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WIRE Buzz: Tenet still eyeing July 17 debut; Studio Ghibli's next movie; and AMC Theaters

By Josh Weiss

With the future of movie theaters hanging in the balance amid the ongoing pandemic, Warner Bros. is still eyeing a July 17 release for Christopher Nolan's time-twisting Tenet.

"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 reportedly said this morning (via Deadline) during an exhibitor's call. The theater chain, which shut down in March along with a number of other companies, begins a phased reopening plan Friday, June 19.

Based on the lack of a firm release date in the film's second trailer released two weeks ago, it seems like WB is covering its bases just in case the premiere needs to be delayed. If Tenet does arrive on July 17, the timing will be rather fortuitous, as July 16 marks the 10-year anniversary of Inception.

Should it be postponed, however, Zoradi said we should expect an official studio decision to be handed down "in the not distant future." A delay would affect the timeline for Cinemark's reopening, but the CEO added that there'd be no negative financial impact if they push off business for another 4-5 weeks. Moreover, reduced occupancy quotas and stricter safety protocols would not hinder the company's ability to "operate profitably," he said.

Written and directed by Nolan, Tenet follows a secret agent (John David Washington) tasked with preventing World War III. In doing so, he goes up against a villain (Kenneth Branagh) with the ability to "invert" time. A full explanation of that heady concept will remain a mystery until the movie is out.

Nolan is very much hoping that his action blockbuster will kickstart the theatrical exhibition industry, but there are currently no plans — tentative or otherwise — to reopen the theaters in New York or Los Angeles, the two cities that help make up the overall box office profit.

As a result, everything is up in the air. There's a lot riding on Tenet, a project that cost an estimated $200 million to produce. It's the beacon of hope for all the movies that hope to follow in the weeks after: Mulan, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and Wonder Woman 1984.

As Cinemark heads toward a renewed state of activity, AMC Theaters isn't as optimistic about its financial future. Per The Hollywood Reporter, the company expects to announce a loss of over $2 billion due to the shutdown caused by COVID-19. The chain reportedly harbors "substantial doubt" in terms of its capacity to "continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time."

Bottom line: AMC could file for bankruptcy and go out of business (or go through a giant restructuring at the very least) if business operations don't pick up soon.

AMC theaters

"We believe we have the cash resources to reopen our theaters and resume our operations this summer or later," the company said in a statement published by THR. "Our liquidity needs thereafter will depend, among other things, on the timing of a full resumption of operations, the timing of movie releases and our ability to generate revenues. We cannot assure you that our assumptions used to estimate our liquidity requirements will be correct because we have never previously experienced a complete cessation of our operations."

Looking at other countries' theatrical industries affected by the pandemic doesn't offer much optimism. China, which has been grappling with the virus for a longer period of time than the United States, could see 40 percent of its theaters close permanently.

Tying things back to what we said above, Tenet represents a monetary victory that AMC (and theater chains around the world) are looking for.

Studio Ghibli is harkening back to the days of Kiki's Delivery Service with a feature adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones' Earwig and the Witch.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the animated project (either titled Aya to Majo or Aya and the Witch) is being helmed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Gorō Miyazaki. Unlike the painstakingly hand drawn Ghibli films of yore, Aya is going to be computer animated and will debut on Japan's NHK general TV this coming winter.

Jones' 2011 book for young readers (illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky) follows Earwig, a headstrong orphan who is adopted by a witch proficient in the dark arts. Armed with her wits and a talking cat, Earwig does her best to survive, picking up a few magical lessons along the way.

Earwig and the Witch

"What will happen to the world after [coronavirus]? That is currently the biggest concern of various people. Even movies and TV cannot avoid it," Ghibli co-founder/producer Toshio Suzuki said in a translated statement run by EW. "I realized that the great feature of this work is Aya's wisdom. If you have the wisdom, you can overcome [at] any age."

Suzuki also described the central heroine as "the smartest girl in the world."

This is not the first time that Studio Ghibli has tackled Jones' literary works. In 2004, the animation house famously adapted her 1986 fantasy novel, Howl's Moving Castle.