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'Tenet' Abandons Plans For Summer Release In US, Another Major Blow To Movie Theaters

An empty ticket area in a closed AMC movie theater in Santa Monica in March — pandemic closures have devastated the theater business. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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The traditional summer movie season has been eviscerated by the pandemic, and now one of the very few studio films set for release in the coming weeks has canceled its plans for a theatrical release.

Warner Bros. today said that Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” whose premiere already had been postponed multiple times, will abandon its Aug. 12 debut. The studio did not announce a new domestic release date, but hinted that “Tenet” could open overseas before it reaches U.S. screens.

Toby Emmerich, the chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said in a statement:

“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen.”

Originally, the $200-million drama about time travel that stars “BlackkKlansman’s” John David Washington, was set to arrive at the multiplex on July 17. That release was delayed to July 31, and then again to Aug. 12.
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Now that “Tenet” has dropped off the summer release schedule, Disney’s live-action “Mulan” is the only high-profile production set to open in August. But that film, which also has shifted its release date several times, also is likely to scrap its Aug. 10 premiere.

The “Tenet” news could be devastating for theaters, some of which have been teetering on bankruptcy. In California, theaters were allowed to reopen on June 12 in some counties — under many new guidelines and restrictions — only to be ordered shuttered again in early July after COVID-19 cases surged. [Drive-in theaters were allowed to reopen in mid-May.]

The multi-billion dollar industry has recorded no material income for the past three months. As new coronavirus cases surge and officials across the country are reinstating shelter-in-place mandates, some Wall Street analysts are now saying theaters may not open until next year.


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