Tenet is finally heading to theaters early next month, but the question of which theaters and where is still very much up for interpretation as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to complicate things in the entertainment industry. Christopher Nolan’s secretive sci-fi thriller has obfuscated and confused since its (sorry) inception, and the filmmaker believes that the movie is meant to be seen in theaters. As such, it’s been delayed a number of times as theaters have remained closed.
Many states have allowed theaters to reopen, though at limited capacity, and so Tenet‘s September 3 in the United States will come after it’s been screened in less disease-riddled nations across the globe. But the matter or whether it will be viewed in theaters in certain parts of the country is still unclear as mid-August becomes late. And that includes whether the few remaining drive-in theaters — which have seen a revival of sorts amid the pandemic — will be allowed to show the film next month.
According to Variety, Warner Bros. has offered “strict guidelines” to drive-in movie operators, including an interesting caveat: drive-ins in areas where theaters are currently closed aren’t allowed to screen the movie at all:
But two weeks ahead of its domestic debut, scheduled for Sept. 3, Warner Bros. offered some clarity to exhibitors about its plans for Nolan’s latest. The studio issued strict guidelines to drive-in operators across the country, mandating that “Tenet” can only play in outdoor venues if indoor theaters in that particular market are open.
Since traditional brick-and-mortar theaters have reopened in Chicago, for example, drive-in locations in the Windy City will be permitted to play the film. But in New York City and Los Angeles, where hardtop cinemas are still closed, drive-in exhibitors won’t have access to “Tenet.”
It’s an odd situation, but guidelines for opening theaters are about the health and safety of its patrons first and foremost. This could, conceivably, keep the movie from a wide audience of people who either are unable by law to see a movie in an enclosed theater or feel it’s safe to do so. Still, it’s entirely possible things change in the scant few weeks before the movie officially hits theaters in the United States:
However, given the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic, sources familiar with the situation stress these plans could be flexible. It’s possible the studio’s posture on drive-in theaters could soften in the coming weeks and that the film could screen on outdoor venues, even where indoor theaters are closed.
Regardless, the thickening red tape around actually seeing Tenet in theaters is beginning to resemble the confusion others have expressed about the actual plot of the film itself. The latter, however, is a problem likely to remain long after people actually see the movie in its unprecedented theatrical run in the coming weeks.