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A Big Test for Hollywood, and America, Comes in July

New Christopher Nolan film, Tenet, is scheduled for release in theaters
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2020 8:29 AM CDT

(Newser) – Director Christopher Nolan has a new movie scheduled to come out in theaters on July 17. In normal times, that in itself would be big news in the entertainment world. In these weird pandemic times, that is even bigger news, and not just in the world of entertainment. Coverage:

  • Much at stake: How this plays out speaks to more than merely a single movie. "At stake, say entertainment players and analysts, is nothing short of the nation’s preeminent form of public entertainment," writes Steven Zeitchik in the Washington Post. If Nolan and Warner Bros. pull this off, audiences flock safely to theaters (which maybe stay open late to spread out the crowds), and then other big movies follow, including Mulan and Wonder Woman 1984.
  • But: If the movie's release is delayed or canceled because of renewed coronavirus concerns, or if people stay away out of fear, "every other company goes home," says an exec from a rival studio. Don't expect to see new movies until Christmas at the earliest. The new normal of home streaming continues indefinitely, "and 'going out' is a euphemism for walking around the block," writes Zeitchik.

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  • The movie: This is where you'd expect to see a quick synopsis of the plot, but this is Nolan, so good luck with that. See the trailer here. The studio says it's about the "world of international espionage," and star John David Washington seems to be on a mission to stop something "worse" than a nuclear holocaust. Because the word "tenet" is a palindrome, and the trailer features "palindromic events" such as a car flipping over, then back, some think the movie will be structured in a similar way, notes Esther Zuckerman at Thrillist. Nolan famously likes to play with time, as in Memento.
  • One take: At Collider, Allie Gemmill pieces together what Nolan, Washington, and another star, Robert Pattinson, have said (which is not much) and concludes that Tenet "is going to mess with our minds something fierce." Expect the movie "to mix in the surreal, world-bending physics of Inception with the mission-focused storytelling of Dunkirk, and with a few dashes (of) the same high-falutin’ commentary on the nature of quantum physics explored in Interstellar."
  • No time travel: In a GQ interview, Pattison revealed his character is not a time traveler (a Nolan trademark), and he suggested he didn't fully know the plot. To which Nolan had an interesting response: "He's f---ing with you, because he had a complete grasp of the script," says the director. "But a complete grasp of the script, in the case of Tenet, is one that understands and acknowledges the need for this film to live on in the audience’s mind, and suggest possibilities in the audience’s mind. And he was very much a partner in crime with that."
  • A plea: Nolan previously wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he made a passionate case for the return of the movie theater experience. "When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever,” he wrote. "We don’t just owe it to the 150,000 workers of this great American industry to include them in those we help, we owe it to ourselves. We need what movies can offer us."
  • Sorry, Russell: Getting overshadowed in the Tenet buzz is that fact that Russell Crowe has a movie scheduled for release in theaters on July 1 from indie production company Solstice Studios, per Deadline. Unhinged is a psychological thriller (see the trailer), but its release will be small-scale in comparison to Tenet. Still, as the first movie to come out since the pandemic, it should provide some sense of audiences' willingness to venture out, notes CNN.
(Read more Christopher Nolan stories.)

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