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Movie theaters predicted to be at 90% operation globally by release of 'Tenet' in July

By Jacob Oller

The coronavirus waylaid the entire entertainment industry this year (unless fans count Animal Crossing becoming a smash hit), delaying events, halting film/TV production, and slamming the brakes on the in-person theatrical moviegoing experience so intensely that some theater chains are near bankruptcy. But as the summer continues optimism grows, and the world slowly reopens, the latest Christopher Nolan movie — Tenet — might have chosen its premiere date right on the money.

The time-warping film starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and many more has been unique among AAA studio films this summer in staying fast on its scheduled date. Now Business Insider reports that the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade organization that represents movie theater owners and runs CinemaCon, predicts that "90 percent of the global theatrical marketplace" will be open by Tenet's July 17 release.

"We've been in close contact with Warner Bros. and they remain optimistic and positive as well as Christopher Nolan about the July 17 opening," Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said during the company's Wednesday earnings call. "Of course, it depends on the continued positive movement due to the decline of COVID-19 and government restrictions being reduced."

That positive movement has resulted in a few test areas tentatively reopening theaters under strict safety guidelines, like distanced seating and a limited total capacity for theaters. However, major chains like AMC have been waiting for major movies to reopen their doors. And the movies have all delayed their release — except for Tenet. That means that after a "test phase" from some theater groups, like Cinemark, in mid-June, July is the target reopening deadline. Cineworld, owner of Regal, is confident all its theaters will open during the month.

If everything goes according to plan — the theaters reopen, everyone follows safety procedures, and Tenet is able to bring out moviegoers in safely spaced droves — then Mulan is set to make the next splash, as it's currently set to follow a week later, on July 24. However, while the industry may have confidence in nine out of ten theaters being open by mid-July, governmental policies around the world — and the current atmosphere of socially minded protest — could always alter those projections of a pending return to the cineplex.

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