Bond 25 questions: The marketing gears up (again) edition

A slightly tweaked No Time to Die poster

A (not-so-new) 30-second promotional No Time to Die video surfaced online on July 26. So this would seem to be a sign that, once more, the marketing for the 25th James Bond film is starting to gear up.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this a surprise? Not really. If a movie really is coming out for a Sept. 30 release in the U.K. and October elsewhere, it figures it would be starting up around now.

Prior to this week’s video, Bond fans have taken selfies in front of No Time to Die standees at their local theaters. And a tweaked poster emerged recently saying “Only in Theaters October” along with a new MGM font that’s part of a makeover of the company’s Leo the Lion logo.

Is there much new? A 30-second promo doesn’t give you a lot of time. I did see some eagle-eyed analysis by @ShotsBond saying some shots of the DB5 replicas are new. Also, @marketto spotted how a Maserati logo was removed digitally from a henchman’s car compared with previous trailers. (Maserati not being among the car companies involved with the Bond film.)

Is this something to be excited about? Many fans definitely are. But when a movie has been delayed five times (twice related to hiring and then departure of original director Danny Boyle, three times because of COVID-19), there is a natural hesitancy for some. With COVID, there are vaccines but there are also new variants.

Either way, it is something new Bond-related to talk about until the film’s marketing gears up further.

Here’s the video:

Marvel pitches support of movie theater experience

Marvel Studios, the Walt Disney Co. unit, put out a video today in support of the movie theater experience.

Marvel did so while promoting its upcoming releases, some of which have been pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the video Marvel put out:

Marvel has its own issues. Black Widow was pushed back from May to July. The movie will be available on both the Disney + streaming service as well as theaters.

Marvel also has movies based on characters that aren’t that well-known to the general public. One example is The Eternals, a Jack Kirby title originally published in the 1970s after Kirby returned to Marvel Comics. Overall, Kirby’s Marve return wasn’t a happy one for the artist-writer.

On the other hand, Eternals is directed by Chloe Zhao, who won two Oscars last month, including one as best director. The general public may soon learn a lot about The Eternals.

In any case, the Marvel video does seek to rally support of seeing films in theaters. Over the past year, there has been a repeated trope that No Time to Die will be important to “saving cinema.” After repeated delays, No Time to Die is scheduled for release in Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

We’ll see. Studios still need traditional theater releases to generate enough revenue to make super-expensive “tentpole” movies worth it.

Bond 25 questions: Ginormous (?) premiere edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1 before another delay was announced.

U.K. tabloids The Sun and Mirror this month reported about supposed plans for big No Time to Die premiere plans this fall.

The Sun wrote that star Daniel Craig will conduct a “whirlwind tour” of personal appearances of No Time to Die premieres. The Mirror said the movie’s producers are planning for a 10-million-pound (almost $14 million) premiere event in London, possibly in a stadium.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should I take these accounts?

As usual, keep in mind U.K. tabloids have a reputation for cutting coners, overhyping things, etc. But that often doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And there are elements of the stories that pass the smell test.

How so?

Essentially, the two stories are talking about larger, but traditional, ways of promoting movies. Also, bear in mind that Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in 2015 that Eon does the heavy lifting in devising Bond film marketing (“We pretty much run the marketing ourselves.”) while studios merely execute it.

Eon is nothing if not traditional.

What do you mean?

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has said she’s opposed to Bond spinoffs. “We want to make these theatrical films,” Broccoli told Total Film published in the outlet’s 2020 Preview issue published in December 2019. “We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

The movie business is feeling a big impact from streaming. Netflix became a big thing, in some times acquiring movies from studios. Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. are stepping up stepping up streaming efforts.

For Eon, the tagline of 2012’s Skyfall (the old ways are the best) is a way of life.

If true, how practical are these plans?

No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of COVID-19. The current release date is the Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. There are multiple COVID-19 vaccinations available.

By this fall, COVID-19 may be under control enough to permit these kinds of large gatherings. There certainly is “COVID fatigue.” One school of thought is there’s much pent-up demand we may see a new “Roaring Twenties” as COVID-19 gets under control.

It should be noted that COVID-19 progress isn’t taking place in a straight line. In the U.S., the current COVID hot spot is Michigan, where cases have skyrocketed since February. There may be more unexpected developments between now and the fall.

Black Widow to debut on streaming and in theaters

Poster for Black Widow

Oh me, oh my. Black Widow, the Marvel Studios film that was delayed by a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, will debut on Disney Plus as well as in theaters in July, according to the Deadline entertainment news website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Just when it looked like studios were going back to a theatrical window release pattern with today’s news of Regal and Warner Bros’ deal, Disney has smashes that to bits.

Disney said Tuesday that it is opening both of its key summer events pics Cruella and Marvel’s Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access (which is usually $30 a purchase extra for subscribers) in most Disney+ markets on Friday, May 28 and Friday, July 9, respectively.

To recap: 2020 was the first year since 2009 without a Marvel Studios film. That was because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest news indicates that COVID still is having an impact on movie releases. In recent weeks, here in the U.S., there had been optimism that vaccinations are putting a serious dent into COVID. This latest news is a sign things aren’t back to normal yet.

To be sure, No Time to Die currently isn’t due out until late September in many countries (including the U.K. and Brazil) with other countries (such as the U.S.) until a week later.

There’s no reason for James Bond film fans to get upset yet. But No Time to Die making it’s current release date isn’t necessarily a sure thing.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: It turns out The King’s Man, prequel to Matthew Vaughn’s two Kingsman films, has been delayed yet again to December from August. OK. It has been delayed quite a bit already already, so what’s a few more months?

M:I 7 hit with setback, Sun says

Tom Cruise

Production of Mission: Impossible 7 was forced to end filming in the Middle East in a setback for the film, the U.K. tabloid Sun reported. The production has been trying to make a fall release date amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

An excerpt from the Sun:

Production staff demanded they were allowed to head back to the UK this weekend before hotel quarantine rules come into effect on Monday.

Studio bosses have now had to charter a private jet to bring them home because they were up in arms about not being able to return to their families.

A movie insider said: “The whole production has hit yet another issue and there have been revolts among the cast and crew.”

M:I 7, starring and produced by Tom Cruise, currently has a November release date. The disruption raises the possibility of a delay. No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, has an October release date.

An M:I 7 delay would eliminate direct competition between the two spy-fi productions. As things now stand, No Time to Die comes out Oct. 8 in the U.S. followed by M:I 7 six weeks later.

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Bond 25 questions: The new delay edition Part II

No Time to Die poster with updated release date

Huh. In the middle of a ranging pandemic, No Time to Die got delayed again, this time to October 2021. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is anybody really surprised?

No. Both the U.S. and U.K. aren’t doing very well coping with COVID-19. Movie theaters in many markets are closed or operating at limited capacity. And various other “tentpole” movies are looking to delay.

Also, movies are hardly alone. There was a report by The Times of London (summarized by Reuters) that the 2021 Olympics in Japan, already postponed from last year, may get canceled altogether. Olympics organizers responded with a statement that they’re “fully focused” on holding the games this summer.

Vaccines have been developed, but at least in the U.S., deployment has been slow.

Anything unusual about the announcement itself?

Very short, very terse. COVID wasn’t referenced. No other reason given. Maybe by this time, the publicity machine at Eon Productions figures everybody knows the score. All Eon needed was to provide the date.

Anything else?

The announcement on Eon’s official website said No Time to Die will be released “globally” on Oct. 8. Typically, Bond films are spread out a bit, often starting in the U.K. but not arriving in the U.S. until days later. We’ll see if a simultaneous release actually happens.

Any reactions of your own?

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, is in a box. MGM reportedly 1) shopped No Time to Die to streaming services but couldn’t get the price it wanted 2) didn’t tell its business partner (Eon) right away. The result was another chapter in a 40-year dysfunctional relationship.

MGM is in a box for another reason. No Time to Die’s cost was approaching $290 million as of mid-2020, according to a U.K. regulatory filing. MGM also reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest expenses for the money it borrowed to finance the movie.

MGM and Eon thought they had a $1 billion global box office blockbuster on their hands. That was pre-COVID.

The studio really needs No Time to Die to be a blockbuster at theaters before a home video release. It remains to be seen how quickly people will return to theaters even with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Finally, all of this is taking place as MGM reportedly is up for sale. Bond is the studio’s big asset and having all this uncertainty probably isn’t helping the sales process.

Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond fans are waiting for another delay for the release of No Time to Die/Bond 25. If/when (probably when) that happens, the bigger question is for Bond 26 and beyond.

No Time to Die was a pre-COVID-19 movie with pre-COVID-19 finances. The 25th James Bond film ran up costs approaching $290 million as of mid-2020, according to a U.K, regulatory filing.

But, hey, it was a contender for a theatrical box office of $1 billion or more (split with theaters). Certainly Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and Danjaq LLC (parent company of Eon Productions) were working on that assumption.

Then, of course, COVID-19 changed everything. Theaters were shut down in many regions. And the virus — despite the emergence of vaccines — has not been brought to heel. At least not yet and maybe not soon.

Perhaps you can just kick the can. Delay the release date one, two, who knows how many times? Eventually, everything will be back to normal.

Won’t it?

No Time to Die is on the shelf. It will get shown. Sometime.

The big question is what happens with Bond 26, whenever that gets made, and in whatever form.

Studios such as Walt Disney Co. and AT&T’s Warner Bros. have embraced the streaming model model. MGM reportedly shopped No Time to Die around for a streaming deal but couldn’t get the price it wanted.

What’s more, MGM reportedly has put itself up for sale. The studio’s association with Bond will reach its 40th anniversary this year. The Bond-MGM association has been a rocky one, dysfunctional even.

Danjaq/Eon controls the rights to Bond. But Danjaq/Eon needs MGM (whether by itself or in alliance with other studios) to get 007 movies made.

Put another way, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before you can even talk about future Bond adventures.

Example: Is the traditional model of a big theatrical release followed by home video revenues even practical now? Or do studios need to reduce the costs of big “tentpole” films?

Of major tentpoles, Bond seemingly is in a good position to ramp down and do more cost-effective productions. The early 007 films such as Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, were pretty lean films.

Still, that was almost 60 years ago. Things change.

No Time to Die may be a rousing James Bond film. But Bond’s future still is being determined — and things are more uncertain than James Bond emerging triumphant at the end of a movie.

Bond 25 questions: The obvious edition

No Time to Die poster

Gee, there are a lot of stories that No Time to Die might get delayed again. The newest is a story by the Deadline entertainment news outlet. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this a surprise?

No, unless you’re a COVID-19 denier.

Admittedly, there has been no official announcement. But the U.K. is locking down (again). COVID-19 is a mess in the U.S. There are are reports that theaters in Japan (a major Asian market) may be shut down again.

There’s a new strain of COVID-19 going around that’s easier to spread. Regardless, deniers persist that the virus is “just the flu.” There are reports of people dying from COVID-19 while still claiming it’s a hoax.

What’s more, non-movie events are feeling the impact from COVID-19. The Detroit Auto Show, which had been scheduled for September 2021, has been canceled. The 2021 Master’s golf tournament (which had no spectators for a delayed 2020 event), will only have limited spectators this year.

Golf tournaments are outdoor events, unlike most movie showings.

Long story short: It doesn’t take much imagination to think COVID-19 could have an impact on No Time to Die again.

Does anyone really think there will be a surge of moviegoers attending indoor theaters in April?

See above.

Why write about this?

Because Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, tends to delay announcing delays until it has to. That happened in March 2020. It happened in fall 2020 (even while No Time to Die corporate partners were were releasing their Bond 25 promotions).

MGM tends to only announce things until it has to do so. Also, MGM reportedly is seeking a buyer. That could also affect Bond 25/No Time to Die’s release date.

To be fair, the new Deadine story has this passage: “We heard separately this morning that 007 promotional partners have already been given a heads up that the final Daniel Craig movie is bound to move to autumn. No definite release date has been set yet.”

Better late than never in terms of MGM’s trying to learn from past cluelessness.

Bond 25 questions: New year’s edition

No Time to Die poster (from spring 2020)

It’s almost a new year. But the never-ending saga of Bond 25, aka No Time to Die, continues. Naturally the blog has questions.

Will we finally get to see No Time to Die in 2021?

You’d think so. Vaccines for COVID-19 are being rolled out. By around mid-year or so, they should be available to a big chunk of the population.

Will we get to see No Time to Die in April?

That’s the more germane question. Right now, COVID-19 is causing havoc. Los Angeles-area hospitals are looking at rationing care because they are swamped with COVID cases. The U.K, in December imposed new lockdowns because of a new variant of the virus.

Can things actually improve enough three months from now to permit a traditional theater release (which is what Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli wants)?

Meanwhile, Universal (which is handling international distribution for No Time to Die) said Dec. 28 that it’s delaying the release of the animated film Boss Baby from March 26 to Sept. 17. That suggests Universal is nervous about a late March/early April release date.

Which will happen first: Theatrical release of No Time to Die, or an announced sale of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer?

MGM, Bond’s home studio, reportedly has put itself for sale. If No Time to Die really comes out in April, it might be tough to have a sale organized. If the 25th James Bond film (and its almost $290 million price tag) gets delayed again, a sale may happen first.

Happy New Year.