If you plan on seeing Tenet, writer/director Christopher Nolan really wants you to see it in a theater. It’s true that Nolan has been a champion of theatrical release strategies and shooting on old fashioned film for his entire career, and indeed one could look at films like Inception or Interstellar or Dunkirk and rightly say they’ve been designed to be seen on the biggest screen possible. An elegant mix of rich character drama, compelling storytelling, and jaw-dropping practical effects. But according to Nolan, Tenet trumps them all.
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker sent a taped message to participants of CineEurope, which is a convention for international cinema exhibitors, and in it he stressed how Tenet was crafted with the theatrical experience front of mind. Here’s the full message (via Deadline):
“We’re in the final throes of it. I don’t want to say too much about it other than we’re extraordinarily excited about what we’ve been able to do with this material. I think of all the films that I’ve made, this is perhaps the one that is most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience. This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we’re very very excited for you to see what it is we’ve done. We’ve made big films in the past, but this is a film whose global reach and level of action is beyond anything we’ve ever attempted before. I think we only would have been able to pull off this film with the level of experience we’ve had doing action films in the past. The movie has an incredible ensemble cast led by John David Washington who gives the most extraordinary and iconic performance as the protagonist at the heart of Tenet and I cannot wait for you guys to see what he’s done with his character. I’m very much looking forward to sharing the film with you. I’m going to get back to finishing it right now and I look forward to your reaction.”
That sounds incredible, and I really can’t wait to see this film, but the question surrounding its theatrical release remains murky. Most big theater chains have announced that they will reopen in mid-July, with Tenet’s new release date now coming at the tail end of the month on July 31st. And while the theater chains have installed new safety protocols which include hand sanitizing stations, increased cleaning, and staggered seating, most of them are not requiring the wearing of a mask, which most health experts agree is the best defense against catching or spreading COVID-19.
We’re still currently in the midst of a pandemic, and getting into an enclosed space with strangers for an extended period of time greatly increases the risk of spreading this deadly disease. But theaters have also been closed for months, and are facing dire financial circumstances if they don’t reopen soon.
There’s no clear “win” in this scenario, and it’ll be interesting to see how many people decide they feel safe enough to visit theaters next month and where on the national curve the United States is with regards to COVID-19 infection rates at that time.
I do not disagree with Mr. Nolan here that the best way to see Tenet is in a movie theater, and I absolutely want to see the film on the biggest screen possible. But is it worth risking the safety of myself and others?
As we’ve seen plenty of times in 2020, a lot can happen in a month, so again it’ll be interesting to see where the world is when Tenet’s release date of July 31st arrives. Until then, hype for Nolan’s latest effort remains incredibly high, and I sincerely hope we’ll all have the chance to see this film as intended in a safe manner.
For more on Nolan, check out our ranking of all of his films thus far.