The Tenet theatrical release woes continue. Christopher Nolan‘s new Warner Bros. movie may be barred from release in China as the country aims to reopen some theaters on July 20. Here in the U.S., Tenet is still holding to its new August release date after multiple pushes related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, Variety reported on China’s plan to reopen movie theaters in low-risk areas, per the China Film Association. China has been among the strictest countries in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, readily closing public spaces — including movie theaters — when new cases have surged. This July 20 reopening date comes with a new health and safety measure: Movies released in China can’t run more than two hours. This new rule has been put in place in an effort to minimize the amount of time moviegoers are in close quarters. As Indiewire points out, this is a unique problem considering Tenet‘s reported runtime is approximately 150 minutes.
There are a couple key things to remember while absorbing to this new Tenet snafu. First off, neither Nolan nor Warner Bros. have confirmed Tenet‘s official runtime. Reports of said runtime came courtesy of a Korean ratings board (via The Independent) and may be subject to change. Then again, brevity has never really been part of the Nolan brand. So, even if it’s not 150 minutes, chances are still high Tenet will be longer than two hours. Similarly, it’s unclear if Nolan would consider trimming Tenet just for Chinese audiences. China has also not set a release date for Tenet. This makes it unclear whether the new two-hour rule will still be in place if/when Tenet finally hits theaters in China — a key international market for studio tentpoles in general, and a big earner for Nolan movies including Interstellar and Dunkirk.
China’s two-hour runtime rule potentially blocking Tenet from release is yet another plot twist in ongoing saga of whether or not this movie will ever be released in theaters in 2020. Said saga has become a hot topic of discussion amongst industry professionals as we assess whether the theatrical release of a Nolan pic could really be the salve for an industry hit hard during these unprecedented times. But, in a very Nolan-esque twist, it’s hard to find concrete answers on whether Tenet will be released this calendar year or if its release can help save movie theaters.
Tenet is still set for theatrical release on Wednesday, August 12. We have a complete list of 2020 release dates to get you up to speed on other titles you might be looking forward to.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.