Why this Winnipegger is watching Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in theatres 120 times

By | September 3, 2020

The first time Craig Sharpe saw the time-bending blockbuster Tenet in theatres, he admits he was “totally confused.” But now that he’s seen it 19 times, he has a pretty good grasp of the plot.

“I have had crystal clear sense of this movie since the fifth time,” the Winnipeg man told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. “And now, I’m just enjoying it.”

Sharpe is trying to earn his place in the record books by watching Christopher Nolan’s latest flick 120 times before it’s released on streaming services and DVD. To do that, he has attend multiple Cineplex screenings every day, for six weeks straight. 

His goal is to beat the Guinness World Record for most cinema productions attended for the same film. The current record belongs to Australian Joanne Connor, who saw Bohemian Rhapsody 108 times in 2019.

Movies in the time of COVID-19 

Tenet was originally scheduled for a July 17 release, but was postponed several times because of worldwide COVID-19 restrictions.

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan famously refused to pivot to an online movie release during the pandemic, insisting that his visual-effects heavy film was meant to be seen on the big screen, and that movie theatres need the financial boost.

Still, many moviegoers have been trepidatious about returning to cinemas since they started opening back up with safety measures in place. 

“It’s a long period of time to be kept in an enclosed space,” Dr. Tasleem Nimjee, a Toronto emergency room physician, told CBC News.

“Movies can be emotional. People can cry. People can laugh. So, you’re adding the risk of maybe spreading some of those [coronavirus] droplets.”

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Elizabeth Debicki, left, and John David Washington in a scene from Tenet. (Associated Press/Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

The risks aren’t lost on Sharpe. He says he keeps his distance from other patrons, wears a new mask to every screening, and applies hand sanitizer every 20 minutes. 

“I was initially worried with going back to theaters and all that,” he said.  “When I got there and seen the measures and that were taken, I had nothing but complete confidence in the location that I’m going to.”

Movies as mental self-care 

For Sharpe, it’s also a matter of taking care of his mental health. He suffers from depression and anxiety, and watching a movie — especially one he loves — helps him decompress. 

“I can take my mind off of what’s causing my anxiety and depression to help me calm down, because my mind is paying attention to whatever movie I’m watching,” he said.

“And then when the movie’s over, it resets me where I can go back to what I was doing.”

It’s especially helpful right now, he said. 

“During this pandemic, it’s something that I can look forward to and be happy about and not have to worry about, you know, what’s going on in the world too much.”

An employee helps a person buy a ticket inside the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square cinema, on the opening day of the film Tenet in London, U.K. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

He estimates he’ll spend $1,400 in movie tickets to meet his goal, and he’s crowdfunding to cover the costs.

Sharpe says he will donate any extra money to 1JustCity, a Winnipeg charity that helps people who are struggling with poverty and mental illness get access to clean clothes, food, showers, haircuts and more.

“They also helped me with helping overcome general depression issues to be able to get back into the workforce,” Sharpe said. “That’s just the way of me giving back.”

Support from family, friends and cinema staff 

Sharpe says his wife, friends and family have all been incredibly supportive. He has also has his local Cineplex management behind him.

“They’re having a bit of a chuckle with filling out the Guinness witness statement forms,” he said. “They’re really happy and rooting for me as well.”

One person he hasn’t heard from is Nolan himself. He’s been huge fan of of the filmmaker since Momento came out 20 years ago. 

“Honestly, I would probably be stumbling if I actually got in contact with him in any way, shape or form. But it would be an honour,” he said.

“I would just want to thank him for his fighting to get this movie released in the theatre. I know how he is adamant on the movie theater experience. I am the same way.”


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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