Entertainment Movies What Tenet will tell us about the future of Australian movie theatres

What Tenet will tell us about the future of Australian movie theatres

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Theatre staff are blowing the dust off projectors, and as blockbuster films slowly return to Australian screens, on thing remains clear: Everyone wants us to see Tenet. 

Christopher Nolan’s time-bending, science-fiction spy film hit screens across the country on Thursday, and movie executives are watching closely to see whether or not it will fly or flop.

Between reports that fans are flying across the US to see the film, and Tom Cruise’s shameless Twitter plug, it seems the new-release film has a lot riding on it.

Scott Seddon, president of Independent Cinemas Australia, said Tenet is significant because it’s the ‘first’, but a poor opening week may not necessarily deter other studios from releasing their films.

“Its importance is that it’s the first major international film to be released – I don’t think the world will turn or stop on the basis of how that particular film will perform,” Mr Seddon said.

“I don’t think we’re going to see Tenet turn the switch on, I think we are going to see it turn the dimmer on.”

This weekend, theatres all over Australia (except in Victoria) will be admitting fans under strict social distancing guidelines, praying the film provide a glimmer of hope to the coronavirus-ravaged film industry.

But while Tenet prepares to dip a toe in the water, other films are running in the opposite direction.

The live-action adaptation of Disney’s Mulan has had a tumultuous run, repeatedly being pushed back before getting culled off the new-release calendar completely, in favour of a streaming release on Disney Plus.

In a bid to minimise losses, movie executives have pushed some of the year’s biggest films, like A Quiet Place 2 and Top Gun: Maverick, back to 2021.

Why, then, would Nolan opt to release his film at a time most countries are still labouring under some form of social distancing or lockdown restrictions?

Canary in the coal mine …

Mr Seddon praised Warner Bros. for its “calculated” decision to give Tenet a staggered premiere.

“They’ve actually looked at the whole world and made territory-by-territory decisions on when they will release this film,” Mr Seddon said.

“And that’s incredibly insightful and what our whole industry, internationally, is going to need, whereas we have other studios simply making their decision based on North America.

“It’s fantastic that Warner Bros. has made this mature, calculated, analytical move based on the various territories in the world … it’s been released in parts of the United States and not others and that’s something that hasn’t been seen in the US in probably 30 or 40 years.”

Ultimately, Tenet will be a good test to see whether other major motion pictures slated for a 2020 release are willing to risk it.

Producers for Wonder Woman: 1984 and Black Widow, which are expected to be released in October and November, will be looking on eagerly before deciding their next move.

Damian Keogh, chief executive at Hoyts, said the film would be available in 28 Australian cinemas over the weekend, screening at least 890 sessions.

“There’s a lot of pressure on Tenet,” Mr Keogh told The Sydney Morning Herald. 

“It’s being viewed as a bit of a saviour of the cinema industry but, to me, it really is just a step on the path to recovery.

“The biggest factor for me has just been the lack of new-release content.

“Despite some people going to watch Harry Potter, Jaws and Star Wars – the romance of the retro stuff – it really is that new content that drives bums on seats in cinemas.”

Whether people are so content-starved they are willing to leave the safety of their homes remains to be seen.