are hurting and won’t recover unless a blockbuster like Tenet can lure them back.

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