- Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” has been delayed for the third time, but Warner Brothers did not give a new concrete release date for the film this time around.
- Hollywood has been banking on “Tenet” to be the first major blockbuster to bring audiences back to theaters since the pandemic forced them to close, so its indefinite delay has far-reaching implications.
- Warner Brothers could potentially release the film overseas before releasing it in the U.S., then open it in safer states first, and stagger the release throughout the country. However, doing so could pose major financial risks.
- Still, organizations like the National Association of Theater Owners believe new movies need to release no matter how small audiences are right now if the box office wants to have a fighting chance.
Very little is known about Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” Its plot has been kept a tightlipped secret and even the names of its lead characters are concealed. Now, its most consequential mystery is its release date.
“Tenet” was initially supposed to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters with a July 17 release date. Coronavirus concerns pushed that back to July 31, then later to August 12. On Monday, Warner Brothers said the $200 million action-thriller is being pushed back even further, but declined to give a concrete date.
This delay is more than just a bummer for Nolan fans and sci-fi enthusiasts. It increases the already high levels of uncertainty movie theaters are struggling with right now. “Tenet” was going to be the first major blockbuster to hit theaters since the coronavirus pandemic shut moviegoing down. Along with “Mulan,” Hollywood hoped it would bring audiences back to the cinema. Now, theaters only have the hope of “Mulan” to hang onto, and it is almost inevitable that its August 21 release date gets another bump.
Implications and International Release Potential
Warner Brothers may have to travel off the beaten path when it comes to their release strategy for the Robert Pattinson and John David Washington starring picture. “Tenet” could make its theatrical debut overseas, where the virus is more controlled and where some theaters are open, well before American audiences get the chance to see it. Several countries in Europe and Asia are already letting people back in theaters, and it has been a long time since they had a big new Hollywood film to screen, meaning there could be an international appetite for the film.
“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,” Warner Brothers Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich said in a statement. “We are not treating ‘Tenet’ like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that.”
Many believe that this means the movie will not only release in certain countries first, but perhaps even certain parts of the United States could get it sooner as well. This, however, could present major issues. Cities like Los Angeles and New York, which are the biggest box office contributors in the country, currently do not have public plans for theaters to open back up. It would be a major financial risk to release a film knowing it could not go to those cities.
Coming from the mind of Nolan, “Tenet” is also bound to have twists and turns that could get easily spoiled if its release date is staggered throughout the world. Some countries or states could give away key details before other audiences even get the chance to see it, something that not only knocks the impact of the film, but the appeal for filmgoers to go to the theaters to see it as well.
Theater Owners Want to Open
Despite the clear financial risks, John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told Variety that studios need to release what they have no matter the circumstances.
“Distributors should stick with their dates and release their movies because there’s no guarantee that more markets will be open later this year,” he said in a Q&A. “Until there’s a vaccine that’s widely available, there will not be 100% of the markets open. Because of that, films should be released in markets where it is safe and legal to release them and that’s about 85% of markets in the U.S. and even more globally. They should release their movies and deal with this new normal.”
Still, releasing films to scattered markets is easier said than done. No studio wants their movie to be the guinea pig that tests how successful a film can be during a pandemic. Warner Brothers would rather see how “Mulan” does before they play “Tenet,” and likewise, Disney would like to see how “Tenet” fairs before it releases “Mulan.”
But someone has to be first, and it all comes down to how studios think they can safely take that jump. Much of this hangs on when theaters open, which is also far from a sure thing. Chains like AMC said they would open in mid-July, but after “Tenet” and “Mulan” moved to August, they went to late July. Now, with California theaters ordered to close, Los Angeles on the verge of another lockdown, case spikes in several states, and “Tenet” delayed once more, it would hardly be surprising if these chains pushed their openings back yet again. Hollywood then ends up in a rampant cycle of theaters delaying their openings based on film release dates, and films then delaying their release dates based on theater openings.
Fithian told the Los Angeles Times that the consequences of this could be severe.
“This is existential for the movie theater industry. If we go a year without new movies, it’s over,” he said.
The timing of this pandemic’s hit lines perfectly with the summer box office season, only makes matters worse. According to the Times, this season usually accounts for 40% of ticket sales, and the North American box office will fall around 61% from last year.
While some movie theaters are open to play classics and drive ins are making something of a comeback, many owners just don’t think this will be sustainable.
“You can only have so many showings of ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Harry Potter.’ At the end of the day, our livelihood is new movies,” Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson told the Times. “We’re going to make sure the new releases are set in stone before we get excited.”
So far, neither Disney nor movie theater chains have made a knee-jerk announcement following the indefinite delay of “Tenet.” This could be an optimistic sign for entertainment, but during this pandemic, last-minute changes have become the norm.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (Los Angeles Times) (IndieWire)
Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19
- Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
- The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
- “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
Chappelle Tests Positive
Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.
“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.
“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.
Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle
Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.
Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.
“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.