Bond 25 questions: The miscellaneous edition

“I want to see No Time to Die right now!”

Well, we keep getting new No Time to Die promos. Does that mean we’ll really, really get to see the 25th James Bond film in November?

Naturally, the blog has questions.

So is the movie really coming out in November?

Well, the various promos would have you believe that. New posters. A new promotional video from Omega. A new promotional video from Eon Productions featuring Rami Malek’s Safin villain.

So you’re saying yes, right?

I’m saying maybe.

What? Why?

We’re a little under 60 days from the U.S. release date for No Time to Die. The U.K. premiere date is before that.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t announced until March 4 that No Time to Die’s early April release date was pushed back to November. (The world premiere had been scheduled for March 31, just 27 days later).

So, there’s still time for yet another delay to be announced.

Oh come on! You’re being a Debbie Downer! Aren’t you?

Let’s just say the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which led to the April-to-November delay is still out there.

The coronavirus remains a big factor in the U.S. and U.K. If you look at the COVID-19 site maintained by Johns Hopkins University, the virus is still pretty widespread.

Meanwhile, other studios, including Walt Disney Co., are delaying 2020 releases into 2021. Disney’s Marvel Studios, for example, has delayed its Black Widow movie yet again, this time to May 2021

Those studios may be influenced by Warner Bros.’s Tenet, the first big theater release during the pandemic.

Anything to add?

Well, if No Time to Die sticks with its November release date, it will have less competition.

UPDATE (Sept. 25): The Wall Street Journal has a story today about how major theater chains are looking to No Time to Die to deliver customers.

At least MGM still seems committed to a November release of its latest James Bond movie, the aptly named “No Time to Die.” Any sign that the suave spy’s schedule also is slipping would be terrible news for Cineworld and its U.S. peers AMC and Cinemark.

About No Time to Die saving cinema

Last shot of No Time to Die spot on Saturday Night Live last spring.

The past few weeks, there’s been a repeated trope saying that No Time to Die will save cinema.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to be released in April. But it was delayed until November because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Recently, a new trailer was released again saying the movie would be out in November. That, in turn, generated the idea that James Bond was coming to the rescue of the traditional movie theater.

The thing is, the Christopher Nolan-directed film Tenet was also supposed to be saving cinema. It was the first major movie to come out during the pandemic.

At the moment, Tenet is the only major new movie out in theatres. Its global box office total as of midday Sept. 12 is $152.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 

For a movie with a production budget of $200 million (with additional marketing costs), that’s not so great. But these aren’t ordinary times. Tenet shows that some people will show up at a theater, pandemic, or no pandemic.

Still, saving cinema? Here in the United States, movie theaters are closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest movie theater markets. They’re still closed where I live, in southeastern Michigan.

The U.S. accounts for about 25 percent of the global audience for a James Bond movie. If No Time to Die really makes that November release date, there may be big chunks of the country where theaters aren’t open.

Perhaps there will be enough international markets open where No Time to Die will do OK. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has delayed Wonder Woman 1984 again, this time from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25. That’s not the biggest vote of confidence.

Will No Time to Die follow suit? Who knows?

Another possibility: Cinema won’t be saved until people feel comfortable going to the theater again. That includes those with pre-existing health conditions (diabetes, etc.) or those 60 or older. Or both.

All of that will depend on a lot more than a single movie.

Bond’s future: Time to go modest again?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of debate about the post-COVID-19 future. As it relates to James Bond, is it time for Bond to go modest again?

No Time to Die, a $250 million blockbuster, was a pre-COVID-19 movie. It was an attempt to keep up with blockbuster “tentpole” movies.

Over the decades, Bond had plenty of experience going big — Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Die Another Day (2002). SPECTRE (2015).

For No Time to Die, the problem is it could not be finished in time to be released before the novel coronavirus. The 25th James Bond film was intended to be distributed in an era where moviegoers crowded into theaters as fast as they could.

Studios looked to get as much money as quickly as they could before a home video release.

COVID-19 has changed all that. And the nature of the change isn’t clear yet.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen Disney fans complain a lot about how the studio has called off a theatrical release for Mulan in favor of a $29.99 digital release for people who subscribe to the company’s Disney + service. (You pay the $29.99 fee on top of the monthly subscription cost.)

More broadly, will all the COVID-19 changes force studios to be more frugal? No more $250 million (or more) blockbusters. with a star getting $20 million? (Daniel Craig’s reported fee for No Time to Die is $25 million.)

We’ll see. For Bond fans, let me make an optimistic point. Over the decades, Bond has shown it can go small (or at least less blockbuster) at key points. Bond likely has a future in the post-COVID-19 era.

It’s just that No Time to Die is caught in the middle.

MGM, Universal consider 2021 NTTD date, MI6 says

No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal are considering pushing No Time to Die’s release date to a “Summer 2021 release window,” the MI6 James Bond website said.

A decision on such a move “will be due soon,” the website reported.

The 25th James Bond film currently is scheduled for November after a delay from April.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has jumbled movie release schedules. Films such as Tenet, a new Christopher Nolan movie, have had multiple release dates.

In March, when the decision was made to delay No Time to Die until November, COVID-19 had caused theaters in China to shut down and Italy was the site of a major outbreak in Europe. Marketing for No Time to Die was well underway when the delay to November was announced.

Since then, Asia and Europe have moved to contain the virus. But major states in the U.S. — including Florida, Texas and California — have had major outbreaks. Theaters in the U.S. have been deciding when and how to reopen.

No Time to Die is being released in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, co-owned by MGM, and by Universal internationally. MGM also is Bond’s home studio.

The last James Bond film to have a summer release date was 1989’s Licence to Kill.

NTTD update: California shuts movie theaters again

No Time to Die character poster

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, has shut down movie theaters again, according to CNBC.

Other businesses affected by the governor’s orders include restaurants, bars, and museums.

California is the largest state in the United States. It is also one of the biggest movie audiences in the U.S.

The state is among the U.S. centers of COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. Other U.S. hot spots include Florida, Texas and Arizona. California also is one of the largest centers of the American movie industry.

No Time to Die currently is scheduled to come out in November in the U.K. and the U.S. The 25th James Bond film originally was scheduled to come out in April. But that schedule was pushed back because of COVID-19.

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.