Advance ticket sales for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” begin this Friday, August 21, for three days of sneak previews that start Monday, August 31.
Tickets for regular engagements, which start Thursday, September 3, will be available Thursday, August 27.
These are some of the “Tenet” contract details that Warner Bros. sent to exhibitors, obtained by IndieWire. As IndieWire reported last week, limited advance showings of “Tenet” will be offered for three days prior to September 3. According to the contract, theaters can have one showing per night per screen, no earlier than 5 p.m. Those theaters that screen in premium formats may offer a second show on those screens.
To participate in “Tenet,” theaters must agree not only to follow local laws, but also to comply with the not-yet-published but already disseminated safety standards drafted by the National Association of Theater Owners. These include wearing a face mask anywhere in a theater, with the exception of when consuming concessions.
The email notes: “These special terms are being offered to its exhibitor customers specifically for ‘Tenet’ to address the special circumstances in the market… including the high commercial risk from uncertain consumer demand, reopening rules, health and safety regulations, and socially distancing capacity issues.”
As a sign of the times, the first section deals with health issues: “Exhibitor specifically represents and warrants to Warner that it shall comply at all times with all applicable laws and regulations at its theater(s), including without limitation, all laws, orders and standards relating public health and safety, such as rules and protective measures against the contraction and spread of COVID-19 or other illnesses and applicable voluntary health and safety measures and protocols regarding these matters as may be promulgated by the exhibition industry, such as NATO’s published health and safety protocols.”
In addition, Warners also tells theaters they need to provide on-demand information about the theaters’ reopening activities and consumer messaging.
For film rental, Warner Bros. is asking for 63 percent for all weeks of the engagement. That is at the high end, and its inclusion is significant because it varies from some deals in which top chains have preset expectations for how much they will pay based on total domestic gross. Though what the studio asks can be subject to negotiation, Warners holds the upper hand. For top titles like this one, normal practice is all theaters receive the same template.
Exhibitors might recoil at 63 percent, a near-record high for film rentals. However, Warners is taking an empirical risk as the first major studio to lead the return to theaters – especially when the pandemic means it faces a box office significantly lower than what “Tenet” might generate under normal circumstances. Just as Disney pushed “Mulan” to Disney+, Warners certainly could have done the same with PVOD and HBO Max. And they are stepping up at an incredibly important moment in terms of the future of theaters.
The demands on number of weeks to play are at the high end:
• “Tenet” must have the largest non-IMAX screen each week, until otherwise agreed
• Single screens – 4 weeks, with a third-weekend holdover figure determinant in place
• Twins – 5+ weeks
• 3 to 8 screens – 8 weeks
• 9+ screens – 12 weeks
As the sole standout initial release, it should be easy to comply with these standards. For those rare single screens, four weeks would lead into “Wonder Woman 1984” (also Warner Bros.) on October 2.
Warners also requires maximum theater marketing directed to publicizing “Tenet,” at no extra cost to the studio. The studio also requires three trailers for upcoming Warner Bros. films before the “Tenet” feature.
Warners also plans film rental collection in a shorter time frame, and ties collection to digital print access. Warners doesn’t want exhibitors to use “Tenet” to pay other bills.
IndieWire has reached out to Warner Bros. for comment.