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Christopher Nolan film Tenet hitting theatres in Canada before U.S.

In the latest plan for Hollywood’s hopeful return to movie-going during the pandemic, Warner Bros. will release Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in an unprecedented fashion, opening in Canada and internationally first on Aug. 26, with a U.S. release in select cities to follow over Labour Day weekend.

Warner Bros. on Monday said Tenet will arrive at theatres first in more than 70 countries including Japan, Russia, much of Europe and Australia. The $200 million US thriller will open in the U.S. about a week later on Thursday, Sept. 3.

The staggered release will be tailored to outbreaks of COVID-19. Instead of the usual global launch of a summer blockbuster, Tenet will make its way through theatres as they open.

The film, originally set for release July 17, has already had its premiere postponed several times.

Canadian theatres adjusting provincially

In Canada, the number of people allowed inside theatres varies by province, depending on the impact of COVID-19 and the reopening measures introduced by local health authorities. 

For example, Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening guidelines, introduced earlier this month, cap a movie theatre’s occupancy of 50 guests in the building, regardless of how many screens it operates.  

Cineplex has reopened 35 locations in provinces where distancing measures are less restrictive. The company introduced new seating plans to meet guidelines and boosted its cleaning procedures, but its Ontario theatres remain closed.

Landmark Cinemas and Imagine Cinemas, two other chains that operate a number of multiplexes, have kept their theatres shut in the province as well.

COVID-19 concerns in the U.S.

Tenet has had multiple purposed openings, but each time spikes in cases throughout the U.S. have forced the studio to rethink its plan.

Now, Warner Bros. has upended the usual launch of a would-be blockbuster. When Tenet lands in the U.S., it will be piecemeal throughout the country and dependent on areas where cinemas are allowed open.

Theatres are currently shuttered in California and New York (each home to one of the country’s top two markets), among other states. But that could change in the next month.

Warner Bros. will also deliberately spread out its opening weekend, debuting the film mid-week to space out eager moviegoers.

The major theatre chains are expecting to operate with heightened cleaning measures and at reduced capacities of 25-50 per cent to facilitate social distancing.

AMC Theaters, the world’s largest chain, last week postponed its U.S. reopening to mid-to-late August.

While the release of other summer tentpole titles like Mulan and A Quiet Place Part II have been further delayed, director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. have sought to lead the charge back into theaters with Tenet. (Associated Press/Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

While the release of other summer tentpole movies have been further delayed, Nolan and Warner Bros. have sought to lead the charge back into theatres.

Exhibitors, the wide majority of which have been closed for more than four months, are desperate for new films and have implored distributors to accept atypical release patterns.

Walt Disney Co. last week indefinitely delayed its Mulan remake. Paramount Pictures put off A Quiet Place Part II to April 2021.

Last week, cinemas reopened in China, the world’s second largest market, although Tenet doesn’t yet have a release date there.

In Europe, about a third of AMC’s locations have resumed operating. In the meantime, movie theatres that have opened have mostly been showing older films.

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