Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started and movie theaters began to shut down, people have been wondering what the first big movie out of the gate is going to be when they reopen. For a long time, it looked like Tenet was going to be the movie that was going to help "save" the theatrical experience. Director Christopher Nolan is a huge believer in the theatrical experience in general and has even written about how worried he is about movie theaters in a post-COVID-9 world. It's an understandable point of view; the release of movies like Trolls World Tour seems to show that people are willing to rent out new releases to watch at home. Last week there was some indication that maybe Warner Bros. isn't as sure about releasing Tenet next month as they have been leading on. They moved the release by two weeks from the 17th to July 31st and announced on the 17th that they will be re-releasing another Nolan movie, Inception, for its tenth anniversary. Warner Bros. and Nolan are sticking to that July release date, for now, but both parties might not be as happy about it as they seem. According to a report from The New York Times (via The Playlist), Warner Bros. is worried the movie won't do well while Nolan is more focused on reigniting the theatrical experience.
"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."
Plenty of movie theater chains say they are opening, but a lot can change in six weeks. For all, we know there might not be a discussion about whether or not this movie will open because everything could be shut down again. This also leaves people like this film critic in a strange position. If I'm invited to a screening for Tenet or any other movie, should I go? Can I feel morally all right recommending a film to people even if I don't think it's safe for them to be out and about at theaters?
There is an instinct among all of us to return life to normal as soon as possible, whether that is attending a convention or going to a movie like Tenet. The problem is life isn't normal; the virus is still out, it's still killing people, and we still don't have a way to deal with it. As a person and a site that loves movies, we understand Nolan wanting to preserve it but not at the cost of lives. We need more time, and if that means delaying Tenet or Mulan yet again, then that's what we need to do.
Tenet, directed by Christopher Nolan, stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh. It will be released on July 31st, 2020.