Tenet: Nolan’s Blockbuster, August 26 Internationally, September 4 in The U.S.

Tenet Christopher Nolan

Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller, from Warner Bros., will debut internationally starting on August 26 before opening in select cities in North America over Labor Day weekend on September 3.

The studio announced Monday that “Tenet” is launching at the end of August in 70 overseas territories, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom. At this time, it’s unclear what parts of the U.S. will play the film. The studio does not have plans yet to release “Tenet” in China.

Warner Bros. that “Tenet” would not have a traditional global day-and-date release — a surprising (though not unprecedented) break from tradition since North America is the world’s biggest film market and remains pivotal for major movies to turn a profit. But the studio hopes to innovate and recalibrate given the fact that foreign markets are already starting to reopen safely and desperately need new Hollywood movies to entice crowds. The U.S., on the other hand, has seen coronavirus cases exponentially rise in recent weeks, complicating plans to resume operations at domestic movie theaters anytime soon.

Warner Bros. recently began telling exhibitors in Europe and Asia about plans for an Aug. 26-28 opening weekend. Strong ticket sales for “Train to Busan” sequel “Peninsula,” which has generated $21 million in Korea since July 15, was a sign of confidence to studios that patrons were ready to get out of the house and attend the movies.

Traditionally, a staggered rollout would be a risky proposition for a movie like “Tenet,” which cost around $200 million to produce and tens of millions more to market. Beyond piracy concerns, “Tenet” could face other hindrances from its new release plan. Audiences know very little about its plot, an intentional promotional tactic that’s become de rigueur for Nolan’s twisty cerebral thrillers.

The movie stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki — and it’s not time travel, it’s inversion.

If spoilers leak, it could put a damper on demand to see the film in the U.S. Alternatively, it’s been so long since there has been a major theatrical release — people could be itching to see anything once it’s safe to go to cinemas again.

Warner Bros. is still waiting for the go-ahead to debut “Tenet” in China, the world’s second-biggest movie market. Initially, there were concerns that “Tenet” wouldn’t be able to screen there. When theaters in the country first started to reopen, exhibitors were not able to play movies that exceeded two hours— and “Tenet” clocks in at just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. But cinema owners have recently booked “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Inception” and other old titles with lengthy runtimes, suggesting that China has eased up or doesn’t plan to enforce the restriction.

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