Warner Bros.

The long road to the “Tenet” theatrical release continues as Warner Bros. is delaying the Christopher Nolan espionage epic to August 12. The release change marks the second delay for the Nolan epic amid the coronavirus pandemic. Warner Bros. originally set “Tenet” for release on July 17, where it was poised to become the first major Hollywood tentpole to open in theaters. The studio pushed “Tenet” to July 31 earlier this month to give theaters two additional weeks to open and get operations running smoothly under new safety protocols.

Why the second “Tenet” release date change? A spike in coronavirus cases has made the re-opening of movie theaters in Los Angeles and New York City all but impossible. These cities are the two largest moviegoing markets in the country, so it would be impossible for Warner Bros. to make any serious money off “Tenet” without New York City and Los Angeles theaters. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has confirmed movie theaters will not even open as part of the state’s phase four re-opening plan.

“Warner Bros. is committed to bringing ‘Tenet’ to audiences in theaters, on the big screen, when exhibitors are ready and public health officials say it’s time,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement. “In this moment what we need to be is flexible, and we are not treating this as a traditional movie release. We are choosing to open the movie mid-week to allow audiences to discover the film in their own time, and we plan to play longer, over an extended play period far beyond the norm, to develop a very different yet successful release strategy.”

After Warner Bros. moved “Tenet” to July 31, the date started popping up on the studio’s trailers and posters for the movie. The marketing campaign even got the July 31 rolled out onto pricey TV spots. Delaying the film a second time means another marketing overhaul for the movie, which stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson as espionage agents trying to prevent World War III with the use of time inversion.

Nolan is one of the biggest proponents of the theatrical experience, so it was always a given Warner Bros. would continue to delay the film until it makes the most sense to go forward with a theatrical release. While Warner Bros. went straight to VOD with the animated family offering “Scoob!” and Universal has skipped theaters with a handful of titles (“The King of Staten Island” and “You Should Have Left” this month), Nolan will never go that route.

In a pre-recorded video address to members of CineEurope this month Nolan called “Tenet” the one film in his entire filmography that is “most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience.” The director added that Washington “gives the most extraordinary and iconic performance” as the Protagonist.

“Tenet’ will now open August 12.

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