Christopher Nolan is one of Hollywood’s hottest filmmakers, with a string of critical and commercial hits that include Inception, the Dark Knight trilogy, and 2017’s Dunkirk. At this point, any project with his name on it is a big deal, and the upcoming Tenet might be his most important movie so far — but we don’t know when you’ll be able to see it.
After some release date shuffling that had Tenet moved from its original July 17 release date to August 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Warner Bros. Pictures removed the film from its upcoming calendar indefinitely on July 20, before eventually settling on an international debut on August 26 and a North America launch on September 3. Initially, WB and Nolan were both adamant about making Tenet the first major movie to hit theaters in the wake of the pandemic, but the continuing — and in many U.S. states, rising — risk posed by the virus has made movie theaters’ future uncertain.
Here’s everything we know about Tenet so far.
The release date
Ready for inversion, immersion, and the ultimate IMAX experience? Christopher Nolan’s @TenetFilm was shot on IMAX Film and made to be experienced in #IMAX. Opening only in theatres soon. #TENET pic.twitter.com/AHrcHdI19W
— IMAX (@IMAX) August 5, 2020
Tenet is currently set to release internationally on August 26, including in France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, then in select cities across North America on September 3, the Labor Day weekend. An IMAX trailer, released on August 5, confirms the September release date, which may be an indicator that Warner Bros. Pictures finally has this date set in stone. The studio had previously indicated that it might decide to release Tenet internationally before it comes to the United States since theaters have already begun reopening elsewhere around the world. However, there is still no set release window in China.
The uncertain status of theaters both in the U.S. and internationally is because the coronavirus pandemic forced the studio to push back the film’s release twice; once from its original release date of July 17, and again from the updated release date of July 31, eventually settling on August 12. The film was removed entirely from the U.S. release calendar on July 20.
The first indication that Tenet might not premiere on its initial release date was provided by a television ad for the film that premiered May 21. Instead of confirming the film’s release date, the preview indicated the movie was simply “coming to theaters.”
Behind the scenes
If you can’t wait to see the movie, a new ten-minute featurette takes a deep dive behind the scenes of the highly anticipated film. Check it out below and you just might find some Easter eggs:
Twitter was crawling with new Tenet posters and imagery in the weeks ahead of the August 26 release date. Check them out below:
— Alejandro Plaza (@Jango1138) August 12, 2020
Tenemos nuevos pósters de #Tenet, la esperada película de Christopher Nolan
Estreno Sept. 11 ???? pic.twitter.com/JKYBzIzUfq
— Shootbits (@shootbits) August 12, 2020
Los nuevos pósters de #TENET son INCREÍBLES ????????????
La película se va a estrenar el 11 de septiembre en México. ¡Qué ganas! pic.twitter.com/stnRX4t3il
— Cine Top (@CineTop_) August 12, 2020
Earlier in the month, another image posted to the movie’s official Twitter page provided some more fodder for fan theories. In the image, John David Washington can be seen walking toward the camera without an oxygen mask on and, seemingly at the same time, turned away with an oxygen mask on. Co-star Robert Pattinson has explicitly stated that Tenet is not a movie about time travel, so the two Washingtons may be a red herring or a reference to another movie element entirely.
— TENET (@TENETFilm) July 1, 2020
Like most of Nolan’s prior films, Tenet has been surrounded in mystery during the lead-up to its premiere.
The film reportedly follows a secret agent on a mission to stop World War III, who must use a variety of fantastic tools and abilities — possibly involving time manipulation and other sci-fi elements — in order to save humanity.
However, in a May interview with GQ Magazine, cast member Robert Pattinson indicated that his character is “not a time traveler.”
“There’s actually no time traveling,” he revealed. “That’s, like, the one thing I’m approved to say.”
The cast of Tenet is a mix of rising stars, familiar faces, and veterans of Nolan’s earlier films.
John David Washington, who was nominated for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his lead actor performance in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, plays one of the film’s lead roles. Washington’s unidentified secret agent character is the focus of the film’s first trailer and much of the early footage released from the film, suggesting he’ll be the story’s primary protagonist.
Washington is joined in the film by former Twilight franchise actor Robert Pattinson, who appears to play another secret agent. In an interesting convergence of properties, Pattinson will also play the lead role in the upcoming superhero movie The Batman — a character Nolan is quite familiar with after directing the critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.
The supporting cast of the film also includes The Great Gatsby actress Elizabeth Debicki, Kick-Ass actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Dark Knight trilogy actor Michael Caine, and Henry V actor Kenneth Branagh.
The first trailer for Tenet (see above) was released December 19, 2019.
Several months later, a television ad for the movie teased the arrival of a new Tenet trailer debuting May 21.
The coronavirus question
With theaters throughout the U.S. still in the early stages of reopening (and many still without a firm date to reopen safely), one of the biggest questions surrounding Tenet early on was whether it would be able to premiere July 17 as initially planned. The release date was indeed pushed nearly a month, and then removed entirely from the studio’s calendar, before settling at a September 3 debut in select cities.
Tenet was supposed to be the first major movie scheduled to hit theaters after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close around the world. With its reported $205 million production budget and additional associated costs, Tenet is Nolan’s most expensive original film to date and will need a long and profitable run in theaters to turn a profit for the studio and Nolan’s production company.
Warner Bros. Pictures is expected to make a call on the film’s release date as more information about theater availability becomes available.
Updated August 27, 2020: Added new featurette.
- No Time to Die: Everything we know about James Bond 25
- Wonder Woman 1984: Everything we know about the movie so far
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Everything we know about the Snyder Cut
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Everything we know about the Disney+ series
- 13 great sci-fi books to read before they become TV shows