For Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet' To Get Released, At Least 80% Of Movie Theaters Around The World Need To Be Open

All eyes are on Christoher Nolan's new movie Tenet, which is currently slated to be the first major blockbuster released in theaters since the coronavirus pandemic shut the industry down back in March. It's the movie that exhibitors are hoping can help bring them back from the economic slump imposed upon them by COVID-19, but a new report indicates that in order for Tenet to be released, Warner Bros. Pictures needs at least 80% of movie theaters around the world to be open in order to be worth their trouble.

Deadline has the latest on the possibility of the Tenet release date, currently set for July 17, being delayed like so many other summer blockbusters this year. They've heard from "solid sources" that Warner Bros. has determined 80% of theaters in the entire globe need to be open by the time that release date rolls around. That includes theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the three biggest markets in the country, which make up 25% of any given movie's opening weekend.

Supposedly, Warner Bros. would need the movie on 3,500 screens in the United States and another 30,000 around the rest of the world in order to get a solid box office return, especially with the movie costing around $200 million and Christopher Nolan getting 20% of the first dollar gross. That's a big wide release, but will there even be enough movie theaters open to make that possible?

Considering there have been reports that Los Angeles will keep their shelter-at-home order in place for at least another three months and won't open movie theaters for awhile, and New York was hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, I find it hard to believe that enough movie theaters in those two major markets will be ready for business by mid-July. Granted, restrictions will be gradually lifted during that time to allow more businesses to reopen, but even if they're open by then, movie theaters will not be operating at full capacity. That's likely why WB would need so many screens to ensure the box office total is still satisfactory with lower audience turnout.

As of now, Warner Bros. is "assessing the situation daily with medical experts and watching exhibition reopenings closely." Apparently there's already a back-up plan in place too. If Tenet doesn't release on July 17, then it will move into the August 14 release date that was previously given to the delayed Wonder Woman 1984, and the superhero sequel starring Gal Gadot will be shifted to December, and there could be even more schedule shuffling in the aftermath of that delay.

A bigger question is whether or not the population is ready to return to movie theaters. Sure, people are going stir-crazy after being stuck at home, and they want to get out of the house. But how many of them are still worried about a second wave of coronavirus? How many of them are willing to go back out into a public space like that for entertainment? Sure, the social distancing measures and cleaning policies that will be employed by theaters will comfort cautious audiences, but will it be enough to properly restart the movie theater industry? A poll done not too long ago indicated that many were eager to go back to theaters, but there's only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan is clearly passionate about getting movie theaters back on track, and Warner Bros. Pictures surely wants the greatest possible return on their reported $200 million-plus investment in Tenet. These are such uncertain times that it's hard to see how this is going to go down, and we probably won't know until we're at least halfway through June. But by that point, can the studio even market the movie well enough to get people into theaters to see it? There's no brand recognition from established intellectual property, and the cast doesn't have many big box office draws in it. Furthermore, even if you wanted to advertise, morning commutes are down drastically, reducing the effectiveness of billboards and radio ads. There aren't yet any major events like sports to attract enough eyes to see those commercials, and TV shows pulling in millions of viewers are few and far between too. It's a tough situation all around, but maybe Christopher Nolan is all the recognition audiences need.

Regardless, Deadline says they've heard Tenet is "as amazing asĀ Inception," so whenever movie theaters get to reopen, we know this movie will be there to captivate audiences. We just hope that movie theaters and audiences will still be plentiful when that time comes. But most importantly, we hope they will be safe.