tenet release nolan

Once upon a time, Tenet was going to be the movie that saved movie theaters. To be fair, no one directly involved with the movie actually said that out loud. But it was an assumption that set in – an assumption that the film would open in the summer and revitalize the coronavirus-stricken box office. Of course, as we all know, the movie didn’t even open over the summer. Instead, it got pushed to September. And rather than save theaters, Tenet seemed to signal the beginning of the end, despite pretty good box office returns. Now, director Christopher Nolan is weighing-in on what happened.

While speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Nolan finally shared his thoughts on Tenet‘s release. His reaction to the whole experience? Both thrilled and worried. “Warner Bros. released Tenet, and I’m thrilled that it has made almost $350 million,” the director said. “But I am worried that the studios are drawing the wrong conclusions from our release — that rather than looking at where the film has worked well and how that can provide them with much-needed revenue, they’re looking at where it hasn’t lived up to pre-COVID expectations and will start using that as an excuse to make exhibition take all the losses from the pandemic instead of getting in the game and adapting — or rebuilding our business, in other words.”

Tenet did much better overseas than it did in the U.S., and that domestic lag seemed to spook other studios. The message studios took away was that audiences were not comfortable returning to theaters, not even for a new Christopher Nolan blockbuster. As a result, big movies that were set to be released after Tenet had their release dates shuffled or pushed.  For example: Wonder Woman 1984, another Warner Bros. movie, was supposed to arrive in October, but ended up getting pushed back to December.

In the same interview, Nolan added: “Long term, moviegoing is a part of life, like restaurants and everything else. But right now, everybody has to adapt to a new reality.”

Right now, no one can say with any certainty how things are going to shake out for movie theaters. There remains a hope that by 2021 we’ll have found some sort of concrete plan to deal with the coronavirus, and that moviegoers will be more open to returning to theaters, and theaters will in turn be ready to open. For now, though, we just have to wait.

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