Warner Bros delays release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet again


Christopher Nolan’s new film Tenet, hailed for weeks as a key release to revive cinemagoing after the coronavirus shutdown, has been delayed yet again due to uncertainty over cinemas reopening in the US.

Deadline reports that Tenet’s backers Warner Bros have taken the film off their release calendar, with no confirmed date, though studio chair Toby Emmerich says a date will be announced “imminently”. Tenet, a big budget science fiction thriller starring John David Washington, has already been shifted several times: originally due to open on 17 July in the US, it was moved to 31 July and then 12 August.

Nolan has long been a champion of the cinema experience, and is understood to be keen to ensure Tenet does not break the release window by going to streaming or video on demand. He was also recently reported to have turned down a proposal that Tenet be released outside the US first, in territories where cinemas have already reopened, in order to support US cinemas.

However, Emmerich’s statement implied that the position on an earlier international release may be changing; he said in his statement that “[Warner Bros is] not treating Tenet like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that”. Tenet’s $200m-plus budget would normally call for a swift global rollout in every territory, combining event-scale marketing and an attempt to restrict piracy.

The change in direction follows increasing complaints by non-US distributors and cinema operators that their industries will be crippled by Hollywood’s focus on North American cinemas as reopening plans in the US have been upended by the chaotic response to the pandemic. An unnamed UK executive told Variety that, given that Hollywood blockbusters can earn up to 70% of their takings outside the US, “it feels like that’s been forgotten”. Tim Richards, CEO of multiplex chain Vue International, said: “We can’t thrive again as an industry without a concerted effort on the major releases.” Jocelyn Bouyssy, managing director of CGR Cinemas, France’s second biggest multiplex chain, said: “It will be a catastrophe if Mulan and Tenet are further delayed … We don’t know how long we can hold up like this.”