'Tenet' Runtime Might Be Too Long To Play In China's Theaters

Tenet is facing yet another roadblock to its theatrical release. The Christopher Nolan action movie has a reported runtime of approximately 150 minutes — a lengthy runtime that is becoming standard for action tentpoles these days, but is way above the standard that China is allowing for films opening in its newly reopened movie theaters. Part of China's new coronavirus (COVID-19) health and safety measures as the country reopens movie theaters is that films playing at the theaters can't run more than two hours. This presents a major problem for the two hour-plus Tenet and the worldwide box office numbers it needs to rake in for Warner Bros. to make back its money.Tenet may be barred from theaters in China, per the China Film Associations reopening plans. Last week, Variety reported on China's plan to reopen movie theaters, per the China Film Association. The country had briefly reopened theaters in March once coronavirus cases had dropped to manageable numbers, but closed again soon after following a resurgence in cases from overseas. China is taking an even stricter approach in its July reopening, only opening in low-risk areas and implementing new health and safety measures that could prove a major obstacle for Tenet and other major Hollywood films that run over two hours. The new rule from the China Film Association requires that movies released in China can't run more than two hours, in an effort to minimize the amount of time moviegoers have to be in close quarters. It was Indiewire that pointed out that this could throw a wrench in the global release of one of the biggest upcoming Hollywood films, which has recently been delayed indefinitely by Warner Bros.

It's been reported that the Tenet runtime clocks in at 149 minutes and 59 seconds. Neither Nolan nor Warner Bros. have confirmed the official runtime yet, which comes courtesy of a Korean ratings board and may still be subject to change. But even give or take a few minutes, and Tenet will still be far above the required two-hour maximum runtime to play in Chinese theaters.

It's unclear if Nolan would consider cutting Tenet down for Chinese audiences, nor has China set a release date yet for Tenet. By the time it does hit theaters in China, the rule could even potentially be lifted. But it does throw a wrench in Warner Bros.' theatrical plans for the film, which will likely open internationally first, per reports of the U.S. Tenet delay. Warner Bros. reportedly needs 80% of movie theaters open around the world in order to make back the greatest possible on their reported $200 million-plus investment in Tenet, and China is one of the biggest international markets, if Tenet were to open globally before opening domestically. It's a difficult dilemma for Warner Bros: forego a theatrical release in China and lose out on a major international market, or risk displeasing their star filmmaker by cutting the film for China's theaters?

This is just the cherry on top of Tenet's theatrical woes, as Warner Bros. ponders a new 2020 domestic release date.