Mirror claims a £10 million NTTD premiere is planned

The U.K. tabloid Mirror claims a £10 million (almost $14 million) premiere is planned for No Time to Die.

The tabloid quotes a source it didn’t identify as saying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and “the producers” (presumably Eon Productions which makes the Bond films) “are in agreement” for a big, splashy affair.

“They think they can pull off the biggest in-person premiere of the post-pandemic era, and have already put aside a whopping £10million for an event in England that will signal the return of these kinds of flashy movie launches that everybody’s been missing for the last year,” the Mirror quotes its source as saying.

No Time to Die has been delayed five times between fall 2019 and fall 2021. The first two delays were because of production issues (Danny Boyle departing as director and replaced by Cary Fukunaga) and three more times because of COVID-19.

The current release calls for the 25th James Bond film to come out Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

The U.K. has completed another COVID-19 shutdown. Globally, COVID-19 vaccinations are underway, although progress varies by country.

If the Mirror is accurate, MGM (and presumably Universal, which is handling international distribution) wants to do a traditional, pre-pandemic premiere. Some major films (such as Marvel’s Black Widow, now due out in July) have premiered simulantaneously on streaming and in theaters.

NTTD footnote: Annapurna’s latest

Annapurna logo

Once upon a time, Annapurna Pictures was supposed to be a thing when it came to No Time to Die. And, in a way, it was. Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2017 formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies Eventually, No Time to Die was included in the deal.

On April 14, Variety published a story about Annapurna. Founder Megan Ellison has been away for more than a year but is back at the helm. However, according to Variety, Annapurna still has a lot of issues.

One of them is the future of United Artists Releasing, its joint venture with MGM. An excerpt from the story:

Renewed interest from distributors could help the (Annapurna) film unit, given that Annapurna is free to seek new partners outside of United Artists Releasing, the wobbly joint venture it sealed with MGM in late 2017. While Ellison has the option to release films anywhere, sources said she was unusually deferential to UAR in the negotiations for “On the Count of Three,” underscoring how dependent she’ll be on the group if no one steps forward to help her place the film in theaters. The pact was set to expire in 2021, but sources said MGM has opted for another year of releasing its own films through UAR (including the upcoming James Bond adventure “No Time to Die”). To extract itself from the agreement would be more costly than it’s worth, one source said, especially as MGM continues to seek a splashy sale, which it is rumored to be pursuing. (emphasis added)

As things stand now, United Artists Releasing will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S. and Canada while Universal will release the film internationally. No Time to Die promotional materials such as trailers have the MGM and Universal logos. Posters have the United Artists Releasing logo but not Annapurna.

The joint venture took the name United Artists from 007’s original studio. MGM acquired UA in 1981. MGM and Annapurna announced the United Artists Releasing name in 2019 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the original UA.

The Variety story is mostly about continuing turmoil at Annapurna.

More movie release delays spur concerns about NTTD

Movie release dates continue to get reset, which raises the question whether No Time to Die will meet its current release range of Sept. 30-Oct. 8.

The latest: According to Variety, Paramount has moved back Top Gun: Maverick to Nov. 19 from July 2. Mission: Impossible 7 has been delayed to May 27, 2022, from Nov. 19 of this year.

Previously, Walt Disney Co. announced that Black Widow was pushed back to July from early May. Black Widow, made by the company’s Marvel Studios’ unit, will be available on the Disney + streaming service for an extra charge of almost $30 while also opening in theaters.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, had an investor call but said almost nothing about No Time To Die. MGM simply listed the 25th James Bond film — the company’s most expensive movie of the past two years — as one of many films in MGM’s schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with movie release dates for more than a year. Vaccines are now available. But COVID cases are accelerating yet again because of new versions of the virus.

Bond 25 questions: MGM’s silence edition

MGM’s revamped logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer held an investor call the other day. But the home studio to James Bond had almost nothing to say about its prized property.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What was the context of what MGM did have to say about No Time to Die?

Essentially listing it among various films either awaiting release or in production. Others included Respect, a “biopic” with Jennifer Hudson portraying Aretha Franklin and a sequel to a recent animated Addams Family movie.

MGM executives said its film slate, coupled with its TV business would mean good financial results in the second half of 2021 and going into 2022.

Is that all?

Pretty much.

What is up with that?

Strictly a guess: MGM is trying to project an image of a strong operation where everything is under control. In the past year there have been reports that MGM is seeking a buyer and that the studio explored licensing No Time to Die to streaming services before deciding not to proceed.

Some of the reports indicate that leaders of Danjaq/Eon weren’t initially informed of such discussions and weren’t happy.

From the perspective of a Bond fan, how useful are these investor calls?

Mixed at best. Occasionally, investors ask MGM executives about Bond film projects and if there are any ways MGM can get more out of the franchise. At times, that generates additional comments. But much of the time, MGM executives stick to talking points.

If there was any surprise about this week’s investor call, it’s MGM didn’t even do that. Just a quick mention that No Time to Die is in pipeline — something all Bond fans knew already.

Is there additional context to keep in mind?

No Time to Die’s costs are approaching $300 million. (The studio reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest costs for each month No Time to Die doesn’t come out.) MGM had been counting on a big theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic.

MGM reports year-end 2020 results, no NTTD news

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week reported its year-end 2020 results but had little to say about No Time to Die.

The company said it has 14 films either completed or in production (the often delayed No Time to Die among them) along with 47 television series “scheduled to deliver.”

Company executives said all this will lead to earnings growth later in 2021 and into 2022.

“It is safe to say that we have fully reinvigorated MGM ’s film business, focusing on a powerful combination of original, IP and proven franchises from the MGM library, all supplemented by a diverse array of films” from the company’s Orion brand, Chief Operating Officer Christ Brearton said in prepared remarks.

To read all of Brearton’s prepared comments, you can CLICK HERE.

An investor call to discuss results had a question and answer session. There was one question. It didn’t concern No Time to Die.

Did MGM change its logo?

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, may have streamlined its logo.

MGM put out a series of tweets suggesting that was the case. Here are the Tweets. MGM also updated its avatar for its tweets:

MGM was formed by the merger of three companies in 1924. But the logo of Leo the Lion with “art for art’s sake” preceded that because it was the logo of one of the merged companies (Goldwyn).

Why should Bond fans care? MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. That gave it half-control of the Bond film franchise.

MGM, currently owned by a group of hedge funds, reportedly is up for sale. Could the logo change be related to that? Hard to say. As of midday New York time, the new logo wasn’t on MGM’s website yet.

UPDATE (2:40 P.M. New York Time): The new MGM logo is now on MGM’s website.

UPDATE II (8:05 P.M., New York Time): Adweek has a story. It makes it sound as if Leo the Lion will remain, but be a bit different. OK.

NTTD: ‘Pip, pip Yankee dollars,’ no love for U.S. fans

An old No Time to Die poster.

Sorry, U.S. Bond fans. You are at the back of the No Time to Die line. Deja vu all over again.

The Deadline entertainment-news website said it was told by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, that international markets, indeed, will get the 25th 007 film starting Sept. 30. But the U.S. will have to wait to the previously announced Oct. 8 date. (Universal is handling distribution outside the U.S.)

Truth be told, the U.S. has long had to wait to see 007 films. In the early years of the franchise, American Bond enthusiasts had to wait months. American Bond fans with pull — like U.S. President John F. Kennedy — could see the films well ahead of their fellow countrymen.

In Kennedy’s case, watching From Russia With Love in November 1963 was one of the last things he did before he was assassinated. But others, such as film director Howard Hawks and cartoon producer Joseph Barbera got early looks at Dr. No. For Barbera, that’s where got the idea of what would become Jonny Quest.

In the past decade or so, there have been announcements of supposed “global” Bond film releases. Yet, that never actually materializes. And the U.S., as usual, goes to the back of the line.

In the 1966 Batman feature film, there was a British inventor known as Commidore Schmidlapp. He’s bringing a “fantastic” invention to the U.S. in the hopes it will yield “pip, pip Yankee dollars.” Naturally, the inventor doesn’t realize he’s been kidnapped and his invention turned into a weapon.

Still, the commodore’s attitude — “pip, pip Yankee dollars” — summarizes the attitude of the Bond franchise and its studios. Yankee dollars? Great. Yankee fans? Meh.

2021’s two most important 007 anniversaries

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

People love anniversaries and James Bond fans are no exception. Typically, anniversaries of films are noted. But, in 2021, anniversaries of two events are more important.

On June 29, 1961, United Artists put out a press release that the company had reached an agreement with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to finance and release a series of films based on Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. A copy of the release can be seen in the documentary Inside Dr. No.

The tale has been told many times. Saltzman had obtained a six-month option on most of Fleming’s books. But time was running out and Saltzman met up with Broccoli, who had better studio connections. An uneasy partnership was formed and their first 007 film debuted a year later.

Thus, we’re approaching the 60th anniversary of the event that made the Bond film series possible.

In 1981, UA was sold by Transamerica Corp. to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Transamerica had acquired UA in 1967 but grew weary of the unpredictable movie business.

Now, we’re approaching the 40th anniversary of the tie-up between MGM and Bond. The relationship has often been dysfunctional. MGM’s ownership has changed at various times. The studio at one point was seized by a French bank and it underwent bankruptcy in 2010. Reportedly, MGM is again up for sale and one possible buyer is Amazon.

The one constant over those four decades is that Bond has remained one of MGM’s major assets. Every time MGM runs into financial trouble, Bond fans fret about what will happen to the gentleman agent. For those fans, the journey might seem like the Israelites wandering the wilderness for 40 years.

The two anniversaries also remain relevant to today. The Broccoli-Wilson clan that succeeded the Broccoli-Saltzman duo retains creative control. Any deal to buy MGM has to take that into account.

Happy anniversaries.

Amazon has held preliminary talks to buy MGM, Forbes says

Amazon logo

Amazon has held “exploratory talks” about acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, Forbes said as part of a broader story about MGM.

The Forbes story had few additional details about Amazon’s interest. Amazon and MGM declined to comment to Forbes.

Instead, Forbes went into detail about how it will be difficult for MGM to get the kind of price ($10 billion) it wants. A key excerpt of interest to Bond film fans:

The problem is that MGM’s collection of great movies is dated and losing value by the minute. Barbara Broccoli and her half brother Michael G. Wilson, who maintain an iron grip over the Bond franchise — a deal initially hammered out decades ago by Broccoli’s father, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli — have the final say over casting decisions, dialog and promotional materials related to 007 — adding complexity to any deal talks. 

In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said that Amazon and Apple Inc. were seeking the Bond film rights. Nothing ever came of that. Forbes, in its story, says Apple “remains a speculative wild-card” in terms of buying MGM.

In general, movies have been turned upside down by Netflix’s streaming service. Walt Disney Co. and AT&T’s Warner Bros. are orienting themselves toward streaming and de-emphasizing their traditional theater-released movie model.

Netflix, AT&T’s HBO Max, and Disney’s Disney Plus all feature in-house content. (MGM films before 1986, such as Ben Hur, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Mutiny on the Bounty, are part of the Warner Bros. film library that’s included with HBO Max.)

MGM doesn’t have a streaming service. But both Amazon and Apple have such services.

MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds led by Anchorage Capital. They took over following an MGM bankruptcy in 2010.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of MGM’s dysfunctional relationship with the Bond franchise. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981 after insurance conglomerate Transamerica Corp. decided to get out of the movie business.

MGM has the 25th Bond film, No Time to Die, on hold until October, the latest in a series of release dates. The movie has been pushed back since April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.