Ever since it was announced that the release of Christopher Nolan's Tenet has been delayed indefinitely, fans have been afraid that the highly anticipated blockbuster might be forced to debut online through video on demand, rather than on the big screen. John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, which is the parent company of WarnerMedia, recently held a conference call with analysts discussing the chances of more of their planned theater releases going straight to streaming. According to Stankey, while such a strategy is feasible for other movies, Tenet is definitely not going to do so.

"Do I think that there could be some things that we had originally chartered and built for theatrical release that maybe migrate into an SVOD construct? Sure, I think that could occur. Is it going to happen on a movie like Tenet or something like Wonder Woman 1984? I'd be very surprised if that would be the case. In fact, I can assure you on Tenet that's not going to be the case."
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While going straight to streaming has proved to be a surprisingly profitable option for certain films like Trolls World Tour, an expensive film like Tenet needs to make far more money just to break even than an untested market like online streaming via PVOD can provide. Aside from the business side of it, Nolan has explained in past interviews how he crafted Tenet to be a theatrical experience whose value would be diminished if not viewed on the big screen.

"I think of all the films that I've made, this is perhaps the one that is most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience. This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we're very very excited for you to see what it is we've done. We've made big films in the past, but this is a film whose global reach and level of action is beyond anything we've ever attempted before."

For now, Stankey is willing to wait the situation out as far as Tenet is concerned, but he acknowledged that having a streaming service like HBO Max also added some welcome options for the company to consider when deciding how to distribute their content in a post-lockdown world.

"I don't know when theaters are going to open, just like I'm not sure I can say exactly when schools are going to reopen and what the circumstances are going to be around it. And there is no question that the longer this goes on, there is going to be some content on the margins we look at and say it may be better served to be distributed in another construct or a different construct. I love the fact that we have that option now. I love the reality that we've been able to build a platform that we can get leverage and capabilities out of any content we build, theatrical or otherwise, and pick the platform and where we go with it."

This news originated at Deadline. Tenet is still awaiting an official theatrical release date in the U.S.

Neeraj Chand