AT&T CFO John Stephens Saw ‘Tenet’ in Theaters and ‘Couldn’t Have Imagined’ Enjoying It as Much at Home

But: “We understand the distribution model is going to evolve,” he said when asked about Disney’s streaming release of “Mulan”

Last Updated: September 9, 2020 @ 8:01 AM

AT&T CFO John Stephens masked up and went to the movie theater to enjoy Warner Bros.’ “Tenet,” the Christopher Nolan film currently dominating both the box office and industry buzz.

“I couldn’t have imagined being able to see that and enjoy it in the same way here in my home,” the telecom and entertainment company senior executive vice president said of the John David Washington-Robert Pattison vehicle on Wednesday.

“We understand the distribution model is going to evolve,” Stephens said at the Bank of America Media, Communications & Entertainment conference when asked about WarnerMedia competitor Disney’s decision to make it’s tentpole “Mulan” available on streaming service Disney+.

Amid the coronavirus shutdown, WarnerMedia released “Scoob!” on HBO Max, for one local example raised by Stephens. That film was meant for theatrical release in the summer but was released as a premium video on demand rental in May and was later added exclusively to HBO Max.

“So we’re going to continue to look at it, but in no way do I want to imply that we’re not going to continue to work with those theater owners,” Stephens said. “And for a tentpole movie like “Tenet,” which I saw in the theater, it is really impressive and I couldn’t have imagined being able to see that and enjoy it in the same way here in my home.”

“Tenet” was originally set for release in July but after several date changes and delays was ultimately pushed back to this past weekend over Labor Day, where it brought in $20 million at the domestic box office and $150 million globally. The movie opened on 2,800 screens across the country, but not in major cities like New York and Los Angeles where movie theaters remain closed. In fact, the movie actually got a boost from moviegoers who traveled across state and county lines in order to see the film in a theater or in drive-ins.

That approach was in contrast to Disney’s decision to make “Mulan” available on the same day as “Tenet” for premium streaming for $30 through Disney+, which could serve as a model for the studio or others as the pandemic continues.