Coronavirus snaps Marvel’s release date stranglehold

Poster for Black Widow

The coronavirus and the worldwide pandemic it caused have broken Marvel Studios’ hold on the late April/early May release schedule.

Black Widow, the newest Marvel movie, has been delayed from its long-planned May 1 release date, Variety reported.

The move was inevitable. Across the globe, movie theaters are being shut down to combat the virus. The virus can spread quickly and authorities are breaking up large gatherings of people.

Early this month, No Time to Die’s release date was pushed back to November from April, with a March 31 world premiere event canceled.

Since then, a number of movies have seen their release dates delayed. The ninth installment of The Fast and the Furious series was pushed back to April 2021 from May 2020. At this point, a movie can’t be shown in a theater in many markets, including the U.S., France, China, and Italy.

Regardless, the announcement is an end of an era for Marvel.

Marvel, now owned by Walt Disney Co., began producing its own movies starting with 2008’s Iron Man. Originally Quantum of Solace was scheduled for the May 2, 2008, date in the U.S. but was delayed. Iron Man grabbed the date and things weren’t quite the same after that.

In 2009, Marvel had no films. But since 2010 (starting with Iron Man 2), Marvel characters have dominated the last weekend of April or first weekend in May. That includes 2014 (when Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 had the date).

In 2016, Warner Bros. initially challenged Marvel for the first weekend of May date with Batman v Superman. Marvel then said it’d come out with the third Captain America movie (later Captain America: Civil War) at the same time. Warners retreated and brought out Batman v Superman on Easter weekend.

In 2018 and 2019, Marvel moved up two Avengers movies (Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame) to the last weekend in April

All of this is a reminder of how real-life overcomes entertainment. As stated before, Marvel/Disney had no real choice. Regardless, it’s the end of an era.

Robert Iger steps down as CEO of Disney

Walt Disney Co. logo

Robert Iger, who expanded Walt Disney Co. by acquiring Marvel, Star Wars and 20th Century Fox, has stepped down as CEO, effective immediately, the company said in a statement.

Iger’s successor as CEO is Bob Chapnek, Disney announced. He has been head of the company’s theme parks unit.

Iger will remain as chairman until the end of 2021, according to the announcement.

Under Iger, Disney became a major force among entertainment companies. The company’s acquisition of Marvel has been a major driver of profit. Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise has been bumpy, with more ups and downs.

Iger’s biggest bet was buying the bulk of 21st Century Fox (including the 20th Century Fox studio) for more than $71 billion. Properties such as Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Business remain with Rupert Murdoch. Under Disney ownership, the film studio is now known as the 20th Century brand for Disney.

In December, Iger said he was a big James Bond fan while saying the company wasn’t looking to do another big acquisition. Whether or not that happens, it won’t take place under Iger’s watch.

Bond 25 questions: The MGM call edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer doesn’t comment very often about the James Bond film series. Occasionally, 007’s home studio discusses the franchise when reporting its quarterly financial results.

Well, No Time to Die came up this week when MGM talked to investors about third-quarter financial results. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

What did MGM say about No Time to Die’s marketing?

Not that much. The studio said No Time to Die’s marketing will ramp up shortly after Jan. 1.

However, MGM didn’t say much more than that. At this point, No Time to Die doesn’t have a first trailer out. A rough cut, or preliminary version, was completed by August, according to the James Bond & Friends podcast. But a final version hasn’t been released yet.

To be sure, there’s a lot more to marketing than trailers. But it’s clear Bond fans aren’t seeing much marketing yet for No Time to Die.

How important will No Time to Die be for the company?

Very important. MGM is draining cash this year as it invests in new movie and TV projects as well as investing in its Epix premium TV channel.

An MGM executive referred to the company’s 2020’s feature film plans as a
“James Bond-led revitalized film slate.”

Is there something else we should be aware of?

I have listened to MGM investor calls for seven years now. Rarely do investor ask about Bond films specifically. The calls are intended to discuss MGM financial results generally.

However, this time out, MGM executives got two Bond questions.

One concerned whether MGM had consulted with Danjaq (the parent company of Eon Productions, which actually produces Bond films) whether 007 films could come out more often.

Also, MGM was asked about whether the studio has sought a new Bond actor now that Daniel Craig has said No Time to Die will be it for him.

Listening to a recording of the call, MGM execs were not prepared for either inquiry.

After the first question, there were three seconds of dead air. After the second, there were six seconds of silence.

Doesn’t sound like a lot? On most investor/Wall Street analyst calls, executives pipe up with all sorts of jargon and blather. They don’t stay silent for seconds.

What does that mean?

It means the Bond franchise has major questions to be resolved after No Time to Die arrives at theaters in April 2020.

It also means that MGM isn’t ready to discuss those issues now. MGM and Danjaq (the parent company of Eon) have joint custody of the Bond film franchise.

The entertainment industry is changing rapidly. On the MGM call, new streaming TV shows from Star Wars and Marvel Studios were referenced in questions.

Put another way, the lack of a No Time to Die trailer may not be that important in the long run. We’ll see.

Aging ‘Young Turks’ tell kids to get off the lawn

Avengers: Endgame poster

I was going to take a pass on this. But it’s pretty clear that aging “Young Turks” in the movie industry are telling the kids to get off their lawn.

Over the past few years, the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, 80, Martin Scorsese, 76, and Steven Spielberg, 72, have taken shots at the super hero genre of movies, particularly those made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios.

Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg were the directors who turned Hollywood upside down in the 1970s with the likes of the first two Godfather films, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, etc.

Their legacies are set. Nobody can take that away from them.

They came to prominence when the likes of directors such as John Ford and Howard Hawks had vacated the stage. Go back a little further, and you’ll read about how cinema was more pure before the “talkies” came in circa 1929.

At the same time, one has to wonder how the former “Young Turks” would react to a job offer from Marvel Studios.

MARVEL STUDIOS BOSS KEVIN FEIGE: Francis, we’ll pay you (THIS AMOUNT) to direct MCU Daredevil.

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA: How much?

FEIGE: (Repeats amount).

COPPOLA: I used to be a Young Turk. I suddenly feel young again.

A friend of mine hates movies based on comic books. He is reveling in these stories and citing how they mean he is correct.

Comic book-based films, like any genre, have their highs and lows.

Chinatown, the first Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back are among the genre films that are celebrated. High Noon, Rio Bravo and Red River are among the Westerns that were celebrated in the day. Other movies in those genres weren’t as celebrated.

Engaging in broad attacks, on the other hand, isn’t a good look. The former Young Turks might want to look back to the early years of their careers and ponder. Then again, it’s easier to shout at the kids to get off your lawn.

Sony, Marvel make up on Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster from 2017

Sony Studios and Marvel Studios patched up their differences and said they will do a third Spider-Man movie together.

The two studios said today that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige will again produce a Spider-Man movie for Sony. You can view details in VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 and Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer were made under that arrangement and were big hits.

The deal also allowed Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to appear in other Marvel Studios movies such as Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

However, the two sides publicly said in August they couldn’t agree on how to continue the arrangement. So it appeared Spider-Man would keep appearing in Sony movies but no longer be part of Marvel films.

We’ll see if the new deal lasts beyond one movie. But both sides benefited from working together, with Sony getting a revitalized Spider-Man series and Marvel getting to use its most popular comic book character. Sony is also developing other movies based on Spider-Man characters.

When universes collide: Marvel and Star Wars?

Marvel’s Dr. Doom (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962) and Darth Vader of Star Wars, originally created for the first Star Wars movie in 1977.

Kevin Feige, the head of Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios unit, is developing a new Star Wars movie, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The move comes as Disney faces where to take Star Wars next. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is due out late this year. That will end the entire Skywalker saga encompassing nine films from 1977 to 2019.

Since Disney acquired Star Wars from George Lucas for $4 billion ($2 billion in cash, $2 billion in Disney stock), it attempted to kick start the franchise, which had been dormant since 2005.

Some movies were big successes, but some (such as a film showing Han Solo’s back story) not as much.

Star Wars has been supervised by producer Kathleen Kennedy under Disney ownership while Marvel Studios (a separate Disney acquisition) has operated under Feige.

“With the close of the Skywalker Saga, Kathy is pursuing a new era in Star Wars storytelling, and knowing what a die-hard fan Kevin is, it made sense for these two extraordinary producers to work on a Star Wars film together.”Disney said in a statement to THR.

There have been connections between Star Wars and Marvel going back to the early days of Star Wars.

In the 1970s, many fans commented on the similarities between artist Jack Kirby’s design for Dr. Doom, the arch villain of the Fantastic Four, and Darth Vader in Star Wars.

What’s more, Marvel published comic books based on Star Wars beginning when the first film came out in 1977. The move proved to be a major boost for Marvel during a comic industry slump at the time. That helped keep Marvel alive for better days many years later.

Bond 26 (!) questions: The Pinewood deal edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the weekend, Pinewood Studios announced that Walt Disney Co. had signed a deal to lease almost all of the revered London-area studio sound stages and production facilities.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal may run for 10 years.

Given that Pinewood is the traditional home to James Bond film productions, the blog has questions how this may affect future James Bond films, starting with Bond 26.

OK. What does this mean for Bond 26?

There’s a good chance that Bond 26 — whenever that goes into development — may have to look for another home studio base.

But, couldn’t Disney sub-lease space at Pinewood to Eon Productions for Bond 26?

It could. But then again, why would Disney do so? Disney wouldn’t have cut such a deal unless it had production plans where it would need all that Pinewood space.

Put another way, Disney has never been known for sentimentality, even when “Uncle Walt” was running the place.

After Disney animators went on strike in 1941, some were fired. The Magic Kingdom may be part of Disney. But the Magic Kingdom is, in the end, a fairy tale.

Some of the Disney strike participants were among the founders and contributors of United Productions of America (UPA). UPA went on to win some Oscars and created characters such as Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing.

Is there back story we should be aware of?

Pinewood is exiting Pinewood Atlanta, a joint venture. Pinewood is selling out to its partner. That operation will retain the Pinewood Atlanta name for up to 18 months.

Pinewood Atlanta has been the home base of some major productions by Disney-owned Marvel Studios, including the last two Avengers films. But that appears to be a things of the past.

What happens next?

No Time to Die, aka Bond 25, still is in production. We won’t know about Bond 26 for a long time, perhaps years.

With the increasingly long time in-between Bond films, Eon Productions will have plenty of time to look for a new home production base.

If something bigger happens — some kind of sale that would shake up the Bond status quo — that will have to play out before a search for new studio quarters. If Bond became part of the Disney fold, then presumably it could again film at Pinewood.

Meanwhile, Pinewood has just secured rent for the 007 Stage, the Roger Moore Stage and other studio facilities for years. That’s business.

UPDATE (11:35 a.m. New York time): The BBC has weighed in with a story about the deal. It has this line:

“Despite the Disney deal, it is believed that there is a possibility that, given its history, future James Bond films will still be filmed there.”

First of all, who believes this? Secondly, “a possibility” is less than definitive. Possibilities are not certainties.

UPDATE II (Sept. 11): This slipped by me at the time. In July, Netflix reached an agreement to lease almost all of the space at Sheppterton Studios (owned by Pinewood’s parent company). A July story in The Guardian has details. In effect, there’s now an arms race to lock up U.K. studio space.