Release of 'Tenet' pushed back again as coronavirus numbers grow

The Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki was originally scheduled for release on July 17, but is now set to debut in August.
Image: ELizabeth Debicki, John David Washington
Elizabeth Debicki and John David Washington in "Tenet."Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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By Dennis Romero, Diana Dasrath and Reuters

The nationwide debut of "Tenet," a film that many U.S. movie theaters planned to reopen with after after coronavirus closures, is being pushed back to Aug. 12, its studio said Thursday night.

The science-fiction espionage thriller by director Christopher Nolan and starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki had been scheduled to open July 17 and was later delayed to July 31.

"Warner Bros. is committed to bringing Tenet to audiences in theaters, on the big screen, when exhibitors are ready and public health officials say it’s time," a spokesperson for the studio said in a statement Thursday night.

"In this moment what we need to be is flexible, and we are not treating this as a traditional movie release," the spokesperson said. "We are choosing to open the movie mid-week to allow audiences to discover the film in their own time, and we plan to play longer, over an extended play period far beyond the norm, to develop a very different yet successful release strategy."

News of the delay comes as the United States is experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections. On Wednesday, the nation reported its single highest day total of new coronavirus cases, according to a tally by NBC News. Many southern and western states have seen a resurgence in the virus after relaxing stay-at-home orders around Memorial Day.

“Tenet” is one of the big-budget movies that theater operators are counting on to lure audiences back to cinemas following a worldwide shutdown earlier this year.

AMC Theaters, the largest theater chain in the nation, said in early June that it planned to reopen all its locations in time to show "Tenet" on July 17.

Competitor Cinemark also planned to reopen its 345 theaters in time for "Tenet." It's not clear if the theaters will change those plans.

Another closely watched film, Walt Disney Co’s action epic “Mulan,” is set for July 24, though theater owners worry it too will be delayed.

Although big chains including AMC, Cineworld and Cinemark have said they plan for widespread reopenings of multiplexes in July, officials in Los Angeles and New York, the top two moviegoing markets in the U.S., have not given a green light for theaters to welcome back visitors.

Hollywood studios need as many locations open as possible to make back their investments in big-budget movies.

Roughly 780 indoor movie theaters are currently open in the United States, according to tracking firm Comscore.

The planned openings by theaters included social distancing and limiting capacity.