Box office experts are divided when it comes to Christopher Nolan‘s $200 million original blockbuster Tenet. On one hand, the filmmaker has become a brand unto himself, the rare director that can attract an audience on name power alone. All five of his most recent films have surpassed $500 million at the worldwide box office as he’s developed into Warner Bros.’ go-to cash cow. On the other hand, movie theaters remain largely closed across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even if major exhibitors do re-open in time for the film’s July 17 release, there’s skepticism that enough movie-goers will purchase tickets to help WB turn a profit on the costly feature.
Despite the health concerns and the significant financial obstacles, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi says the studio is still pushing forward with the film as planned.
“We’ve been in close contact with Warner Bros. and they remain optimistic and positive as well as Christopher Nolan about the July 17 opening,” Zoradi said Wednesday. New York and Los Angeles, which can account for 10-20 percent of a film’s domestic gross, have yet to announce reopening dates for movie theaters. San Francisco, one of the four biggest movie-going markets in the country, is reportedly waiting until August to reopen. It is highly unlikely that WB will move forward with Tenet‘s planned release if those cities remain closed.
“Of course, it depends on the continued positive movement due to the decline of COVID-19 and government restrictions being reduced,” Zoradi added. On Monday, more than 21,000 new coronavirus cases were reported, which marked an increase from the day prior but still a slight decrease from the recent average, per Johns Hopkins University. Health experts had been expecting a small spike in new COVID-19 cases as states relax stay-at-home orders but hoped to avoid a significant increase. It is unclear at this time if the mass protests across the nation will lead to such a dramatic rise in new COVID-19 cases, though there is concern.
“If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Saturday, per the Associated Press.
“There’s going to be a lot of issues coming out of what’s happened in the last week, but one of them is going to be that chains of transmission will have become lit from these gatherings,” Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, said on CBS News’ Face the Nation.
Cinemark is one of the three largest exhibitor chains in the U.S. On Wednesday, the company announced a four-phase reopening plan for its domestic theaters beginning on June 19. Even operating at 50 percent capacity, Zoradi says “we can operate profitability with all the (safety) techniques we put in place.” If Warner Bros. does ultimately opt to delay Tenet, the CEO said his company’s re-opening plan is “flexible” and can be shifted. He expects a final decision “in the not distant future.”