We can debate all we want about the current state of cinema, to stream or not to stream, if anyone can make any money without theaters and so on. Now one of the most powerful men in all of the media – John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia’s parent company AT&T – has nailed a few facts.

John Stankey

Firstly that Tenet was a flop for them and their strategy with it was a financial mistake. Secondly that they are not at all optimistic about theaters making a comeback in 2021.

Stankey made the admissions during an investor conference call on Wednesday. This call was picked up by Deadline. He said:

“I can’t tell you we walked away from the Tenet experience saying it was a home run.”

He insisted that they were happy that they tried it, but there is no way they could consider it a success. The Christopher Nolan blockbuster has so far grossed just over $50 million at the US box office after several months on release, plus around $334 million globally. However it has had zero competition and by the time the numbers are washed through the system it’s widely believed that Tenet has so far lost Warner Bros around over $100 million.

Naturally the investors were asking questions about the future of distribution methods given the dire straits many theaters are now in. Stankey said they are not optimistic about the chances of a return to business as usual in 2021:

“We’re not optimistic. We’re not … expecting a huge recovery in theatrical moving into the early part of next year. We’re expecting it to continue to be choppy.”

As a result of this skepticism, Stankey says that Warner Bros are going to continue to evaluate all of their options going into the next few months. So nothing is set in stone. Expect Wonder Woman 1984 to move back from its release date of Christmas Day. Remember last month this movie was widely rumored to be going direct to streaming too.