Movie Theaters Are Expected To Be 90% Open By The Time 'Tenet' Releases In July

Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is still in full force, all 50 states have begun to release their stay-at-home restrictions, with businesses across the country slowly grinding back to life. But what does that mean for movie theaters? Theaters across the country have remain shut since lockdowns were imposed in mid-March, but the National Association of Theater Owners, which represents movie theaters across the U.S., expects that 90% of the global theatrical marketplace will be open by July — the month that Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated blockbuster Tenet is set to open in theaters.

The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) is optimistic that most theaters across the world will be be back in operation by the time Tenet hits theaters on July 17. A spokesperson for NATO, which represents 68,000 screens in 99 countries, told Business Insider that they expect roughly 90% of theaters worldwide to be open in time for Tenet's theatrical release. But whether theaters will be safe to frequent by then is another question.

Theaters are depending on major tentpoles like Tenet to revive their flagging businesses — the box office has seen its worst results in history, and AMC Theaters, the biggest movie theater chain in the U.S., is on the verge of bankruptcy. On the flip side of the coin, Warner Bros. Pictures needs 80% of movie theaters open around the world in order to justify keeping the July 17 release date for Tenet.

However, that 90% claim is reportedly a benchmark that NATO is telling major distributors, not a number that is independently confirmed, according to IndieWire. The number covers the share of the market that these theaters represent, not the actual count of theaters. It's a goal that could prove difficult to achieve in the New York and Los Angeles markets, which represent roughly 14-15% of the domestic annual gross over 52 weeks, Paramount domestic distribution president Chris Aronson told IndieWire. This, as coronavirus cases rise in California, though New York appears to have flattened its curve. Still, New York City theaters are expected to be the last to be fully operational, IndieWire notes.

It's likely that these optimistic theater reopening numbers have been released by NATO to reassure investors and Warner Bros. that a July release date is still viable for Tenet. However, with Cinemark entering its re-opening rollout without mandating masks for its customers, it's uncertain if audiences will risk going to theaters for Nolan's highly anticipated action film just to get sick.