'Tenet' finally comes to HBO Max on May 1st

Just don't tell Christopher Nolan.

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John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in 'Tenet'
Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. is finally ready to stream Tenet after months of trying to make it a theatrical success during the pandemic. Deadline reports the studio is bringing Christopher Nolan's time-bending movie to HBO Max on May 1st. That's nearly a year after its originally planned July 2020 theater debut, and more than four months after you could buy a download.

Director Christopher Nolan likely isn't thrilled with the plan. He has long been opposed to simultaneous theatrical and digital releases, and balked when Warner said it would make all 2021 movies available simultaneously on HBO Max. He went so far as to call Warner's move a "bait and switch" to prop up HBO Max, and that movie creators found themselves working for the "worst streaming service." It's not certain if Nolan was directly responsible for Warner's insistence on a theater-first premiere, but he clearly prefers that route.

At the same time, the HBO Max release is a concession to reality. While Tenet ultimately recouped its $200 million budget with a global box office of $363 million, ticket sales were nowhere near what they would have been if the movie had arrived before COVID-19 — it turns out people aren't willing to risk their health just to watch in theaters. A streaming version might not match Nolan's ideal viewing experience, but it might just bring Tenet to many, many more people.

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