Warner Bros. is taking Tenet off the theatrical release calendar for now, because the U.S. major circuits remain closed in New York and Los Angeles due to coronavirus. Warner Bros is now prepping the film for an unconventional theatrical rollout, which won’t be a global day-and-date release that was expected.
What does Warner Bros. mean by unconventional? Essentially, with theaters reopening in China, Asian markets like South Korea vibrant, and other offshore territories in Europe and Japan coming back on line, there is a good probability that the Christopher Nolan movie will open abroad first. In regards to the U.S., where drive-ins are dominating the business and just over 1,000 of the nation’s 5,000 theaters are open, Tenet is poised to play wherever and whenever it can — even if New York City and Los Angeles aren’t back on line.
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The studio also announced that Conjuring 3 is moving from its Sept. 11 release date to June 4 next year, as we first told you on June 30. I’ve heard from exhibition sources a scenario whereby Tenet possibly starts its U.S. rollout on Sept. 11, but that of course isn’t definite yet.
Warner Bros. is looking forward to a long theatrical tail on Tenet as Nolan is a champion of the big screen, and I understand there aren’t any plans to collapse the window, i.e. making the John David Washington movie available in homes shortly (either on HBO Max or PVOD) after a brief theatrical debut. The studio is expecting to draw two-thirds of the film’s box office from overseas, so a theatrical play is at the top of their mindset.
At this time, the studio is rewriting the distribution playbook in real time and will remain flexible in response to the erratic COVID-19 world we live in. Above all, Warner Bros isn’t turning its back on exhibition.
It will be interesting to see how the other major studios which had movies around Tenet, i.e. Disney with Mulan on Aug. 21, Solstice Studios with Unhinged on July 31, Sony/Tri-Star with The Broken Hearts Gallery on Aug. 7, United Artists Releasing/Orion’s Bill & Ted Face the Music respond. All of these movies having been rescheduling as a block with Tenet‘s shift from July 17 to July 31 to previously Aug. 12. The major circuits–AMC, Regal, Cinemark– have held off on reopening even in markets where it’s safe to do so, largely due to the fact that there isn’t any major studio product.
“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group in a statement this morning. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to reevaluate our release dates. Amidst all this continued uncertainty, we have decided to vacate the current dates for our next two releases. We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature. We are not treating Tenet like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that. Additionally, we will be moving the next installment from our most-successful horror franchise, The Conjuring 3, to June 4, 2021.”
Nolan has been eager to be on the forefront of the effort to reopen theaters but Warner Bros has had to move the film repeatedly so what happened this morning isn’t a surprise. All Nolan movies carry event-sized budgets, so there is plenty of risk here. The studio has been playing Tenet commercials right along that hint at a mind bending concept on the order of Inception.
In addition, Warners is looking at a non-traditional marketing campaign for Tenet as well, which will include less TV and outdoor, more digital, along with a more affordable and shorter campaign window. I’ve heard for quite some time that the studio has a campaign locked and ready to go.
Today’s release date changes only pertains to Tenet and The Conjuring 3. Wonder Woman 1984 and Legendary’s Dune remain scheduled respectively for October 2 and December 18.
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