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.

Bond 25 questions: The end (?) of the pandemic edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There are promising vaccines being developed for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). So what does this mean for No Time to Die?

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you think are the odds that these vaccines mean No Time to Die will meet its scheduled April 2021 release date?

Less than 50-50.

What? Why?

Because it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get vaccines out to a large number of people.

Is there something else?

As of the time this post is being written, there are still a lot of COVID-19 deniers. On social media, I saw somebody refer to “pandemic” in quotes, an indication of skepticism that COVID-19 was real. Even before COVID-19 arose, there was a robust anti-vaccination movement.

What do you think?

An acquaintance spent a week in the hospital (she said she had COVID-19) and was on oxygen for at least part of that time. I take that seriously.

How does this shake out for No Time to Die?

As stated above, it’s going to take time for vaccines to have an effect. In the long run, it may turn out great. Will vaccines have an impact in time to help No Time to Die? That’s not so certain.

Put another way, it’s possible No Time to Die might get delayed again. But, to be honest, it’s too early to say.

Bond 25 questions: The new delay edition

No Time to Die teaser poster that needs updating.

So, No Time to Die has been delayed. Again. Naturally, the blog has questions.

We saw a marketing blitz this week, including a title song music video, putting the soundtrack album available for pre-order (again), even listing the titles of the various tracks, a new six-part promotional podcast and other tie-ins. What happened?

A lot of that activity was handled by companies that did deals with Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal. They have deadlines based on a release date. Evidently, those companies didn’t get the word from Eon, MGM and Universal to hold back.

Isn’t that crazy?

As the saying goes, there’s no business like show business.

Enough with the jokes! Isn’t that inconsiderate to the fans?

It absolutely is. But, typically, business comes before fan relations.

And what business considerations caused yet another delay?

One consideration was the same thing that caused a delay from April to November: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles remain closed because of the virus. COVID-19 is still a problem in the U.K. and Spain. There are new surges in some U.S. states such as Wisconsin. And the president of the U.S., Donald Trump, has come down with the coronavirus, putting even more attention on the disease.

What’s more, other major film releases have reacted to COVID-19. Tenet, the latest Christopher Nolan-directed film was released by Warner Bros. The movie has generated a global box office of almost $285 million, according to Box Office Mojo. But only $41.2 million of that was in the U.S.

Meanwhile, other films, including Marvel’s Black Widow was pushed back for a second occasion, this time to May 2021. F9, newest entry in the Fast and the Furious franchise, already delayed once by a year, was further pushed back to May 28, 2021.

In announcing the delay, a statement from Eon Productions and its studio partners, said the move was made to ensure No Time to Die can ” be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.” Essentially, the Bond camp is saying that won’t be possible in November.

Are you confident No Time to Die will make that April 2021 release?

Color me skeptical. As usual, we’ll see.

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.