The delay of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet this week was dire news for movie theater owners around the world. While Warner Bros. and Nolan remain committed to getting that movie out to international movie theaters, potentially as soon as the end of August, its indefinite delay in the U.S. has triggered a new wave of similar pushbacks, including Mulan’s indefinite delay and Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II and Top Gun: Maverick abandoning September and December, respectively.
On the one hand, when looking at the grim new data emerging from a surging coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., this seems unavoidable, but on the other the movie theater industry is being pushed further to the brink. Take AMC Theatres, which is the biggest movie house chain in North America. The company has has pushed back its reopening in concert with each of Tenet’s delays, first aiming to reopen its doors by July 15 and then July 31. Now the company is trying to make it to late August, which may be in line with rumors that Tenet could have some form of a U.S. release in September. This reticence from Hollywood studios is not sustainable, according to John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).
While speaking with The Los Angeles Times, the leader of the biggest trade organization of movie exhibitors in the United States offered a dire warning for those thinking movie theaters can linger on in closure until mid 2021 or later, waiting on a widely available vaccine to be distributed.
“If the answer is, ‘We’re going to wait until 100% of theaters are open,’ we’re not going to be there until a year from now when there’s a vaccine,” Fithian said. “This is existential for the movie theater industry. If we go a year without new movies, it’s over.”