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Tenet, Christopher Nolan's time-twisting film, officially delayed indefinitely

By Jacob Oller

Tenet, filmmaker Christopher Nolan's upcoming sci-fi blockbuster-in-the-making that he and studio Warner Bros. confidently held to its summer theatrical release plan amid the rest of the industry's coronavirus-driven delays, has been delayed indefinitely. Not even the movie's time-twisting "inversion" powers will help it meet its planned Aug. 12 release (which itself was the pushed-back destination of a pair of July dates). Film fans will need to wait a little longer before there're any AAA studio films beckoning them back into theaters.

According to DeadlineTenet has been taken off the theatrical release schedule entirely, with no new date announced. This comes as WB preps "an unconventional theatrical rollout" for the film, which may mean that those countries doing better at combating COVID-19 (many Asian markets, Europe ... basically everywhere but the U.S.) could get Tenet before it comes to America. And when it does finally come stateside, it might hit whichever theaters are open — perhaps giving socially distanced Midwest drive-ins a leg up on coastal, urban theater chains.

But theaters are still key — Tenet almost certainly won't get the Artemis Fowl treatment and go straight to a streamer (though HBO Max just launched as WarnerMedia's standalone service). In fact, WB doesn't even seem to be considering a scenario where it opens in a limited format, then hops to On Demand quickly after, following the pattern of films that opened as the pandemic was initially afflicting the industry.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world," Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said in a statement, per Deadline. "Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to reevaluate our release dates. Amidst all this continued uncertainty, we have decided to vacate the current dates for our next two releases. We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature. We are not treating Tenet like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that."

Though a date may be imminent for Tenet, it's still a blow for the film, which was the last summer holdout among the industry's theatrical hopes. However, with infection numbers back on the rise, it's certainly too risky to reopen small rooms where everyone sits and breathes the same air for two hours — and too risky for WB to hope that a suitable number of people would pay for tickets to do so. As Tenet was hoping to open the door to the rest of the year's delayed films, it seems likely that those Disney summer offerings will also slide back accordingly once WB decides on a new plan.

Tenet — which stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Clémence Poésy — is now officially without a release date.