Surprising just about nobody who's been paying attention, Warner Bros. decided late last night to delay Christoper Nolan's 'Tenet' indefinitely.
The movie was previously slotted for a July release, moving to August as the pandemic worsened, before eventually being pulled altogether. Previously, industry analysts had said that Warner Bros. was unlikely to allow 'Tenet' move forward with an August release, seeing as how some US states are about to go back into lockdown as cases surge, and China has insisted that all movies in cinemas be two hours or less.
Here in Ireland, cinemas have been open since July 20th with strict social distancing and reduced audiences in place. Ireland was supposed to move to Phase 4 this week, with the current restrictions only allowing for 50 people indoors at any one event.
Looking at the release calendar for the remainder of the summer, movies such as 'Mulan', 'The New Mutants', 'Bill & Ted Face The Music', and 'A Quiet Place Part II' remain in place with no word on them moving as of writing. Does this mean that these movies will move out to the autumn or winter of 2020, or even into 2021?
In the case of 'Mulan' and 'A Quiet Place Part II', both movies were intended for release around about the time that lockdown began in most countries, whereas 'The New Mutants' has darted through several release dates. 'Bill and Ted Face The Music', meanwhile, moved its release date back seven days to August 28th from August 21st.
There's still a possibility that these movies will make their release dates, however, if you're feeling optimistic.
For one, Warner Bros. has already indicated in their statement that 'Tenet' will likely be released in other territories before the US, owing to the fact that there is no indication whatsoever that the situation is remotely improving there.
Even that aside, Christopher Nolan has a reputation for total secrecy on his work - meaning that the idea of a staggered release date with spoilers splashed across the internet is abhorrent to him. Odds are he likely fought to push the release date out rather than allow a staggered release. While a 2020 release date has been promised by the studio, the likelihood is that it will be some time in the final quarter of the year - possibly even December.
Nolan has been insistent that 'Tenet' will never be released on streaming services (until after its released), even with Warner Bros. working on HBO Max in the US. If rumours are to be believed, Nolan wanted to keep to the global day / date release to help struggling cinema owners in the US who feared 'Tenet' would be targeted for online piracy, thus pushing people to that rather than seeing it in cinemas. The statement concluded with an acknowledgement that they were not treating 'Tenet' "like a traditional global day-and-date release", meaning a staggered release date is all but certain.
As a cost of doing business, studios now have to factor piracy in their revenue models. The question then is earning potential in the current environment. 'Mulan', 'A Quiet Place Part II', and so on can easily work with a staggered release date and have them released in the US at a later date. What's more, all the movies mentioned have a runtime that clocks in at or under two hours, allowing for a release in China. Most if not all European nations have reopened cinemas, and the idea is that with careful monitoring and diligence, restrictions will be further eased by August, allowing for some semblance of return in cinemas.
Many cinema owners are screening modern re-releases and classics to keep them afloat, and audiences weary from scrolling through Netflix et al for the past four months are in the mood for something new.
If restrictions ease as they're likely to do so in the coming weeks, there's no reason why 'Mulan', 'A Quiet Place Part II', and so on shouldn't make their release dates.