LOS ANGELES — It’s now on you, “Mulan.”
Warner Bros. on Friday pushed back the release of “Tenet,” a $200 million-plus mind bender from Christopher Nolan that was supposed to arrive in theaters on July 17 and jump-start the pandemic-stricken movie business. Instead, “Tenet” will be released on July 31.
The move means theaters will largely sit fallow for an extra week. Disney’s extravagant “Mulan,” directed by Niki Caro, will now signal the return of megawatt Hollywood movies when it comes out on July 24 — unless Disney also decides that market conditions are too harsh.
A Disney spokesman had no immediate comment.
After being closed for months by the pandemic, movie theaters around the world are reopening, albeit with limited attendance and heightened safety requirements. But audiences may be skittish about returning to theaters, making big-budget releases all the more important.
Mr. Nolan’s films for Warner include the “Dark Knight” trilogy, the cerebral “Inception” and most recently “Dunkirk,” which collected $527 million worldwide in 2017. In March, he wrote in The Washington Post that movie theaters were “the most affordable and democratic of our community gathering places” and urged Congress to include them in the federal bailout. “When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever,” Mr. Nolan wrote.
The plot for “Tenet” has been kept secret, in accordance with Mr. Nolan’s wishes. The film stars John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman,” HBO’s “Ballers”) and Robert Pattinson, best known for the “Twilight” saga.
AMC Theaters, the world’s largest cineplex operator, announced on Tuesday that “almost all” of its locations in the United States and Britain would reopen next month. Over all, theaters in 90 percent of overseas markets will be running again by mid-July, according to the National Association of Theater Owners, a trade organization for movie exhibitors in 98 countries.
It is unclear whether people — even while watching movies in well-sanitized theaters with limited capacity — will feel safe from the coronavirus, the spread of which rose to a worldwide high on Sunday, as measured by new cases. As the United States has started to reopen its economy, new hot spots have emerged; Texas, Florida and California all recently reported their highest daily tallies of new virus cases. Mass protests against police brutality have raised the specter of a coronavirus surge in the coming weeks.
Restrictions for reopening theaters vary by state. According to California’s state guidance, as of June 12, theaters are urged to limit attendance to 25 percent of theater capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. Theater owners are also being encouraged to designate arrival times for patrons, establish specific entryways and exits to theaters and reconfigure seats to ensure six feet of physical distance between attendees. Masks are required for employees who must be within six feet of customers and encouraged for patrons when entering the theaters and at the concession stand. Disposable seat covers are also suggested.
Los Angeles and the Bay Area are the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 movie markets. New York City and its immediate suburbs are No. 2. AMC said on Tuesday that it was unclear whether cinemas in New York would reopen in time for “Tenet,” then expected on July 17.