Sorry, guys. We’re not allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table. That was the unfortunate take away for us South Africans last night when Warner Bros. unveiled the new release strategy for Christopher Nolan’s hotly-anticipated sci-fi thriller Tenet. As predicted when the blockbuster was delayed yet again last week following a string of abandoned release dates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenet will now get a staggered worldwide release, debuting in several international markets first – with some exceptions, like South Africa – before eventually hitting US cinemas in a limited fashion.
According to the report from Deadline, starting on Wednesday, 26 August 2020, Tenet will start rolling out to overseas markets that include Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the UK. The very next day, Thursday, 27 August, will see the film drop in Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Middle East, New Zealand, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, with East Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Vietnam getting openings on Friday, 28 August. Staggered throughout September, there will be openings in Kuwait, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Russia, Japan and more.
While most of North America outside of Canada is still off-limits, select US cities will see Tenet released on Thursday, 3 September 2020, just in time for the Labor Day long weekend. Just what those cities are is not clear yet, but given that the US is still top in the world (and quite uncomfortably so) in terms of COVID-19 infection numbers, it probably won’t be a very long list. Similarly, most of South America has been left off the release list for now also due to their high numbers and the fact that they have not passed their peak point. Unfortunately, South Africa is in the very same rickety boat for now, and thus we find ourselves out in the cold as well with no Tenet release date in sight.
China, the world’s second-largest movie market but also the original ground zero for COVID-19, is well past its infection peak, but there are still restrictions in place hampering Tenet’s release and thus there’s no release date penciled in yet. However, it’s believed that Warner Bros will announced a new opening for the key Asian market soon. At the moment 40% of China’s cinemas are already open with 30% capacity restriction, but one policy that is causing problems is the country’s restriction on any film longer than two hours. With Tenet sitting at 2 hours and 30 minutes, that was an issue for Warner Bros. However, it looks like the studio has managed to get a way around this as its currently set to re-release Nolan’s 2 hours and 20 minutes 2014 sci-fi epic Interstellar on 2 August. This may be a way to test the proverbial waters.
Tenet was originally set for release on 17 July and would have been the first major studio release in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nolan’s insistence that his movie lead the charge back into cinemas – despite genuinely justified concern that the industry has not recovered enough for Warner Bros to make any sort of profit on this $200 million production – has resulted in the film getting a series of incremental delays. As things currently stand, the likes of Antebellum, The New Mutants, Bill & Ted Face the Music, and Peninsula (the sequel to South Korean zombie hit Train to Busan) will beat Tenet into cinemas in the US. Whether any of them is a big enough draw to actually pull audiences back, is another story altogether.
Warner Bros is surely hoping that while Tenet won’t be the first major release anymore, it will be the first major success signalling the return of some normalcy to the film industry. We’ll have to wait (and wait pretty long here in SA, dodging spoilers online) to see if that actually turns out to be the case.
Last Updated: July 29, 2020