“Tenet” may still be able to salvage a summer release after all — at least outside of the United States. Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller, from Warner Bros., will debut internationally starting on Aug. 26 before opening in select cities in North America over Labor Day weekend on Sept. 3.
The studio announced Monday that “Tenet” is launching at the end of August in 70 overseas territories, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom. At this time, it’s unclear what parts of the U.S. will play the film. The studio does not have plans yet to release “Tenet” in China.
Warner Bros. said last week that “Tenet” would not have a traditional global day-and-date release — a surprising (though not unprecedented) break from tradition since North America is the world’s biggest film market and remains pivotal for major movies to turn a profit. But the studio hopes to innovate and recalibrate given the fact that foreign markets are already starting to reopen safely and desperately need new Hollywood movies to entice crowds. The U.S., on the other hand, has seen coronavirus cases exponentially rise in recent weeks, complicating plans to resume operations at domestic movie theaters anytime soon.
As Variety previously reported, Warner Bros. recently began telling exhibitors in Europe and Asia about plans for an Aug. 26-28 opening weekend. Strong ticket sales for “Train to Busan” sequel “Peninsula,” which has generated $21 million in Korea since July 15, was a sign of confidence to studios that patrons were ready to get out of the house and attend the movies.
Traditionally, a staggered rollout would be a risky proposition for a movie like “Tenet,” which cost around $200 million to produce and tens of millions more to market. Beyond piracy concerns, “Tenet” could face other hindrances from its new release plan. Audiences know very little about its plot, an intentional promotional tactic that’s become de rigueur for Nolan’s twisty cerebral thrillers. (What we do know, however, is that it stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki — and that it’s not time travel, it’s inversion.) If spoilers leak, it could put a damper on demand to see the film in the U.S. Alternatively, it’s been so long since there has been a major theatrical release — people could be itching to see anything fresh once it’s safe to go to cinemas again.
Warner Bros. is still waiting for the go-ahead to debut “Tenet” in China, the world’s second-biggest movie market. Initially, there were concerns that “Tenet” wouldn’t be able to screen there. When theaters in the country first started to reopen, exhibitors were not able to play movies that exceeded two hours in length — and “Tenet” clocks in at just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. But cinema owners have recently booked “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Inception” and other old titles with lengthy runtimes, suggesting that China has eased up or doesn’t plan to enforce the restriction.
Nolan is a vocal advocate of movie theaters and exhibitors had long hoped that “Tenet” could be a saving grace for cinemas after prolonged shutdowns that began in March. But that has become increasingly complicated. In the U.S., a majority of venues are still closed as experts have found that the virus spreads rapidly inside confined spaces, such as movie theaters, restaurants and churches. Exhibitors have based their timelines to reopen around “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan” — and ordering concessions, rehiring employees and taking steps to become coronavirus-compliant has proved to be pricey. Theater owners have privately expressed frustrations because they are losing money every time they gear up to resume business, only to have studios push back release dates.
There’s no telling if the latest date will stick, but if it does, “Tenet” will be the first major tentpole to release in theaters since the pandemic. Nolan’s latest picture has been delayed three times since it was originally scheduled to debut in July. Given the rapidly-changing nature of the global heath crisis, these plans could remain fluid if the situation worsens. Studios have continued to adapt and modify theatrical plans as shutdowns extend into their fifth month. In the past few days, Disney has taken “Mulan” off its calendar and Paramount moved “A Quiet Place 2” from Labor Day weekend to spring 2021.
See “Tenet’s” global release plan below:
Wednesday, Aug. 26:
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom
Thursday, Aug. 27:
Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Middle East, New Zealand, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates
Friday, Aug. 28:
East Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Vietnam
Wednesday, Sept. 3:
United States, Kuwait and Qatar
Thursday, Sept. 10:
Azerbaijan, CIS Others, Kazakhstan, Russia
Thursday, Sept. 17:
Friday, Sept. 18:
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela