More details have emerged concerning Christopher Nolan rejecting Warner Bros.’ plan to delay Tenet months down the line. Nolan’s upcoming tentpole has been at the center of many discussions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
For the longest time, Tenet stayed put in its original July 17 release date, poised to be the first major movie to welcome audiences back to theaters following the health crisis. But with coronavirus cases spiking in the United States, WB had no choice but to move it. Initially, Tenet was delayed to July 31, and now it’s scheduled to come out August 12.
Whereas other studios have delayed their blockbusters by several months (and in some cases, into 2021), WB seems set on having Tenet come out in theaters this summer. Their motivation primarily stems from a desire to keep Nolan happy; Nolan has long been an advocate for the theatrical moviegoing experience and feels very passionate about Tenet playing on the big screen. Even when WB attempted to convince Nolan a long delay would be beneficial to Tenet, the director pushed back. Now, more details about those discussions have been revealed.
Per THR, WB had a meeting with Nolan in June to talk about Tenet’s planned premiere. The studio argued that delaying Tenet “months into the future” would be wise, as that would improve the film’s chances of turning a profit at the box office (when, theoretically, the pandemic is more under control). However, Nolan made his case for being first out of the gate, in an effort to “show faith in the form and solidarity with exhibitors.”
WB’s stance is very understandable. Tenet’s production budget is $200 million before marketing costs are factored in, meaning the studio needs it to have a very fruitful box office run in order to be a financial success. The symbolism of being the first big movie to come out post-COVID sounds nice on paper, but the entertainment industry is a business, and WB would rather not lose money on an expensive investment.
As theaters attempt to reopen this year, there will be restrictions in place to cap attendance, and studies have shown people will be leery of attending mass public gatherings (like movie screenings) in the immediate aftermath. That combination means Tenet’s projected box office in summer 2020 is far less than it might be at another time. Even with there being limited competition, Tenet would face an uphill climb to become profitable.
By comparison, Nolan’s position is arguably more of a mixed bag. On one hand, being the first big movie to come out after the outbreak has the potential to raise Tenet’s standing in the zeitgeist. Audiences have obviously been starved for a major title for months, so there’d be interest in seeing a new blockbuster – whatever it is.
That said, health and safety should remain the top priority as studios try to figure out their release schedules. Right now, coronavirus remains a very serious issue and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. It’s important for Nolan to be cognizant of that and perhaps be willing to be a little more flexible if Tenet’s release date comes up in meetings again.