About that No Time to Die release date Part II

No Time to Die poster

Almost two months ago, the blog raised the question of whether No Time to Die’s November release date is that secure.

Things haven’t firmed up since.

Here in the United States, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is worse than ever. Los Angeles, a major movie viewing market, is one of the hot spots. And the U.S. itself is the worst place on Earth for the virus, according to information tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

As a result, movie studios are still juggling release dates. Ask Warner Bros., which keeps changing the dates for movies such as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984.

What’s more, non-movie venues are also in flux.

This week, the Geneva Motor Show, one of the leading global events in the auto industry, announced its 2021 edition, scheduled for March, was canceled. That’s an indication any event where crowds will gather is uncertain.

Again, turning to the U.S., Major League Baseball wants to attempt an abbreviated 60-game season starting in late July. But is that possible given the current COVID-19 situation? As things stand now, MLB games will be played in empty stadiums. Meanwhile minor league baseball has been canceled for 2020.

Granted, it’s a little more than four months before No Time to Die is due out. Things can change.

Also, should Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and Universal (handling international distribution) write off the U.S. and release the 25th James Bond film in Europe and Asia where COVID-19 seems more under control while writing off the U.S.?

Who knows? Still, it’s not much of a reach to say No Time to Die’s current release date is as uncertain as ever.

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.

NTTD stumbles into a long-term theater-video conflict

Universal logo

No Time to Die, through no fault of its own, has stumbled into an inflection point concerning the future of entertainment.

Namely, will traditional movie theaters remain a key player? Or has the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) forced a shift to video on demand (VOD)?

This week, AMC Theaters, which also owns the Odeon chain in the U.K., said it won’t show any more movies from Universal.

The latter, because theaters are shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, brought out the animated movie Trolls: World Tour on premium VOD. Universal executives declared the move a success after charging consumers directly for viewing it.

That rubbed AMC the wrong way, prompting the financially troubled theater chain to make its declaration about banning Universal movies. (CLICK HERE to read The Hollywood Reporter’s story on the conflict.)

How does No Time to Die figure into this? Universal is distributing the 25th James Bond film internationally, including the U.K., while United Artists Releasing (co-owned by Bond home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) handle North American distribution.

If AMC sticks to its guns, that means the Odeon chain won’t be showing No Time to Die, currently scheduled for release in November. Odeon theaters and the Bond film series have a long history together.

To be sure, AMC’s stance may end up being the opening salvo in a long negotiation. Theaters currently have a 90-day window to show films before they go to home video. Perhaps AMC and Universal negotiate a “new normal.”

The conventional wisdom is that big, expensive “tentpole” movies such as No Time to Die, or the Fast and the Furious or Jurassic Park movies (the latter two Universal products) need both a theatrical as well as home video releases. Less expensive movies can get by with VOD alone.

But will that be true in a post-COVID-19 future? Hard to say for sure.

People have been predicting the end of movie theaters since at least the 1970s. At least, that’s the first time I heard such predictions.

Movie theaters have hung on. Still, when change happens, it doesn’t wait. Both Jack Lugo of the James Bond Radio website and the MI6 James Bond website published stories on May 29 analyzing the trends involved.

The thing is, had No Time to Die met its original release date (fall 2019) or its second (February 2020, before COVID-19 was a factor), none of this would really matter.

Instead, the delays put the Bond film into the middle of an entertainment industry debate on how to proceed. COVID-19 has shaken everything up. Walt Disney Co., less than six months ago, seemed to be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Today? Not so much. Disney’s movie release schedule is scrambled, its theme parks are closed and its ESPN network has few live sports events to telecast. Life comes at you fast.

At this point, the answers about the future of cinema aren’t certain. The fate of No Time to Die is just one of many variables.