Although the plans have not been finalized, the person said that the studio is leaning toward pushing the film’s release to either Aug. 12 or Aug 14 from July 31, hoping that the additional two weeks would allow the country to recover from the current surge in coronavirus cases while still allowing the film to debut before the end of the summer.
A Warner Bros. spokesman declined to comment on the company’s plans.
“Tenet” has long shouldered the industry’s hopes of bringing consumers back to movie theaters after months of business closings. The trailers for the mysterious action-thriller have generated much attention online, and director Nolan’s last five films, dating back to “The Dark Knight” in 2008, have each made at least half a billion dollars worldwide.
“Tenet” had been scheduled for release July 17, with Warner Bros. maintaining that date even as many other films were postponed until fall. But two weeks ago, the studio pushed the film to July 31. If the studio postpones the film again, it will once more have delayed the movie as it drew within five weeks of opening. A studio’s intensive marketing campaign often launches about a month ahead of a film’s release.
During normal times, a studio almost never puts out its biggest franchises beyond the first weekend of August, after which much of the potential audience is either preparing to head back to school or traveling on an end-of-summer vacation.
But Hollywood hopes that consumers will be willing to extend their summer this year as state reopenings move slowly and many destinations remain shut down; a number of high-profile releases, such as “A Quiet Place Part II,” are currently planned for early September, typically a studio dead spot. A move to August would suggest Warner Bros. hasn’t entirely given up on summer, though faith is fading fast.
In theory, Warner Bros. can also keep postponing the movie in two-week increments; a release date has no binding legal power. Still, theaters are planning reopenings around the release, and the steady drip of small postponements could be more difficult for some than a clean months-long deferment.
Still, the possibility, even a remote one, of a “Tenet” summer opening could be helpful to AMC and other large theater chains hopeful of keeping lenders and landlords they rely on to run their businesses at bay with reassurances that business will soon resume. AMC planned to begin opening theaters in July, with most outlets open by the end of the month. It is unclear how a “Tenet” postponement would affect those plans.
An AMC spokesman did not reply to a request for comment.
One other big studio opening this summer remains on the calendar but that, too, is likely to change. Disney, which has not moved its animated reboot “Mulan” from its July 24 date since “Tenet” postponed to July 31, is now expected to go at least one week after “Tenet” in late August and could get pushed to the fall.
Disney is also unlikely to want to come out in the weeks ahead as China, where “Mulan” is expected to do significant business, has closed its theaters because of the virus.
If “Mulan” moves, it will mean one of Hollywood’s most lucrative months will go by without a major release for the first time in the modern era. Last year, July brought the release of “The Lion King,” “Spider Man: Far From Home” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which collectively grossed more than $1.1 billion in the United States.