‘Tenet’ Can Play New Jersey Starting Friday, with Last-Minute Approval from the State

The New Jersey governor's surprise announcement means exhibitors are in a last-second scramble for the September 4 reopening.
"Tenet" Reviews
Warner Bros.

UPDATE September 1: AMC, which has significant theaters throughout New Jersey, is unlikely to open any of them by Friday, September 4. The nation’s largest exhibitor announced it would have 70 percent of their locations nationally open by Friday, but not listed were any Garden State locations. Short notice makes it difficult to responsibly reassemble staff, even more with new conditions.

AMC will open theaters in San Diego County, an area that received the go-ahead last Friday. Today, Maryland also announced that theaters are good to go (50-percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is less), but the late announcement makes Friday’s opening for “Tenet” uncertain.

Variety reported that Bow Tie Cinemas, a regional circuit that also was a plaintiff in the multi-party federal suit to reopen theaters, will be open Friday. Among its locations is one in Hoboken, just off the Lincoln Tunnel as well as the subway connecting it to Manhattan.

IndieWire has learned that theaters in New Jersey will be able to play “Tenet” as early as Friday, the first day that the state is allowing its theaters to open. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the reopening by executive order Monday.

That’s in time for Labor Day weekend, and provides an indoor alternative. with limitations to what will likely be large-scale public gatherings at beaches, parks, and family gatherings.

The state battled with the National Association of Theater Owners over restrictions, and that resistance suggested that the state would not reopen in time for “Tenet.” Under guidelines, auditoriums can be filled to 25 percent capacity to a maximum of 150 people.

That gives exhibitors only four days to get up to speed. That will be a challenge, but sources indicate that Warner Bros. will work with them to ensure they’re prepared. Staffs need to be reassembled, and in some cases landlords will need to agree. Equipment and other operational functions will need to be tested. However, “Tenet” provides a key incentive.

We reached out to multiple sources, including AMC Theaters (a major player in the state) and IMAX (which has locations there), among others. It appears all were caught by surprise, but the initial response is while they’ll try, they can’t confirm.

Other distributors will also want to get in on the opportunity, but “Tenet” is the draw. Its advance showings begin Monday evening, with regular shows Thursday. Friday is a day later, but expect demand to be high: With New York not yet open, there’s a tremendous captive audience. If New Jersey provides a model for safe reopening, that could add to the pressure and incentive for New York to restart.

Within California, San Diego County late last week also received the go ahead. Though the opportunity exists for top theaters to play “Tenet”  in its first weekend, there is no confirmation they will be able to make it. The desire to open the doors to a major movie is great, but too much haste can lead to problems that make it not worth the risk.

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