Warner Bros. has delayed the release of the movie Tenet again, setting back efforts by theatre chains to save the summer blockbuster season. Audiences in India are unlikely to see the film in August as theatres are expected to reopen only around October in the country.
The film will now debut August 12 in the US, two weeks later than expected. In an unusual move, the studio plans to put the movie out on a Wednesday and keep it in theatres “over an extended play period far beyond the norm.” The idea is to give audiences wary of visiting the cinema immediately a chance to see it on the big screen.
Warner Bros. will re-release an older movie from the same director, Inception, on July 31, the date Tenet was previously supposed to come out. Warner Bros. and Christopher Nolan have been at odds over the timing, with the director pushing for an earlier premiere and the studio taking a more cautious approach, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The sci-fi psychological thriller stars John David Washington, Michael Caine, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh and Dimple Kapadia.
There’s growing speculation among theater chains that more schedule changes are looming, with Walt Disney Co.’s Mulan, slated for July 24, also in jeopardy. The heads of the major cinema chains, including market leader AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., have said they expect the release calendar to shift around in response to the pandemic, and that they’ll be more flexible than normal.
Disney previously delayed Mulan from March to July following the shutdown of theatres across the US to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Now it’s considering pushing it back again, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter. Disney didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The shake-up could leave Hollywood with its worst drought of summer blockbusters since Jaws ushered in the concept in 1975. Theatre chains had been preparing for a return to relative normal next month. The companies have been reopening cinemas with new cleaning regimens and employees in masks. But without big new movies to show, the already-struggling chains will have little to entice customers.
The Tenet release had already been pushed earlier back this month, from July 17 to July 31. And another big Warner Bros. film, Wonder Woman 1984 was moved to Oct. 2 from Aug. 14.
No matter how the schedule changes, studios could have a tough time recouping their investment in movies like Mulan and Tenet, both of which have budgets around $200 million. Theaters have capped ticket sales to adhere to social-distancing guidelines, and fresh outbreaks in many states will likely scare away potential customers.
While the official “Mulan” debut date remains less than a month away, Disney executives would typically start up a promotion machine, including billboards, TV ads and social media campaigns. Instead, they’ve held back as case numbers rise.
Warner Bros., part of AT&T Inc., has made a small marketing push for Tenet, not the campaign you would typically see for a $200 million movie. Nolan, who wrote and directed the film, is a big proponent of the traditional movie-theater experience and wants his films seen in cinemas. His previous pictures include 2017’s Dunkirk and three Batman movies.