MGM stays mum about No Time to Die

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer stayed mum about No Time to Die during an investor call this week.

Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said No Time to Die “sets MGM up for a tremendous second half of 2021.”

That was the only mention of the 25th James Bond film in the executive’s prepared remarks. The executive also referenced a movie, to be made on MGM’s Orion brand, based on the killing of Emmet Till, with Eon Productions’ Barbara Broccoli as one of the producers.

No Time to Die has been delayed five times from its original fall 2019 release date. Three of the delays have been due to COVID-19.

In recent weeks, the virus has mutated with its Delta variant causing a spike in cases and hospitalizations. So far, the Bond film is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

No Time to Die is being released in North America by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures. Universal is releasing the movie internationally.

MGM has agreed to be acquired by Amazon for $8.45 billion. The deal is subject to regulatory review, including an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

MGM reports year-end 2020 results, no NTTD news

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week reported its year-end 2020 results but had little to say about No Time to Die.

The company said it has 14 films either completed or in production (the often delayed No Time to Die among them) along with 47 television series “scheduled to deliver.”

Company executives said all this will lead to earnings growth later in 2021 and into 2022.

“It is safe to say that we have fully reinvigorated MGM ’s film business, focusing on a powerful combination of original, IP and proven franchises from the MGM library, all supplemented by a diverse array of films” from the company’s Orion brand, Chief Operating Officer Christ Brearton said in prepared remarks.

To read all of Brearton’s prepared comments, you can CLICK HERE.

An investor call to discuss results had a question and answer session. There was one question. It didn’t concern No Time to Die.

MGM says moving NTTD to April was best move

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer management said this week that moving No Time to Die’s release to April 2021 was the best move amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The shift “was not a decision we made lightly but was absolutely the right choice,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said on a call with investors.

Moving the 25th James Bond movie to 2021 “best preserves and enhances its value,” he said.

Kenneth Kay, MGM’s chief financial officer, said studio management expects No Time to Die to “generate significant cash flow and earnings starting in the second quarter of 2021.”

Last month, there were multiple reports that MGM was considering proposals from streaming services, including Apple Plus, run by Apple Inc., for a one-year license to show No Time to Die. MGM’s only public comment was No Time to Die was not for sale.

During the call’s question and answer session, there were no queries abut those reports.

MGM management’s theme in the call was that better days are ahead for the studio. “We believe we have only scratched the surface of what we can achieve,” Brearton said.

MGM and Danjaq LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions, control the James Bond film franchise.

Bond 25 questions: Still on track for November?

No Time to Die teaser poster

There hasn’t been a lot of news on the No Time to Die front. But there has been enough to get fans interested. As usual, the blog has questions.

No Time to Die Licensees are moving forward. Doesn’t that mean that No Time to Die has to be coming out in November, as scheduled?

That depends on whether you think the licensees are in the loop or not.

But yes, we have new NTTD-based Funko Pops and two limited-edition Aston Martin cars based on the 25th James Bond film coming out.

What do you make of the comments by an MGM executive on a recent investor call?

Personally, I think Christopher Brearton, the company’s chief operating officer, is hedging his bets.

On the one hand, he said Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “currently” has three films scheduled for 2020, including No Time to Die in November.

On the other hand, he also said: “We continue to monitor and adjust the timing of our remaining 2020 (film) slate.”

But we’ll see.

Will No Time to Die come out on premium video on demand (PVOD)?

It’s one thing to bring out Bill & Ted Face the Music (from MGM’s Orion brand) on PVOD. It’s another to bring out a big “tentpole” movie like No Time to Die.

Walt Disney Co. is going the PVOD route with Mulan, another big movie. But Disney doesn’t have a lot of company right now.

Brearton said “great movies” can “be monetized” in a number of ways. But he certainly didn’t say No Time to Die would go the PVOD route. He spoke more generally about using theaters and PVOD in the near term for films.

MGM still lists No Time to Die as November release

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, at least for now, is still listing No Time to Die as a November release.

“We continue to monitor and adjust the timing of our remaining 2020 (film) slate,” Christopher Brearton, the company’s chief operating officer, said on an investor call earlier this month.

Brearton listed three releases with 2020 dates: Bill & Ted Face the Music (coming out in theaters and premium video on demand) late this month; Candyman, released through Universal, in October; and No Time to Die in November.

No Time to Die originally was slated to come out in April but was delayed to November because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Movie theaters have been slow to reopen amid the virus.

“The theatrical marketplace is in flux,” the executive said. “There’s great uncertainty about what the near term holds for access and attendance.”

Brearton said MGM still is optimistic about theatrical distribution in the long run. The studio may utilize a mix of theaters and PVOD to distribute movies in the near term, he said.

No Time to Die is being released by United Artists Releasing, co-owned by MGM and Annapurna Pictures, in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

About that No Time to Die release date

Well, maybe.

The blog asked March 20, “How confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date?” The answer: “Get back to me when we know how the coronavirus plays out.”

The picture hasn’t cleared up much since. Movie theaters still are mostly closed in a number of major markets.

Even when they reopen, the theaters may have to strictly limit the number of tickets sold for each showing of a film. A “packed” house may consist of perhaps 25 percent of the seats sold.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives, in a March call with investors, said delaying the movie to November from April was a bold and necessary move.

Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said 007’s home studio was “able to secure Bond’s place on the release calendar…This was the right decision for MGM and the storied James Bond franchise.”

Of course, that assumed theaters would be operating normally and audiences would feel comfortable going to films again. Neither can be assumed right now.

This week, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, wrote that “some studio executives are now thinking its release should be pushed back even further — into next year, if an available date can be found. So many blockbuster release dates have already been shunted into 2021 that available screens are scarce.”

Bamigboye over the past decade has seen a number of his Bond-related scoops proven correct. While he doesn’t write about Bond as much as he used to, he still draws attention when he does report on 007. Other outlets quickly summarized his report (which was one item in a weekly column).

The thing is, the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is causing plenty of other uncertainty. There’s still no cure, no vaccine and few treatment options.

An example of the real-life impact: Manufacturers are trying to restart operations but likely will have to deploy workers further apart. They may have to run more shifts while making fewer products.

COVID-19’s impact is huge. There have been more than 1 million confirmed cases in the U.S. alone, with tens of thousands of deaths.

Revisiting that March 20 post question — how confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date? — there isn’t much reason to feel more confident. But, as ever, we’ll see.

MGM says NTTD delay was ‘the right call at the right time’

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s chief operating officer this week told investors that delaying No Time to Die to November was “the right call at the right time.”

Christopher Brearton, on a conference call with investors, said the studio acted quickly and was “able to secure Bond’s place on the release calendar…This was the right decision for MGM and the storied James Bond franchise.”

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film, had been set for release in April, with a world premiere on March 31.

On March 4, the release date was changed to Nov. 12 in the U.K. and Nov. 25 in the U.S. The move took place as the coronavirus pandemic began disrupting the entertainment industry, with theaters closing and productions being shut down. No Time to Die was one of the first major films to be delayed.

Since then, a number of expensive films — the ninth Fast and the Furious installment, Marvel’s Black Widow and Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984, among them — have given up their original release dates.

Since 1995, Bond films have mostly come out in November in the U.S.

“That window has worked,” Brearton said. He called the new November schedule “an advantageous release date.”

MGM says No Time to Die marketing gears up in early 2020

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said this week that No Time to Die’s marketing will gear up in early 2020.

The film “wrapped filming in October and is on track for its Easter 2020 release,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said on a quarterly call with investors.

“Marketing is slated to swing into high gear early in the New Year,” he said. “And we couldn’t be more excited about what we have in store for Bond fans around the world.”

The executive didn’t provide any additional details about the 25th James Bond film. There has been fan speculation when the first trailer for No Time to Die will be released. The James Bond & Friends podcast said in August that a rough cut of the trailer existed at that time.

Brearton’s remarks covered other upcoming projects, including a 2021 sequel for MGM’s recent Addams Family animated film (Brearton said Addams Family “will develop into a family franchise.”), Creed III and a new Tomb Raiders movie. Brearton also talked about MGM’s television business.

Also on the call, Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Kay said the company expects No Time to Die to help generate cash for the company. In 2019, MGM has been spending money on the Bond film and other projects as it increases film and TV production as well as investing in its Epix TV channel.

Kay referred to MGM’s movie business in 2020 as a “James Bond-led revitalized film slate.”

Unanswered Questions

Executives dodged two Bond-related questions on the call. The first was whether MGM had conferred with Eon Productions whether the Bond series could produce films on a more regular basis (“maybe every two or three years”) or move into streaming television the way Marvel Studios and Star Wars have. The last 007 film, SPECTRE, came out in fall 2015. MGM and Danjaq, Eon’s parent company, control the Bond franchise.

Brearton replied that MGM is focused on No Time to Die for now. “We’re in constant communication with Barbara (Broccoli) and our partners on the best way to maximize the value of the franchise,” he said.

The MGM executive was also asked about finding the next James Bond actor. Daniel Craig has said No Time to Die is his Bond finale.

“We’re very focused on this film, No Time to Die, in April,” the COO replied. “Going forward, we don’t speculate on that.”

MGM Says Bond 25 ‘on schedule’

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s chief operating officer this week said Bond 25 is “progressing on schedule.”

Christopher Brearton made the comment during prepared remarks on an Aug. 6 investor call after MGM released second-quarter financial results.

Brearton has been the top ranking MGM executive since Gary Barber was deposed as chief executive officer in 2018.

The call was one day before The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline: Hollywood reported that Annapurna Pictures was considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

MGM and Annapurna are partners in United Artists Releasing, which distributes MGM and Annapurna films in the U.S. UAR is slated to handled Bond 25 distribution in the United States next year. Universal will handle international distribution of the Bond film.

An Annapurna bankruptcy may or may not affect Bond 25.

There wasn’t much else in either the earnings report or investor call related to Bond 25.

MGM said it boosted “net cash investment in content” during 2019’s first half “which included the initial production costs for Bond 25 and investments in our premium scripted series, The Handmaid’s Tale (season 3), Perpetual Grace, LTD (season 1) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (season 1), plus” more programming for its Epix premium channel.

MGM executive affirms Bond 25 is Craig’s final 007 outing

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive last month affirmed that Bond 25 will be Daniel Craig’s finale as James Bond.

“Daniel Craig, of course, will star in his final turn as 007 under the direction of Cary Fukunaga,,” Christopher Brearton, chief operating officer of the studio, said in prepared remarks for shareholders. The conference call took place in early May when MGM reported first-quarter financial results.

That’s not an especially remarkable statement. In August 2017, Craig announced on Late Night With Stephen Colbert he was returning for Bond 25. The host asked him if he might do more Bonds.

“I think this is it,” Craig said. “I want to go out on a high note.”

Of course, there have been occasional tabloid stories suggesting otherwise. The Sun, in a January 2019 story, and The Express in an April 2019 article each said Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t given up on the idea of getting Craig back for Bond 26.

Meanwhile, Brearton didn’t have much else to say about Bond 25 on the May call.

“In film, we announced the kickoff of production of the 25th instalment of the Bond franchise, unveiling the storyline and a terrific cast, including Rami Malek, fresh off his Academy Award-winning turn as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody as a mysterious new villain,” the executive said.

“We are very excited to be getting production underway and you will be hearing more from us in the coming months.”