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Seth Rogen Talks Sony Selling Off ‘American Pickle,’ Quips About ‘Tenet’ Pandemic Release

Rogen says Sony was ready to sell "American Pickle" before the pandemic shut down theaters across the world.

Seth Rogen and Christopher Nolan

Seth Rogen and Christopher Nolan

AP Images

The upcoming release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” has been rife with debate over whether or not mounting a theatrical release in the midst of a global pandemic is a dangerous idea (read The Verge’s “Christopher Nolan Should Release ‘Tenet’ Online,” which argues a theatrical release is harmful right now). Warner Bros. originally intended to open “Tenet” globally on July 17, but the pandemic delayed the opening to July 31 and then again to August 12. The studio has now settled on starting an international rollout for “Tenet” on August 26 followed by a U.S. debut September 3.

While Warner Bros. has stressed “Tenet” will only open in movie theaters where it is safe to do so, the movie’s theatrical release is still mired in controversy as coronavirus cases spike throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. So much of the industry has been looking to Nolan and “Tenet” as a reference point for opening projects amid the pandemic that Seth Rogen tells THR his production company, Point Grey Partners, has a tongue-in-cheek question they ask themselves: “What would Christopher Nolan do?”

“I’m waiting to see what Chris Nolan does,” Rogen wisecracked on the same day “Tenet” was pushed for a third time. “‘WWCND’ is basically what we’re saying at all times. ‘What would Chris Nolan do?’ For a while, it seemed like the answer was to kill his greatest fans. But that’s not the answer of today, it seems, so that’s good. But we have no idea. We don’t want to be the first to rush into anything.”

Rogen has a new comedy, “American Pickle,” opening this month straight to streaming courtesy of HBO Max. The project stars Rogen in a double role and was originally produced and set for distribution through Sony Pictures. In an interview with Insider, Rogen revealed that Sony had made up its mind to sell the film off before the pandemic shut down theaters across the country.

“The first time [Sony executive Tom Rothman] saw the movie he said, ‘I love this movie,’ and he said he cried,” Rogen said. “Then he was like, ‘There’s no way Sony can release this film.’ And usually you are disappointed, but we were like, ‘Thanks for being honest, you’re right.'”

Sony’s apprehension to release “American Pickle” landed it on HBO Max, an acquisition Rogen told Entertainment Weekly was “definitely a bit of a bummer” because streaming means no audience interaction. And yet, the pandemic also means no audience interaction.

“Obviously when we make movies we generally are gearing them toward a theatrical release,” Rogen said. “But honestly pretty early on in the process, we realized that a traditional Sony release — which is how we initially made it — was not going to be the best route for it. So then as soon as coronavirus stuff happened, it was pretty easy to reconcile that maybe I would miss out on getting to watch this with theaters full of people.”

“American Pickle” debuts August 6 on HBO Max.

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