In case it isn’t clear, Christopher Nolan is working overtime to ensure theaters can re-open and the movie exhibition business can come roaring back to life. During this week’s IMAX earnings conference call, the company’s CEO Richard Gelfond put it bluntly (via Variety): “Chris really would like to be coming out with the film that opens theaters. I don’t know anyone in America who is pushing harder to get the theaters re-opened and to get his movie released than Chris Nolan.”
Nolan’s upcoming movie is “Tenet,” a $200 million espionage epic starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. Warner Bros. is keeping the movie’s July 17 theatrical opening for now, and exhibition partners like IMAX are continuing to plan for the summer tentpole’s release. Gelfond added, “In the near term, we have incorporated a number of remote tools into our workflows and a range for select staff to have safe access to our post-production facilities so we can continue work on forthcoming titles like ‘Tenet.'”
John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), made headlines earlier this week for laying out new guidelines that theaters will stick to in order to ensure safe moviegoing should major chains like AMC and Cinemark be allowed to open in July. Theaters are planning to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and are even coming up with ways to reduce contact between moviegoers and concession workers. Fithian predicts “Tenet” might not have a massive box office debut should it be allowed to open in July, but “staggering word-of-mouth” about the film and theaters’ safety precautions could give it the legs it needs to be a box office blockbuster.
“Tenet” is one of the most ambitious undertakings of Nolan’s career, which is saying something considering he’s the filmmaker behind “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” and “Dunkirk.” The “Tenet” budget is greater than all three of these movies and Nolan shot the movie in seven countries across the globe. The director told Entertainment Weekly last December that “Tenet” is his biggest movie yet, period.
“We’re jumping off from the point of view of an espionage film, but we’re going to a number of different places,” Nolan said. “We’re crossing a few different genres in a hopefully exciting and fresh way. [Producer] Emma [Thomas] and I have put together a lot of large-scale productions, but this is certainly the biggest in terms of international reach. We shot in seven countries, all over the place, with a massive cast and huge set pieces. There’s no question, it’s the most ambitious film we’ve made.”
Given the size of “Tenet” and Nolan’s commitment to the theatrical experience (he wrote an essay in March urging the nation to help save movie theaters), there’s no way Warner Bros. will sidestep a theatrical release and put the film on VOD like Universal has done with “Trolls World Tour” and “The King of Staten Island.” “Tenet” remains set for July 17.