George Clooney on Tenet’s Tricky Theatrical Release in a Pandemic

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Clooney compares the release plan of his upcoming Netflix pic ‘The Midnight Sky’ to Christopher Nolan’s big 2020 movie.

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While promoting his forthcoming Netflix drama The Midnight Sky, director/actor George Clooney shared his thoughts about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we release movies. Clooney opted to illustrate his point with Tenet‘s theater-only release plan. Christopher Nolan‘s push to ensure his latest feature would follow a traditional path for release could be seen as ill-advised, namely in terms of the health risks posed by going to a movie theater in a pandemic and for the financial risks of releasing a movie when ticket sales are not expected to hit pre-pandemic numbers.


Clooney’s opinion seems to side with those kinds of critiques. The Midnight Sky director and star touched on Tenet‘s release while speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about his new Netflix movie. Early on in the interview, the COVID-19 pandemic is mentioned, leading to an exchange where Clooney highlights the benefits of partnering with the streaming giant so there would be no risk of The Midnight Sky not getting released to the widest audience possible amidst the pandemic.

He began by telling THR, “Good timing that I was with Netflix, huh? I mean, it’s funny. Tenet and us are like the only two big films that are coming out this year,” and went on to share his thoughts about the movie’s release plans, remarking, “I haven’t seen [Tenet] either. Trying to force people into a movie theater is an awfully tricky thing to do when you’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

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Image via Warner Bros.

Clooney also touched on his wish to give The Midnight Sky some kind of non-streaming release (something Netflix rarely does but wouldn’t be entirely out of the ordinary), telling THR, “You know, the cinematographer’s a genius, and the effects are amazing and to see it on a big screen is the way you’re supposed to see a film like this, you know? It was made for that. And you know, we’ll do a premiere somewhere at a drive-in somewhere to see at least something on a big screen. But yeah, it’s unfortunate.”

In an ideal world (or, at minimum, a pre-pandemic world), it would of course make sense to push Tenet directly into theaters worldwide. But this is currently not an ideal world and Tenet‘s big dreams of getting a surge of people to return to theaters didn’t go according to plan. With only $56.3 million in domestic box office receipts and enough movie theaters remaining shut to cause mounting concern for the state of theatrical exhibition in the coming months, it’s hard to disagree with Clooney’s assessment that Tenet‘s release plan was “awfully tricky.”

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Image via Netflix

However, opting to release a big movie on a streaming service — as Clooney is doing with The Midnight Sky on Netflix — is also risky considering Netflix is historically unreliable with its viewer stats per title and there is nothing in the realm of box office data to help assess a movie’s success on a streaming platform. All in all, releasing a movie right now comes with a variety of ever-evolving obstacles that demand pragmatic navigation; the right way to ensure a movie’s success in all areas is still an unknown.

The Midnight Sky premieres on Netflix on December 23. Tenet will be released on digital, 4K UHD Combo Pack, Blu-ray, and DVD on December 15. Learn more about Tenet‘s digital release here.

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