As some pre-pandemic entertainments have begun to resume over the last few months, we’ve started to notice a disturbing trend — a curse, if you will — involving the UFC. If you’re going to advertise a theatrical release in the Octagon during a pay-per-view event, your film is probably going to get delayed. Seriously, it’s becoming a trend. First, it was Russell Crowe’s Unhinged, which was prominently featured in one of the first pay-per-views that the MMA promotion scheduled, and it nearly immediately got delayed after that fight ended. A few weeks later, it was advertised again, and then got delayed once more. Now, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which was given major status at UFC 251 on July 11, has also been delayed, and this time, it’s been totally removed from the schedule.
This, of course, sucks. It sucks that the pandemic is still ravaging the U.S., and it sucks that we won’t be able to get back to normal for quite some time. Obviously, we’re joking about the MMA curse — after all, you do need a third movie to get pushed after a UFC event for it to be a real trend — and we’re mainly using this bit of dumb humor to mask our immense disappointment. But, more interesting is that Warner Bros. is planning on ditching a traditional theatrical rollout in favor of something a bit more unique and suited to the challenges of distribution in this day and age.
“‘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,’ said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group in a statement this morning. ‘We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to reevaluate our release dates. Amidst all this continued uncertainty, we have decided to vacate the current dates for our next two releases. We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature. We are not treating ‘Tenet’ like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that. Additionally, we will be moving the next installment from our most-successful horror franchise, ‘The Conjuring 3,’ to June 4, 2021.”
So, what does this all mean for you, the North America-based consumer? Well, it’s likely that you’ll have to spend the next month or two dodging spoilers for Tenet online, given how it seems that WB is looking to roll out the film in foreign markets before it hits screens in the U.S. or Canada. This is a pragmatic move on behalf of the studio, given that South Korean cinemas have been practically open during the entirety of the pandemic, and that theaters in China have currently reopened as well. It also means that, if you’re in NYC or LA or some other restriction-heavy part of the country, you’ll probably be left behind initially, in favor of markets where, you know, theaters are already open. Remember, more than 35 states have allowed their theaters to partially or fully open at the moment (including Massachusetts), but most are holding off until there’s new studio product to be shown. Man can not subsist off of The Goonies alone, it seems, and it would make sense that this rollout would favor the places where people can buy tickets. Who knows if the other films on the schedule — Disney’s Mulan, for one — will move, but we imagine they’ll take a similar approach to what WB is doing here.
Anyway, Deadline seems to suggest that Tenet might take over The Conjuring 3‘s spot on September 11, but we’ll find out soon enough, given that they’re planning on announcing a new date “imminently.” Let’s hope it’s final this time.