For many months prior to its release, Christopher Nolan’s time-bending thriller Tenet was touted as the savior of cinema halls. The one movie that would be able to bring audiences back to theaters in record numbers. After the film was finally released last month, the reception was… mixed, to say the least. John Stankey, chief of AT&T, Warner Bros. Pictures’ parent company that produced Tenet, acknowledged during a call to investors that the film’s performance left a lot to be desired.
“I can’t tell you we walked away from the ‘Tenet’ experience saying it was a home run. [But] we’re happy we did it.”
At a time when other major movies were scrambling to either postpone their releases or opt for an online-streaming release, Tenet determinedly stayed its course for a 2020 theater release. One major factor behind this decision is said to be Nolan himself, a fierce proponent of the theater experience, who expressed a hope that Tenet’s release would provide some measure of aid to movie theaters struggling to stay open.
The result of this strategy was that many cinema halls stayed open solely in hopes of a blockbuster box office showing by Tenet. Once it became clear that the movie was not going to be the kind of massive hit that was needed, theaters and studios had to make some hard decisions regarding the future of the cinema halls.
During his call, Stankey marked the holiday season as the next “Checkpoint” in terms of determining whether Warner will be releasing any new movies in cinemas. While Woman Woman 1984 is currently scheduled for a December 25 release, Stankey acknowledged Warner is considering “plan A, plan B and plan C” for theatrical releases and will likely have to “make a game-time decision on some of that.” As for where the studio stands with regards to theatrical releases for the foreseeable future, Stankey had this to say.
“We’re still committed to putting some of the content we think is most important into a theatrical channel if that makes sense, [but Warner is] not expecting to a huge recovery in theatrical. We’re expecting it to continue to be choppy.”
In the face of uncertainty with regards to theaters, Warner has shifted focus to its digital services. According to Stankey, about 130 film and television projects are currently in production, and the studio hopes to ramp up the schedule soon, with appropriate social-distancing precautions in place.
“We’re far enough along that the confidence level of employees is growing day by day that we can protect the safety of individuals and still get work done. We’re out of the woods at this point from being dead cold in the middle of the [emergency] to where we feel we can get hours produced.”
It remains to be seen how studios and cinema halls will survive the effect the global emergency has had on the entertainment industry, and just how dramatically altered the landscape will be once medical restrictions can finally be lifted. The Tenet home video release is rumored for this Christmas. This news was first reported at Variety.