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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If all goes to plan, Christopher Nolan's thrice-delayed "Tenet" will be the first blockbuster to receive a proper worldwide theatrical release amid the coronavirus pandemic at the end of this month.

Why it matters: It'll be playing a $200 million game of chicken, hoping to prove that people across the globe are still willing to trek to theaters to see a splashy new movie.

The state of play: Warner Bros. will open "Tenet" in 70 countries, including China, the U.K., Canada and South Korea, on Aug. 26. But it won't see a U.S. release until a week later.

  • As the rest of the world begins to slowly reopen, Hollywood is eager to get rolling again as major releases have been on pause since the pandemic kicked off in March.
  • The current strategy for "Tenet" risks leaving much of the U.S. behind — and could leave a lot of cash on the table for its studio — especially since theaters still aren't open in the movie capitals of New York and Los Angeles.

The big picture: Releasing a major film internationally before it debuts in the U.S. is unusual, but it isn't unprecedented — although the current state of affairs sure is.

  • Marvel has long dropped its movies early internationally, with its president, Kevin Feige, citing increased buzz from box office success as a major benefit, per CinemaBlend.
  • Trying to use an international release for "Tenet" to hype American moviegoers might not work the same way, as the U.S. outbreak is significantly worse than in other developed countries.
  • Even with masks, the crowded, enclosed confines of a movie theater — especially during the movie's two-and-a-half-hour run time — are precisely what health experts say people should avoid. That could put off older patrons, assuming theaters are open at all.

Between the lines: All of this is happening because Nolan is an avowed cinephile who only wants his creation on the big screen, rather than a release that would allow people to watch it at home on demand.

  • Because "Tenet" had already been delayed indefinitely in July before getting put back on the release calendar, there's a chance that all of this is a trial balloon — and the movie might not actually see the light of day until 2021.

The bottom line: Per an IndieWire report, the movie's breakeven point is $800 million. That's a huge sum for a blockbuster to rake in during the best of times — and it's more than the total worldwide grosses of his last two movies "Interstellar" ($690 million) and "Dunkirk" ($525 million).

Go deeper: Summer's hottest blockbusters delayed as coronavirus cases rise

Go deeper

Updated Oct 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Pfizer booster has 95.6% efficacy, large study shows — FDA authorizes mix-and-match for booster shots — J&J expects $2.5 billion of vaccine sales this year.
  2. Health: Cases and deaths keep falling — White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11 — The global coronavirus vaccine gap — Gates Foundation to send $120 million of antiviral pills to lower-income countries.
  3. Politics: Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID — Puerto Rico leads U.S. vaccination rates — Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Nov 11, 2020 - Health

CDC: Masks protect wearers as well as others from coronavirus

Photo: Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

If you wear a mask, you're protecting yourself as well as others from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an update on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation," per the CDC.

Updated Nov 10, 2020 - World

In photos: Coronavirus restrictions grow across Europe

A waiter stands on an empty street in downtown Lisbon on Nov. 9, after Portugal introduced a night-time curfew for 70% of the population, including the capital and also the coastal city of Porto. It'll last for at least two weeks, per the BBC. Photo: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images

Portugal and Hungary have become the latest European countries to impose partial lockdowns, with curfews going into effect overnight. Governments across the continent are imposing more restrictions in attempts to curb COVID-19 spikes.

The big picture: Over 9.2 million cases have been reported to the European Centre for Disease Control. Per the ECDC, France has the most (almost 1.8 million) followed by Spain (over 1.3 million) and the United Kingdom (nearly 1.2 million). The COVID death rate per 100,000 of the population is highest in the Czech Republic (25), followed by Belgium (19) and Hungary (10.4).