Entertainment

Where Can You Actually See 'Tenet' Right Now?

You can now watch Christopher Nolan's latest brain-teaser from your couch.

john david washington, tenet
John David Washington | Warner Bros.
John David Washington | Warner Bros.

The news is true: Tenet is here. After months of speculation in the press, light mockery on social media and a few release-date changes, the latest blockbuster brain-teaser from director Christopher Nolan—originally scheduled for release on July 17, 2020 before the coronavirus upended the summer movie schedule—isn't just a poster, a trailer, or a topic of endless debate anymore. It's a real movie that you can watch in some theaters across the United States and, as of December 15, in the privacy of your own home.

In the past few months, the Tom Cruise-endorsed time-travel thriller served as a massive trial balloon for a mode of entertainment that's financially flatlined due to ongoing pandemic protocols. (The movie has made more than $300 million worldwide, but struggled in the U.S. with only $57 million at the domestic box office. It's too early to gauge how many people will pay $20 to own a digital copy of the movie.) Besides those big-picture concerns, there are simpler matters you might have questions about as you navigate this odd historical moment. We've got you covered.

tenet, christopher nolan
Christopher Nolan | Warner Bros.

Is Tenet available on VOD?

Yes! On December 15, after months of waiting, Tenet arrived on digital for the price of $19.99. (It's also available to purchase DVD and Blu-ray.) The movie is currently available to both purchase and rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay, and other platforms. If you purchase the movie now, you will own it on that platform and are free to watch it how ever many times you choose, which might be ideal for figuring out the plot. Rentals are typically offered at the price of $5.99 and expire after 48 hours.

Is Tenet available on HBO Max, Netflix, or another streaming service?

No, Tenet is not currently available on any of the subscription-based streaming services. The movie was released by Warner Bros., so Tenet will most likely find its way to HBO Max at some point in the near future. But there has not been an official release date announced yet.

In early December, Warner Bros. announced that all of the movies on its 2021 slate—including titles like Dune, The Suicide Squad, and The Matrix 4—will premiere on HBO Max on the same day they debut in theaters. It's a path that some thought Tenet might take before it was released in theaters.

Christopher Nolan is not a fan of that approach, pandemic be damned, and he's also not a fan of HBO Max. "Some of our industry's biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service," said the director in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. It's unclear when Tenet will be available on HBO Max, but don't expect to see Nolan's next project premiering on the service.

tenet movie
John David Washington and Robert Pattinson | Warner Bros.

Where is Tenet currently playing in the United States?

It's easiest to start with where Tenet will not be playing. As of December 10,Tenet isn't permitted to be shown in New York City or in Los Angeles, two of the biggest moviegoing markets in the country. With COVID cases again rising across the country, some cities and states that previously opened their theaters earlier in the year have closed them again. You can check this site for a more detailed, up-to-date rundown of where the film is screening. 

In October, two states -- North Carolina and Washington -- reopened theaters after keeping them closed well into September. In Washington, Yahoo reported that AMC and Cinemark announced theater openings across the state, but Regal theater chains, which are owned Cineworld, will remain closed. Cineworld suspended operations in 536 Regal theaters on October 8 after it was announced No Time to Die, the latest James Bond movie, was being delayed.

 On October 17, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that movie theaters outside of New York City could reopen at "25 percent capacity under state guidance starting October 23."  (This included 11 Regal Cinemas locations in the state.) There's still no public indication of when theaters will reopen in New York City.

The debate about reopening theaters in New York has grown heated. On October 14, the Global Cinema Federation, a worldwide organization of theater operators, published an open letter pleading with Cuomo to reopen theaters, arguing that many theater companies may not survive if action is not taken. The letter was signed by leaders from AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex and Cineworld. They also suggested New York adapt a plan similar to the one in Los Angeles, which allows for theaters to reopen on a "county-by-county basis according to virus data." 

Theaters remain closed in Los Angeles, but Tenet is now available in drive-in theaters in L.A., where it was previously not an option. (More on that head-scratching choice below.) Back in September, The Los Angeles Times published a detailed run-down of the situation in California, where restrictions in areas like Orange County and Marin County began to be lifted. As with most things relating to the coronavirus, the conditions could change as the number of cases rise or fall.  

Can you see Tenet at drive-in movie theaters?

This is a question with a complicated answer. With traditional movie theaters closed all summer, drive-in movie theaters have seen a revival in recent months. So, it would make sense for Tenet to be playing at drive-in theaters across the country, right? On August 24, Variety reported that Tenet will be screening at some drive in theaters. But it will not be screening in drive-in theaters located in markets like New York and Los Angeles, where the film will not be also available in a traditional theater setting.

What's the logic here? The Variety article claims that movie exhibitors were told the decision was made "in order to help preserve the twists and turns of the plot, which has been shrouded in secrecy." That explanation is ridiculous, since the movie has been showing overseas for weeks already, and the internet has no end of spoilers. But, sure it's certainly possible. As Indiewire speculates, it's also possible that Nolan himself is not a fan of the drive-in format or that it's part of an effort by Warner Bros. to put more pressure on cities to reopen their theaters. Like with all things Tenet, it's perhaps best to embrace the mystery.

tenet movie
A big explosion! | Warner Bros.

Can you rent a movie theater to watch Tenet

Yes, it's possible. As movie fans grapple with the challenges of staying safe and going to watch Tenet, this could emerge as a popular (but expensive) option. Obviously, you could spend a large amount of money buying up all the seats for a particular screening at a movie theater near or, if you live in a state with restrictions, even not-so-near to you, but some chains do offer special pricing packages for anyone looking to host a group screening in a more controllably socially distanced environment. For example, Cinemark is currently offering a "Private Watch Party" option that's priced between $99 and $175. Even if your group is a single person (you), this might be the least problematic option, or at least the one that, without any actual scientific evidence being available, you might think is the least problematic option, if you absolutely find yourself needing to see a movie in a theater during a global pandemic that is still raging in the United States and has caused the deaths of more than 186,000 Americans so far.

Can you see Tenet in IMAX?

The point of Tenet is that it's big, loud, and pulverizing. So, if you are someone who has decided that they absolutely can't not see Tenet in theater, you might want to see it in the format that will emphasize those aspects of the movie. Indiewire has a helpful list of every IMAX location, along with a much shorter list of theaters where you can see the movie on 70 mm.

tenet movie
Robert Pattinson | Warner Bros.

Should you go see Tenet in a theater?

As with most questions relating to the pandemic, there's no easy answer here, as it likely depends on where you live, what your tolerance is for potentially catching an infectious disease that could kill you, or how receptive you are to the advice of pandemic experts. Your best bet is to read as much as you can before making a decision, follow the suggested protocols, and consider the potential health risks involved. The big theater chains have announced a shared program, dubbed CinemaSafe, that outlines all the changes they've made to create a safer environment in theaters, including rules about mask and theater capacity. But is it enough? Luckily, many news outlets have published stories that can help you figure out what you want to do.

Vulture has an informative interview with Dr. Robert Lahita, chairman of medicine at St. Joseph’s Health in New Jersey, that digs into multiple tricky questions about theater safety. He emphasizes wearing a mask, keeping social distance, washing your hands, and refraining from eating until you're in the theater. "Nothing is 100 percent safe,” he says toward the end of the interview, a sentiment that you'll find repeated in other stories about the topic.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.
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