For the second time this month, Warner Bros. has announced that they will delay yet again the release of Christopher Nolan‘s highly-anticipated blockbuster Tenet.
Originally slated for July 17, the WB first bumped it to July 31 as COVID-19 cases began to rise in June. Now, that COVID rise has evolved into a full-blown spike in regions across the country. As a result, Warners has delayed Tenet yet again, this time for another two weeks. Now it’s slated for August 12.
And at this point, does anyone actually believe that this new date will stick?
Of course not, especially considering how the state of California is COVID-spiking so dramatically right now that the possibility of a substantial theatrical audience in the land of Hollywood seems all-but-impossible anytime this summer.
So why keep nudging this particular movie? Why not just commit to a November release and be done with it?
If I were to nutshell the closed-door discussions by Warner Bros. executives about releasing Tenet, here’s my guess as to what that summary would be:
- “Look, we’re all committed to a theatrical release on this one, but there is no way that Tenet is getting released this summer. November/December is more likely. Here’s the bottom line: we are in the Christopher Nolan business. We WANT to be in the Christopher Nolan business. Unfortunately, Christopher is just unwilling to accept reality right now until the very last minute. Which is fine. He’s passionate and we love that. And given that, instead of doing the obvious now, we’ll just keep punting Tenet down the calendar a couple of weeks at a time. Sure, it’s obnoxious, but it’s still best for us to wait for that inevitable moment when Christopher himself finally realizes that there will be no theatrical or audience support for his movie on that release date. At such point, we’ll punt it for another two weeks. And we’ll keep punting and repeating that cycle for as long as we have to if that’s what keeps Christopher feeling happy, respected, and appreciated.”
Again, that’s me scripting a hypothetical, not an actual quote, but I’m guessing it’s pretty accurate.
Here’s another factor. It seems likely that Nolan doesn’t simply want a theatrical release for Tenet; he’s probably determined to have Tenet be the savior of the multiplex. What does that mean? Well, it means that Nolan probably wants Tenet to lead the national reopening, not simply open in the middle of it after it has already resumed.
So how does that commitment play out practically? Nolan is probably still unwilling to cede ground to big titles currently scheduled for September release (like A Quiet Place Part II) until they reschedule as well.
At this point, it seems inevitable that everything is going to shift again, including Mulan. Disney has pushed that a second time, now scheduling it for August 21, one week after Tenet. In addition, Bill & Ted Face the Music was scared off of its mid-August launch; it’s now slated for August 28.
If any of these new August dates hold, I’ll be stunned. September’s, too, for that matter.
October may be the soonest we see a new release, which could be Tenet. If that occurs, Warners would then move their October 2 date for Wonder Woman 1984 to either later this year or even hold it until next summer. Why wait that long? Warners may actually be desperate for Summer 2021 content if productions can’t ramp up again relatively soon. Plus, it’d be easier to make that WW84 concession if Tenet becomes an October or November release.
All that to say: if you think we have a clear idea right now of what the fall and holiday movie landscape will look like, think again.
Or as Film Industry writer Kris Tapley put it in a tweet…