Watch the trailer for director Christopher Nolan's new movie, "Tenet." USA TODAY Handout


Cinemas are still shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Christopher Nolan wants audiences to know he continues to bet on a theatrical release for his summer blockbuster, "Tenet" (scheduled for July 17).

A new trailer for Warner Bros.' mind-bending spy thriller dropped late Thursday, with new footage showing off more plot and bevy of stars, including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branaugh and Elizabeth Debicki battling a fatal futuristic force. The final seconds of the trailer leave viewers with three words (that would be innocuous any other year), each landing with a cinematic flourish: Coming to theaters.

"Tenet" has been tenacious about holding onto its upcoming release date, one of three high-profile films still standing on the summer calendar along with Disney's live-action “Mulan” (July 24) and superhero sequel “Wonder Woman 1984" (Aug. 14). 

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Meanwhile, Hollywood at large is counting on "Tenet" to open successfully. During Disney's May 5 second quarter earnings conference call CEO Bob Chapek said their "fingers are crossed" that "Mulan" will still hit theaters this summer, obliquely referencing that "Tenet" will be opening the week prior.

"We're going to get a pretty good idea because there’s a competitive movie opening up before ours does," said Chapek, noting that Disney is banking on "incredible pent-up demand from moviegoers" to help boost box office.

Though family films like "Trolls World Tour" and "Scoob!" have tossed plans for a big-screen release and debuted instead on video on demand, no blockbuster film has gone straight to VOD, with most kicking their release dates into the fall or next year. 

When will audiences feel ready to go back to theaters? No one has that answer yet.

Contributing: Brian Truitt, Bryan Alexander

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