tenet release

Everyone involved with the movie industry, from studios to theaters, wants Tenet to save the day. While the majority of upcoming movies have been delayed due to the coronavirus, Christopher Nolan‘s mysterious new blockbuster has held fast to its July 17 release date. But is that really going to happen? Will movie theaters be ready to reopen by then? And assuming they are, will moviegoers actually want to take the risk?

Variety has a piece up today all about Tenet, and how everyone really, really wants the movie to open in July and signal the return of movie theaters. But there’s a lot of risk here. For one thing, no one even knows if theaters will be able to open in time. For another, even if the theaters can open, it’s doubtful they’ll be operating at full capacity. It’s also doubtful that huge audiences – something a movie like Tenet needs – will be able to turn out.

As Variety puts it:

With a production budget around $200 million, “Tenet” can’t afford to play in just the few areas that are less affected by coronavirus. In particular, it will struggle to make a profit if theaters aren’t open in New York City and Los Angeles, the country’s two biggest filmgoing markets. Ticket sales in those locations can account for 10% to 20% of a film’s domestic earnings.

So when will we know for sure if Warner Bros. is going to go ahead with this idea? Per the report, a decision is going to be made “within a week about whether to hold Tenet’s planned debut on July 17 or push it back deeper into 2020″ because “Warner Bros. will need to start revving up its marketing campaign for the film, and it won’t want to spend tens of millions of promotional dollars only to have to move it.”

Movie theaters are desperate to get up and running again, and are already planning all sorts of new safety egulations, including “requiring audience members to wear masks, instituting contact-free concessions, and limiting crowd size so people can sit six feet apart in theaters. And like many businesses now attempting to reopen, theaters are implementing health checks, including temperature screenings. People with high temperatures, or anyone who has recently experienced flu-like symptoms, will be turned away.” Boy oh boy, that sure sounds like a magical evening at the cinema, doesn’t it?

I get it: we’re all going stir crazy. We miss our old way of life. We miss going to the movies. But there is almost no sign at the moment of things magically getting better. I’m excited to see Tenet, and I appreciate Christopher Nolan’s commitment to reviving movie theaters. He’s all-in on the idea, with Imax CEO Richard Gelfond claiming, “I don’t know anyone in America who is pushing harder to get the theaters re-opened and to get his movie released than Chris Nolan.”

But that doesn’t mean any of this is a good idea. And as much as I’d love to head back to the movies in July to see Tenet, I have a sneaking suspicion that Warner Bros, is ultimately going to push the release back. Stay tuned.

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