Despite a slew of highly anticipated blockbusters that were expected to arrive this year, the lockdown wreaked havoc on the box office, halting every major movie release and bringing theater chains to the verge of bankruptcy. Now, film studios are cautiously edging towards reopening of business in theaters, and according to a source within the industry who spoke to the Washington Post, filmmaker Christopher Nolan's Tenet has become the acid test for the future of the box office:
"If Tenet doesn't come out or doesn't succeed, every other company goes home. It's no movies until Christmas."
Ever since The Dark Knight cleared a billion dollars at the box office back in 2008, Nolan has gone from strength to strength, making one big-budget movie after another, that, aside from The Dark Knight Rises, were all original concepts, and all going on to win critical acclaim and make huge amounts of money in theaters.
In effect, Nolan is increasingly being seen as the poster boy for blockbuster filmmaking who can do no wrong. His brand has become so rarefied that audiences flock to see his films based on his name alone. As such, Tenet will allow movie studios to gauge the interest of audiences by revealing whether or not they are willing to go to theaters to watch the film on the big screen.
Very little is known about the plot of Tenet, with the way that actors from the movie describe the film, both Michael Caine and Robert Pattinson admitting they had a hard time following the script, only adding to the mystery. That is par for the course for a Nolan film and adds to the excitement among audiences, who expect mind-bending fare from the creator of Inception and Memento.
Christopher Nolan himself describes Tenet as his biggest movie ever, a quantum cold war film that is based on the world of international espionage. And if you're wondering what 'Quantum cold war' means, you're far from the only one. While the trailer for the film hints at some time-bending element to the plot, Pattinson has confirmed it's not a story about time travelers.
If Tenet performs well in theaters, studios will see that as a signal to release their long line of blockbusters that are currently placed in cold storage. Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, Mulan and others will make a triumphant appearance on the big screen, after months of speculation that they might have to release directly to digital via PVOD.
On the other hand, if Tenet underperforms, it will confirm the fact that audiences are still too concerned with their safety to sit together with dozens of strangers in an enclosed theater for hours, and studios will once again postpone the release of movies in theaters for several months, and maybe even resign themselves to brining their content straight to PVOD. So basically, on the shoulders of Nolan rests the future of cinema as we know it. But as the filmmaker has proved time and again in the past, when it comes down to the box office test, he always delivers.