Tenet Falls Back

As I’ve stated in any COVID-19 related post on this blog, the release of movies in theaters is far from the most pressing concern as it relates to the pandemic. However, this site covers the world of film and a significant development occurred today when it comes to that future.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has long been seen as the first real test of financial viability for theaters. For several months now, it has been the tentpole release pegged to be out of the gate before all others. With its $200 million budget and with one of the few directors behind it that guarantees an audience, a direct to streaming output has never been an option. Many other smaller budget features have already gone that route and it’s been covered here. Tenet was originally scheduled for a global bow last Friday (July 17) before shifting to July 31 and then August 12. Hours ago, Warner Bros. made an announcement that many have been anticipating. The thriller starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson has now moved to a familiar release date… TBD.

The studio’s press release still indicates a desire for a 2020 rollout. The announcement goes on to say that Tenet may not receive a traditional release. Reading between the lines – this means it could be out in foreign markets before it hits screens stateside. This is in no doubt related to the recent surge of COVID cases in North America vs. other parts of the world.

Why is this announcement on one movie so big? Because a domino effect is sure to follow and it has already started. Rom com The Broken Hearts Gallery from Sony Pictures shifted its August 7th date to TBD shortly after. The Russell Crowe pic Unhinged is still slated to open next weekend (July 31). We will see if that holds (it could be a prime candidate for streaming).

Disney’s Mulan is currently scheduled for August 21. I would not be surprised if this changes and quickly. You may recall that it was originally supposed to come out in March when the pandemic began shutting down sectors of the economy.

Warner Bros. also revealed that The Conjuring 3 (part of their flagship horror franchise) is now moved to summer of 2021. One must wonder what other studios will do with some of their high profile product scheduled for September and October (August is pretty much wiped out at this juncture save for Mulan at the moment). That list includes A Quiet Place II (already delayed from spring) and Wonder Woman 1984 (already delayed from summer).

Bottom line: the fall back of Tenet greatly increases the probability of November being the real start of major product in the multiplexes. That’s when already delayed projects like Black Widow, No Time to Die, and Soul are scheduled. And that is, of course, tentative as well in this new cinematic reality.

Unhinged Makes Its Move

There was movie news today and it was significant. It may cause a thriller centered on the “Driver from Hell” to become a trivia answer and a historical footnote. The upstart Solstice Studios has announced that Unhinged, which casts Russell Crowe as a psychopath with serious road rage issues, will park into theaters on July 1.

This would normally not be a post worthy item. However, by vaulting its release date from September to early July, Unhinged is primed to be the first major new theatrical item to open wide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obviously, significant questions abound. How many theaters will be operating at the time? Will some states not even have multiplexes even open? Most importantly, will audiences be ready to make their trip to see Mr. Crowe terrorize his fellow motorists?

The last couple of months has seen an unprecedented shift in release dates for pictures. Many summer blockbusters moved to fall or 2021. That has caused some ’21 releases to push back to 2022. It’s been a startling domino effect.

However, Unhinged breaks the streak by actually moving up and becoming a potential litmus test for the remainder of summer and calendar year as a whole. And July still has some heavy hitters that have yet to blink, most notably Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan treatment. How will it go? Only time will tell.