tenet release news

All summer, the same story: Tenet will fix things. Tenet will hail the return to movie theaters, and save them from bankruptcy in the process. Tenet will be the solution to the problem…if only it could open. Of course, nothing went according to plan. The planned July release date came and went. So did the August release date. Now, Christopher Nolan‘s big blockbuster has opened overseas, and is finally gearing up to arrive on American shores. Which means attention has been refocused onto the movie yet again.

Are you ready for Tenet? Well, if so, you better get your mask ready – and maybe check your hearing. The latest from Mr. Christopher Nolan heads to (select) American theaters this week with the coronavirus still very much a problem. While Warner Bros. would’ve loved to open this sucker in all the theaters in the world at once, that became impossible. Instead, WB pushed the film into theaters overseas – you know, in places where they have their shit together, unlike us here in the U.S. of A. – and are now rolling the movie out this week where possible.

Per Deadline, AMC – one of the biggest theater chains out there – “will have 70% of its circuit open this weekend, counting 420 locations. This includes San Diego, CA following the state Governor Newsom’s reopening provisions last Friday. In total, 140 additional AMC theaters will reopen this weekend.” All over the country the question lingers: who can show Tenet, and where? The release has been anything but smooth. Just this week there was some confusion about whether or not the film could open in New Jersey (my home state). The Garden State is allowing NJ theaters to reopen this weekend, but it seems AMC’s aren’t going to be prepared – they had no time to gear up for this.

With all this in mind, it goes without saying that while Tenet will make money, it’s not going to make nearly as much money as it would’ve in a normal year. You know – a year where a killer plague wasn’t still stalking U.S. citizens as the President of the United States does absolutely nothing about the problem because he’s an incompetent monster.

As a result, THR has a report stating that box office recovery is going to be gradual. Don’t expect a sudden burst of headlines screaming that the exhibitor industry is saved, in other words. “I don’t think anybody knows how much Tenet will do in the U.S.,” MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler tells the publication. “Consumers are looking for a reason to get out of the house, but the recovery won’t be instantaneous. And it won’t go in a straight line.” THR adds that before the pandemic, Tenet could’ve had a $50 million to $70 million opening, but now, “$20 million to $25 million would be considered decent.”

Box office analyst Jeff Bock adds: “In terms of opening films in the middle of a pandemic, the U.S. must realize that many overseas territories have dealt with COVID much better than we have. Thus, audiences [abroad] are much more willing to go to theaters.” And Variety has this rather ominous diagnosis: “Two top media investors and advisors this week warned of years of pain still to come in the U.S. theatrical movie business. The disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated some existing trends and already wrecked many studios’ business models.”

While we’re on the subject of Tenet, let’s talk about how it sounds. Christopher Nolan movies have become rather infamous for their sound design, wherein Nolan tends to favor sound effects over dialogue. This ends up being a problem for some people because many of Nolan’s films have a lot of expositional dialogue. I’ll confess that I’ve never really had this problem. I know people were very vocal about Bane’s voice in The Dark Knight Rises, but I understood every single thing Tom Hardy said in that weird voice of his. It was never an issue.

That changed when I saw Tenet, however. Tenet is the first time I’ve really noticed how garbled Nolan’s dialogue can be. And the fact that every character in Tenet has a different accent – American, British, Russian, etc. – doesn’t help matters. There were a handful of scenes where I had absolutely no idea what the hell anyone was saying. I also saw the film in a Dolby theater, where the sound effects were cranked up so high that my chair actually vibrated.

For Nolan’s part, he doesn’t deny any of this. “I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue,” the filmmaker said during an interview for Interstellar. “Clarity of story, clarity of emotions — I try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal — picture and sound. I’ve always loved films that approach sound in an impressionistic way and that is an unusual approach for a mainstream blockbuster, but I feel it’s the right approach for this experiential film.”

While I see where Nolan is coming from, and I’ve already said I’ve never had a problem with this approach before, I do think it hurts Tenet. The ideas the film are trying to get across are dense and unapologetically complicated, and to have the dialogue explaining some of that stuff drowned out or garbled causes more than a few headaches. So if you’re willing to brave theaters to see Tenet this weekend, word to the wise: listen closely.

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