Drive-in movie theaters might be the most comfortable way to see a movie on the big screen during the coronavirus pandemic, but that route will reportedly be mostly closed off for Christopher Nolan's Tenet. Before the long-delayed Warner Bros. science fiction blockbuster finally opens on Sept. 3, the studio released strict guidelines on how outdoor venues can play the film. Drive-in theaters have provided an alternative site for new movies during the pandemic, including Russell Crowe's Unhinged, which hit theaters this weekend.
Warner Bros.' strict guidelines on screening Tenet specify that it can only play at drive-in theaters in markets where traditional indoor cinemas are open, reports Variety. For example, the movie could play at drive-in theaters in Chicago, since indoor theaters have been allowed to open there. However, indoor theaters in the country's two biggest media markets, Los Angeles and New York City, are still closed. The caveat to this is that the situation could change rapidly due to the virus. By the time Labor Day rolls around in two weeks, more indoor theaters might be allowed to reopen. Theaters have reopened in 44 states. Just over 1,700 theaters in the U.S. and 2,100 theaters of the 6,000 in all of North America have reopened, according to Comscore data.
Drive-in theaters have provided Hollywood with a surprising lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic. This weekend, the Russell Crowe-starring thriller Unhinged grossed $4 million, in part because of drive-ins in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco, Variety reported. Solstice Studios gave Unhinged the widest release for a new film since the pandemic started, opening it in over 1,800 venues. Considering the success of Unhinged's release, exhibitors told Variety they were surprised Warner Bros. would limit Tenet's release in any way, considering the movie cost $200 million to make. "There's no predicting what's going to happen with theaters reopening," an exhibitor told the outlet. "Studios do things all the time that don't make sense."
Tenet has been delayed three times this year due to the pandemic. After postponing the film's U.S. release indefinitely, Warner Bros. decided to roll out the film internationally starting on Aug. 26. The studio later decided to begin its U.S. rollout on Sept. 3, with more theaters added the following weekend. Tenet is Nolan's first film since 2017's Dunkirk and stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.