Christopher Nolan has always been a champion of the cinematic experience. He’s one of the last major directors to shoot on film, he loves working in IMAX, and he values the biggest screen possible for his work, which is why it’s always funny when I spot someone watching one of his movies on an airplane. However, his latest movie, Tenet, has become a flashpoint
According to The New York Times [via The Playlist], Warner Bros. has considered Tenet back further so they can significantly recoup their $200 million investment. While one could argue that if all theaters show Tenet that makes up for the differential in keeping individual auditoriums at lower capacity, keep in mind that you can’t be a tentpole and a test balloon. Tentpoles like Tenet are supposed to maximize profits, not to see if audiences are ready to return to theaters. So Warner Bros. is caught in the awkward position of trying to delay the film but also wanting to make sure they can get into theaters as soon as health officials and exhibitors will allow. The NYT reports:
“In recent weeks, Warner, concerned about its “Tenet” investment, was leaning in favor of postponement, while Mr. Nolan, a fervent advocate for preserving the moviegoing experience, was more eager to press ahead. The discussions amounted to a fraught moment for Warner: Mr. Nolan is a proven moneymaker, and the studio wants to keep him happy.”
How this all shakes out vis-a-vis Nolan remains to be seen, but Warner Bros. is basically wrestling with what all studios are wrestling with when it comes to their tentpoles. Some studios, like Universal, have chosen to just get out of dodge and push their biggest titles like F9 and Minions: Rise of Gru to 2021, when we’ll likely have a vaccine and life can resume as normal. But there’s also the temptation to release a film sooner and the business considerations likely weigh heavy on both studios and exhibitors. Studios are waiting for exhibitors because they have films ready to go, but at that point, you’re guessing on whether or not people are ready to come back to theaters. Maybe with the right health protocols in place there can be some safety, but there’s also the risk that you release a tentpole like Tenet and people are still too worried about health concerns to check it out. Stay tuned to see if that July 31st date holds.