‘Tenet’ Could Still Open This Summer in Europe

Maybe the news isn’t so bad for everyone after all.


This Monday it was announced that Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was being removed from WB’s release schedule, with the studio promising a new release for this year very soon. Now, Variety has learned that the studio is in talks with international exhibitors to open the tentpole movie this summer. In fact, they are saying that theater companies in the U.K., France, and Spain are positive they can debut the movie on the last weekend of August. This falls in line with what we’ve been hearing from sources close to Warner Bros. Spain.


But it doesn’t stop there. WB is also in talks with Asian exhibitors to release the film early over there as well, but a specific date hasn’t been set yet. While the European markets do bring in a considerable amount of the box office, if they can lock a release in Asia, specifically in China, which is the second-largest market in the world, the studio could still make some money this year, minimizing their losses.


Spain is right now seeing many spikes in COVID-19 cases all around the country, which are not under control despite the measures taken by political leaders. The studio fears that if the situation gets worse, which is bound to happen as borders are open and people are able to move freely, theaters could shut down again. This has already caused Sony to move up one week its biggest summer release, a Spanish family comedy.


Having another wave of coronavirus cases in Spain would just be the beginning, because borders are open, and tourism, while not as prominent as usual, is happening. The rest of Europe could follow soon, much like what happened with Italy back in February. Because of this, WB wants to get this movie out as soon as possible so they can make as much money as they can while theaters are still open.


This release could be the tipping point for many theaters in Europe, which are not having a lot of customers these days while they play already released movies. If they are able to get Tenet out in time, theaters in Europe could stay alive for a while longer with a good marketing push in August, waiting for the rest of blockbusters to arrive.


If the folks at Warner are able to make the August 28 release date in Europe, and a similar date in Asia, they would basically be having the entire marketing space for themselves. Tenet would practically be the only movie playing in every screen around the globe, and even with limited capacities in movie theaters, they could still make tens of millions of dollars before they release it in the States.


However, there is also a downside, which I believe is the one reason they didn’t announce this earlier. Christopher Nolan is a massive supporter of the movie theater experience. Not only because of the giant screens and the thunderous sound, but also because he likes to keep his secrets. The trailers for his movies are famous for just giving the viewer the minimum information needed to sell tickets.


If WB does indeed release Tenet in international markets first, instead of a global simultaneous release, they are making a huge gamble, hoping that the Internet doesn’t reveal all of the movie’s secrets ahead of its U.S. release. They might believe that the movie won’t be damaged by spoilers and that people just need to see it for the experience.


However, piracy is always an issue, and with an early China release, they’d be taking huge risks. This movie will be pirated for sure, and that will cost the studio millions of dollars. That’s why we’re talking about gambling here.


The truth is that Tenet cost over $200 million, and assuming they spent numbers nearly as big as those in marketing, plus taking into consideration that Christopher Nolan is earning 20% of Tenet‘s first-dollar gross, the movie would need to make north of $700 million just to break even, perhaps even more. Releasing it in 2021, with the schedule so packed right now, does not guarantee that. The preferable option is to release the gargantuan blockbuster now so it’s the only big movie playing for the next three months.