Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet' Delayed Indefinitely Because Of COVID-19 : Coronavirus Updates The new movie from the maker of Dunkirk and the Dark Knight Trilogy has been delayed yet again, with no new release date announced. This may end hopes of a Hollywood summer blockbuster season
NPR logo

Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi Thriller 'Tenet' Delayed Indefinitely

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/893299116/893406672" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi Thriller 'Tenet' Delayed Indefinitely

Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi Thriller 'Tenet' Delayed Indefinitely

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/893299116/893406672" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The film that was supposed to jumpstart your moviegoing summer has now been taken off Hollywood's calendar indefinitely. NPR's Bob Mondello reports this may have a season-killing ripple effect.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: When the rest of Hollywood was backing away from opening dates in May and June...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

MARTIN DONOVAN: (As Victor) All I have for you is a word.

MONDELLO: ...Everyone in the business put their faith in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

DONOVAN: (As character) ...Tenet. It'll open the right doors...

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLS)

DONOVAN: (As character) ...Some of the wrong ones, too.

MONDELLO: The doors "Tenet" needed to open are in multiplexes. All the movie studios have been pushing back theatrical openings over concern about the pandemic with some titles even jumping straight to streaming. But Warner Brothers and director Nolan, whose blockbusters "Inception," "Dunkirk," and the Batman Dark Knight trilogy have made billions of dollars on the big screen, were adamant that their $200 million thriller would be the tentpole that would hold up the summer moviegoing tent. When theater chains got open, they said, "Tenet" would bring the crowds.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

DONOVAN: (As character) This is about survival.

MONDELLO: For theater owners, it is about survival. All through the spring, Nolan and Warners held firm that they would premiere "Tenet" in cinemas on July 17. But as it became clear that theater chains would not be fully opened by this past weekend, that date slipped, first to July 31, then to August 12. And now Warners has taken "Tenet" off its release calendar, promising to, quote, "share a 2020 release date imminently," end quote. The studio also said it would not be giving "Tenet" a traditional global day and date release, industry speak for opening all over the planet at once. Warners didn't specify what a nontraditional release might look like.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

ROBERT PATTINSON: (As character) That part is a little dramatic.

MONDELLO: Speculation in film circles has been that, given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the flattening of curves elsewhere, the studio might try premiering "Tenet" overseas. Christopher Nolan blockbusters tend to do two-thirds of their business in foreign countries. And some major territories - South Korea, Japan, China and a few European markets - have been reopening cinemas. Predicting box office grosses in that sort of fragmented here-and-there release, though, would require a crystal ball or the abilities of the film's leading man.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TENET")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: He can communicate with the future.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Time travel?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: No - inversion.

MONDELLO: Without those powers, let's just note that in China and South Korea, when cinemas have reopened, they've done so with stringent social distancing protocols and fewer showtimes to allow for deep cleaning of auditoriums. Theaters operating at, say, 30% of their usual capacity will not be turning out a lot of box-office records. That will also be true at cinemas in the U.S. And of course, some of the biggest movie markets here are still in one form or another of lockdown. It would be unprecedented to premiere a major blockbuster and not play New York or Los Angeles on opening weekend. But right now, a lot of things are unprecedented.

Bob Mondello, NPR News.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.