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.

No Time to Die delayed until October

No Time to Die’s release date was pushed back by six months to Oct. 8, according to the official Eon Productions 007 website and a post on Twitter.

No reason was given. The website statement, in its entirety, read: “No Time To Die will be released in cinemas globally on 8 October 2021.” The Twitter post said even less. “NO TIME TO DIE 8 October 2021.”

The 25th James Bond film has been pushed back twice before (from April 2020 to November 2020 and November 2020 to April 2021) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus outbreak has at times forced movie theaters to close.

COVID-19 likely is a factor. The virus continues to hits some markets, including the U.S. and U.K., hard. Another delay has been expected by many Bond fans.

No Time to Die’s cost approached $290 million as of mid-2020, according to a U.K. regulatory filing. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, had been counting on a robust theatrical run before the pandemic started.

Here’s the tweet from the official 007 account.

Bond 25 questions: The pish posh edition

“Wait? What? We’re not relevant anymore?”

There’s a lot of uncertainty concerning when Bond 25/No Time to Die will actually be seen by audiences. Regardless, there’s a lot of inconsequential gossip related to the movie.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Hey, I read that Ben Affleck is breaking up with Ana de Armas. Does that have anything concerning No Time to Die?

Not really.

Are you sure?

Back in August, The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s gossipy U.K. tabloid (the New York Post is Murdoch’s U.S. version) breathlessly reported that the makers of No Time to Die wanted to make sure Affleck didn’t show up to the premiere with de Armas. Other gossipy publications breathlessly picked up on it.

So that means the makers of No Time to Die must be happy, right?

I suppose.

What does that mean?

The makers of No Time to Die have a lot more to worry about. For example: Just when will No Time to Die really come out? Few really think it will be April (the current release date, only the latest among many).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which is on the hook for almost $290 million (as of mid-2020) for No Time to Die is reportedly up for sale and it has more on its mind than Ben Affleck’s volatile love life.

Eon Productions, which actually makes the Bond films, probably isn’t happy that de Armas (who likely has a small part in No Time to Die) is a bigger star than Daniel Craig according to IMDB.COM’s STARmeter. Craig is the star and got paid a reported $25 million.

What makes you think that de Armas has a small part?

Because she wears the same evening dress in all the trailers and TV spots for No Time to Die. At this point, you’d think the editor of the trailers and TV spots could up with different shots of de Armas — if there were any.

Why do you refer to this as “pish posh”?

At this point, there’s not really much substantive to talk about No Time to Die. Gossip, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

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: MGM sale (?) edition

No Time to Die logo

Metro Goldwyn Mayer, home studio of James Bond, may be up for sale. This comes as No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, still (figuratively) sits on the shelf, unwatched.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How solid is this news?

It originated with The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify. The business newspaper initially published a relatively short story early the evening of Dec. 21. Within a couple of hours, the Journal expanded the article. The audio version of the story went from 2 minutes to 6 minutes.

The Journal has published a number of MGM-related stories in recent years, including how MGM spent much of 2016 unsuccessfully negotiating a sale to Chinese investors and an October article about how MGM was under increasing pressure by investors to sell.

How far along are things? If a sale happens, how long will it take?

The Journal reported MGM has retained investment banks Morgan Stanley and LionTree LLC and that a sales process is underway. That suggests things are at an early stage but there’s no way to know for sure. Meanwhile, the sale of an entire company or substantial subsidiary can easily take months.

Why would MGM want to sell?

The studio is owned by hedge funds, led by Anchorage Capital Group. Hedge funds typically own an asset for a few years and then sell at a profit. The hedge fund owners of MGM have held on to the studio for a decade, longer than the norm.

Then, there’s the No Time to Die money pit.

Money pit?

The cost of the 25th James Bond film was approaching $300 million as of June 30, according to a U.K. regulatory filing. Meanwhile the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed No Time to Die’s release twice (April 2020 to November 2020 to April 2021). MGM’s interest costs on its investment are running at a reported $1 million a month.

MGM normally would start to get its money back when the movie went into release. But, besides the delays, theater attendance is way down because of the pandemic.

Who are possible buyers?

The Journal said the studio is looking to non-traditional buyers. Certainly some familiar Hollywood names have their hands tied.

Walt Disney Co. still is digesting its acquisition of 20th Century Fox. The company’s theme park business also was hurt by the pandemic. Warner Bros. is part of AT&T, which is revamping its entertainment assets to build up its new HBO Max streaming service.

Tech company Apple Inc. is a possibility and it needs programming for its own streaming service. But Apple has lots of other ambitions, including getting into car production by 2024, according to Reuters. A deal with Apple isn’t a sure thing.

What does all this mean for the Bond franchise?

MGM and Danjaq LLC control the franchise. An MGM sales means, at the very least, that Danjaq will have to deal with yet another executive regime. Danjaq has had plenty of practice at that since 1981, when United Artists was bought by MGM.

There could be a bigger effect if an MGM buyer had a streaming operation, the way Apple does. Danjaq and its Eon Productions like to make a big movie every so often. Would Danjaq/Eon even be interested in doing streaming series, the way Disney Plus is doing with Marvel and Star Wars?

Hard to say. Barbara Broccoli of Danjaq/Eon said last year she was resisting the idea of spinoffs. Then again, things can change. We might get The Adventures of Bill Tanner or Loelia! as streaming shows.

MGM explores a sale, WSJ reports

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro Goldwyn Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, is looking into selling itself, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter the paper didn’t identify.

MGM has retained investment banks Morgan Stanley and Lion Tree LLC to assist with a sale, according to the financial newspaper.

The studio is looking to its film library, which includes the Bond movies, Rocky films and Pink Panther productions, to generate interest. MGM also has television shows such as Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale.

MGM and Danjaq LLC, parent firm of Eon Productions, control the Bond franchise.

The studio reportedly spent much of 2016 exploring a sale to Chinese investors before talks broke off late that year. In recent years, MGM has described itself as the leading independent studio in Hollywood.

MGM is owned by hedge funds, led by Anchorage Capital Group. The hedge funds took control after MGM exited from bankruptcy in 2010.

The studio explored selling a one-year lease on No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, to streaming service Apple Plus, according to multiple news accounts this fall. The Hollywood Reporter said in October that MGM didn’t consult with Danjaq/Eon, which generated displeasure from boss Barbara Broccoli.

Release of No Time to Die has been held up by the COVID-19 pandemic and the movie currently has an April 2021 release date. The film cost almost $288 million to make as of June 30, according to a U.K. regulatory filing.

Assuming the Journal report is accurate, a new chapter in the troubled MGM-Danjaq relationship may be about to unfold. MGM would provide a lot of programming for streaming services.

Warner Bros. bets big on streaming for 2021

Warner Bros. logo

Warner Bros. plans to make its 2021 film slate available on the HBO Max streaming service the same day the movies are released in theaters, Variety reported.

The movies will be on HBO Max for 31 days. After that time, they will be only available in theaters until the normal home video window opens up, according to the entertainment-news outlet.

The films involved include a new version of Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve (a one-time contender to direct No Time to Die); The Matrix 4; and Suicide Squad.

Warner Bros. is doing something similar with Wonder Woman 1984. That film opens in international theaters in mid-month but will be on HBO Max and theaters in the U.S. starting Dec. 25.

AT&T owns Warner Bros., HBO and HBO Max, the latter intended as a streaming competitor to Netflix.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the James Bond films, reportedly had shopped No Time to Die to streaming outlets. No leasing deal took place. The 25th James Bond film currently has an April 2021 release date in theaters.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has played havoc with movie release plans, with many films being delayed multiple times.