Christopher Nolan's new film Tenet delayed again due to Covid-19

The film by director Christopher Nolan will now debut on Aug 12. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (BLOOMBERG ) - Warner Bros has delayed the release of the movie Tenet again, setting back efforts by American theatre chains to save the summer blockbuster season.

The film by director Christopher Nolan will now debut on Aug 12, two weeks later than expected.

In an unusual move, the studio plans to put the movie out on a Wednesday and keep it in theatres "over an extended play period far beyond the norm."

The idea is to give audiences wary of visiting the cinema immediately a chance to see it on the big screen.

Warner Bros will re-release an older movie from the same director, Inception (2010), on July 31, the date Tenet was previously supposed to come out.

Warner Bros and Nolan have been at odds over the timing, with the director pushing for an earlier premiere and the studio taking a more cautious approach, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The sci-fi psychological thriller stars John David Washington, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.

There is growing speculation among theatre chains that more schedule changes are looming, with Walt Disney's Mulan, slated for July 24, also in jeopardy.

The heads of the major cinema chains, including market leader AMC Entertainment Holdings, have said they expect the release calendar to shift around in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and that they will be more flexible than normal.

Disney previously delayed Mulan from March to July following the shutdown of theatres across the United States to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Now it is considering pushing the movie back again, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter.

Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The shake-up could leave Hollywood with its worst drought of summer blockbusters since Jaws ushered in the concept in 1975.

Theatre chains had been preparing for a return to relative normal in July. The companies have been reopening cinemas with new cleaning regimens and employees in masks. But without big new movies to show, the already-struggling chains will have little to entice customers.

The Tenet release had already been pushed earlier back this month, from July 17 to July 31. Another big Warner Bros film, Wonder Woman 1984, was moved to Oct 2 from Aug 14.

No matter how the schedule changes, studios could have a tough time recouping their investment in movies like Mulan and Tenet, both of which have budgets around US$200 million (S$278 million).

Theatres have capped ticket sales to adhere to social-distancing guidelines, and fresh outbreaks in many US states will likely scare away potential customers.

While the official Mulan debut date remains less than a month away, Disney executives would typically start up a promotion machine, including billboards, TV ads and social media campaigns.

Instead, they have held back as case numbers rise. Warner Bros, part of AT&T, has made a small marketing push for Tenet, not the campaign you would typically see for a US$200 million movie.

Nolan, who wrote and directed the film, is a big proponent of the traditional movie-theatre experience and wants his films seen in cinemas. His previous pictures include 2017's Dunkirk and three Batman movies (2005 to 2012).

Studios are still planning to show smaller new films in theatres in July. Unhinged, a psychological thriller starring Russell Crowe, and romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Gallery are both expected to be released in the coming weeks.

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