It’s official: Warner Bros. has pulled Tenet from the summer release schedule. While certainly newsworthy, this is hardly unexpected. Ever since the pandemic first struck back in March, Christopher Nolan’s eagerly awaited big-budget spy thriller has been touted as a movie that will save the summer season. This continued even as cinemas closed, film productions stopped, movie releases got postponed, and the number of COVID-19 cases kept growing at an alarming rate.
Initially, Tenet was to come out on July 17, 2020. As the pandemic continued more or less unabated (depending on where you live), the studio delayed it until July 31, and then August 12. The reluctance of Warner Bros. executives to shelf the film until a better time is understandable. Filmed on locations all over the world, Tenet is Nolan’s most expensive movie yet, with a price tag of $200 million. Even now, Warner Bros. claims it intends to release the film in 2020, possibly in overseas markets first. However, that plan has a snag.
China is the world’s second-largest movie market. Recently, the Chinese government issued health and safety guidelines saying, among other things, that movies released in China can’t run for more than two hours to minimize the amount of time the audience spends in close quarters. The problem? The running time of Tenet is two and a half hours. So, there’s a possibility it won’t even come out in China until the pandemic is over.
All of this is financially devastating for both the Warner Bros. and the entertainment industry in general. But we live in unprecedented times. The faster we adapt, the sooner can we begin assembling some sense of order into chaos.