John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia parent AT&T, is putting an end to speculation that Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” could debut in the United States on HBO Max ahead of its planned theatrical release. During a July 23 conference call with analysts (via Deadline), Stankey suggested movie theaters remain the top priority for Warner Bros.’ release of Nolan’s espionage thriller. Given Nolan’s commitment to the theatrical experience, the decision not to move “Tenet” to streaming is not too surprising.
“Is it going to happen with a movie like ‘Tenet’ or something like ‘Wonder Woman’?” Stankey said about debuting studio tentpoles on HBO Max. “I’d be very surprised if that would be the case. In fact, I can assure you with ‘Tenet,’ that’s not going to be the case.”
“The longer this goes on, there’s going to be some content on the margins that we’re going to look at and say it may be better served to be distributed in another construct or a different construct,” the executive continued. “I love that we have that option now. I love the reality that we’ve been able to build a platform where we can get leverage and capabilities out of any content we build, theatrical or otherwise.”
While WarnerMedia will move titles to streaming when needed (see the upcoming HBO Max launch of Seth Rogen’s “American Pickle” next month), that is not going to be the plan for “Tenet.” Speculation around an HBO Max debut for “Tenet” escalated earlier this week after Warner Bros. took Nolan’s film off the release calendar and issued a statement saying the film would not be getting a normal day-and-date global release.
“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,” Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich said in a statement. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world.”
“Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to reevaluate our release dates,” Emmerich continued. “Amidst all this continued uncertainty, we have decided to vacate the current dates for our next two releases. We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature. We are not treating ‘Tenet’ like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that.”
Warner Bros. is expected to announce a new release plan for “Tenet” soon. With the HBO Max option off the table, it appears the likeliest bet for “Tenet” is a global debut ahead of the U.S. as many international theaters have begun re-opening.