For now, Black Widow and Bond will be out in November

Poster for Black Widow

Movie studios continue to play a game of chess with release dates as the coronavirus slams the global economy.

Walt Disney Co. announced a series of release dates, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie box office.

Among the new dates is Black Widow, made by Disney’s Marvel unit, now scheduled to debut on Nov. 6 in the U.S.

Black Widow originally was slated to come out on May 1. The coronavirus, which resulted in movie theater closings in multiple countries, has forced many changes.

One of the first films to change dates was No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film. It originally was scheduled to be out on April 2 in the U.K. and April 10 in the U.S.

The Bond film currently is scheduled to be out in Nov. 12 in the U.K. and Nov. 25 in the U.S.

If all this holds up, Marvel’s leading espionage character will have her solo film the same month as No Time to Die.

How significant is this? With the coronavirus, everything is in flux. We’ll see how it goes.

MGM says NTTD delay was ‘the right call at the right time’

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s chief operating officer this week told investors that delaying No Time to Die to November was “the right call at the right time.”

Christopher Brearton, on a conference call with investors, said the studio acted quickly and was “able to secure Bond’s place on the release calendar…This was the right decision for MGM and the storied James Bond franchise.”

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film, had been set for release in April, with a world premiere on March 31.

On March 4, the release date was changed to Nov. 12 in the U.K. and Nov. 25 in the U.S. The move took place as the coronavirus pandemic began disrupting the entertainment industry, with theaters closing and productions being shut down. No Time to Die was one of the first major films to be delayed.

Since then, a number of expensive films — the ninth Fast and the Furious installment, Marvel’s Black Widow and Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984, among them — have given up their original release dates.

Since 1995, Bond films have mostly come out in November in the U.S.

“That window has worked,” Brearton said. He called the new November schedule “an advantageous release date.”

Hilarious 007 ‘reports’ over the past five years

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The world is a grim place right now and we could all use a laugh. So, in that spirit, here is a partial list of questionable reports involving the James Bond film franchise over the past five years.

The Bond series will be a period piece overseen by the Mad Men showrunner!

In October 2015, the Sunday Express reported that “studio bosses” (it cited an MGM executive who wasn’t identified) had asked Matthew Weiner, the creator/showrunner of the now-defunct TV show Mad Men ” to head a new team to oversee Bond’s return to his heyday 1960s.” This would occur after the departure of star Daniel Craig.

This story, of course, appeared shortly before the debut of 2015’s SPECTRE, the most recent James Bond film.

Mad Men was set in the 1960s. One episode referred to both the 1967 Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice (as well as a 1965 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)

Left unanswered by the story: What happens to Eon Productions and its producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson? Reading the story in 2020 also is unintentionally hilarious given the soap opera surrounding the production of the next Daniel Craig Bond film.

Daniel Craig was being offered $150 million to stay as Bond!

In September 2016, an outfit called Radar Online said that Sony Pictures was offering Craig $150 million to play Bond in two more movies.

Problem: Sony’s involvement with the franchise ended with SPECTRE. The studio sought to continue the relationship but that didn’t happen.

Second problem: Paying Craig $75 million per film? Really? Some Daniel Craig fans contacted the blog to claim this made perfect financial sense. Later, Variety reported Craig’s paycheck for Bond 25/No Time to Die was $25 million.

Studio bosses want Bond 25 out by November 2018!

In December 2016, the tabloid Mirror chimed in with a story saying MGM was getting nervous and Bond 25 was supposed to be out by November 2018. (Oops).

Bond 25 will be called Shatterhand but be based on a Bond continuation novel!

There has been a long-held fan theory that Shatterhand (a Blofeld alias in the You Only Live Twice novel) would be a great title for a Bond film. But in July 2017, the Mirror had a novel twist on this.

This version said Bond 25 would be called Shatterhand but be based on a Bond continuation novel, Never Dream of Dying, by Raymond Benson. Benson said nobody from the Mirror had contacted him about the story. This was a few weeks before Craig finally announced he was coming back to play Bond in one movie.

Danny Boyle’s haunting laugh!

By now, Bond fans know the Danny Boyle saga. The director had suddenly become a contender, in early 2018, to direct Bond 25. Then, in May 2018, he was announced as the director. And then in August 2018, he was out because of “creative differences.”

In March 2018, Boyle talked briefly about the prospect of directing Bond. At that point, he was working with scribe John Hodge on a script. But around the 25-second mark of this Associated Press video, Boyle lets out with a laugh that comes across as haunting given subsequent events.

Even James Bond isn’t immune from a pandemic

Even James Bond isn’t immune from a pandemic

Agent 007, nor his many fans, are immune from a pandemic.

In the first three days of this month, a number of James Bond fans were skeptical that No Time to Die’s release date needed to be pushed back.

That seems like an eternity ago. Since then, theaters in Italy and France were closed. Weeks before that, theaters in China had been closed.

Some Bond sites said the coronavirus was serious and the No Time to Die release pans needed to be considered.

The studios involved, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (U.S. via its United Artists Releasing joint venture with Annapurna) and Univeral (international) opted to push No Time to Die back to November.

Other Bond sites opposed the move, one saying that it ruined “Bond fun.” Some may have deleted previous criticism of the idea of delaying No Time to Die’s release.

Since then, several movies also delayed their release dates. In the U.S., sports leagues and events have been canceled or postponed without replacement dates.

At least some of those who objected to the No Time to Die delay haven’t acknowledged those subsequent facts. That’s how it goes.

In the past 10 days, the No Time to Die delay has become part of a much larger calamity. Movies delayed. Trade shows canceled. Broadways shut down. Concern grows whether more severe steps need to be taken.

As the blog has said before, it’s time to get real. Pandemics don’t happen that often. But we’re in one now.

UPDATE (9 p.m., New York time): Olga Kurylenko, who played the lead female part in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, said in an Instagram post that she has tested positive for coronavirus.

UPDATE (11:25 p.m., New York time): Movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles have been ordered to close because of the pandemic, The Hollywood Reporter said.

(Slightly) revised NTTD spot appears on SNL

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

Despite being delayed unti November, a spot for No Time to Die appeared during the first half-hour of the March 7 telecast of Saturday Night Live.

The spot appeared after an uneven skit featuring Daniel Craig, who was the host of the March 7 broadcast. The skit had Craig playing James Bond going crazy after placing winning bets in a casino.

As soon as the skit was over, the No Time to Die spot began.

That spot didn’t appear much different from recent commercials for the 25th James Bond film.

The major difference was the final shot at the end. It said, “THANKSGIVING.”

No Time to Die has been scheduled for next month. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Univeral (the international distributor) and Eon Productions said March 4 that the movie would now come out in November. The coronavirus has shut down theaters in key international markets, including China.

Both Universal and NBC (which televises Saturday Night Live) are owned by Comcast.

UPDATE (1:10 a.m., March 8): Saturday Night Live sent out a video of the skit on Twitter.

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UPDATE II (12:25 p.m., March 8): I missed this because it aired while I was writing the original post. The Weekend Update segment saw one of its “anchors” deliver a No Time to Die joke. Noting the delay in release date, it was suggested the date should have stayed in April but the title changed to “Time to Die.”

MGM’s NTTD shift may cost $30M-$50M, THR says

New No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may take a hit of $30 million to $50 million by moving No Time to Die’s release date, The Hollywood Reporter said. But not moving the date could have cost more, the outlet said, citing people it didn’t identify.

MGM, James Bond’s home studio, Eon Productions and Universal (the international distributor) said this week the 25th James Bond film is being moved to November from April.

THR said MGM “fully financed” No Time to Time, which has an estimated production budget of $250 million.

The entertainment news outlet said had MGM stuck with the April release, that would have been more costly because of markets where theaters were shut down because of the coronavirus.

Theaters in China, Japan and Italy have been closed. “That could have resulted in a minimum of 30 percent shaved off the final box-office tallies — a possible $300 million out of a likely $1 billion haul at the worldwide box office,” THR said.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier urged MGM, Universal and Eon Productions to delay the release because of health hazards stemming from the coronavirus. The open letter was published March 2 and the decision to delay was announced March 4.

The open letter, besides citing the health risks, said No Time to Die faced lower box office prospects because of efforts to combat coronavirus.

“Of the countries with large public gatherings banned or restricted, their combined ‘SPECTRE’ box-office was $313m, or 38% of the global haul,” the open letter said. SPECTRE, released in 2015, was the most recent Bond film.

No Time to Die dates, figures to keep in mind

No Time to Die poster

With a change in No Time to Die’s release schedule, certain dates and figures take on new importance. Here’s a look at a few.

March/April 2020: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, often reports fourth-quarter and year-end financial results in March or, as in the case of the Q4 2018 results, in April 2019. A call with investors is held the same day.

Under the old No Time to Die release schedule, the investor call likely would have been a bit of a victory lap. Executives probably would have cited the (now-canceled) March 31 world premiere in London, said the film would be/already was a big hit, etc.

Now, the investor call may take on a different tone. Presumably, executives will at least acknowledge the release date change because of the coronavirus. Perhaps investors will have some questions. The latter isn’t guaranteed. On some calls, there’s barely a peep from investors. On some calls, they have questions.

Countdowns: Some Bond fans have maintained countdowns until No Time to Die’s release. Unfortunately, they had to recalculate after this week’s announcement about the release date change.

Just to be clear, I am really expressing sympathy and not being snarky. I see these on my Twitter feed. It’s a service for fans and acts as a daily reminder.

On the morning of March 4, the countdown at @bondmovies on Twitter was 26 days.  A few hours later, it had to be changed to 252 days. All I can say is hang in there those of you who are maintaining such countdowns.

13 Days: That’s the difference between the new Nov. 12 U.K. release for No Time to Die compared with its Nov. 25 U.S. release. Under the old April plan, there would have been an 8-day difference.

Nov. 25 is a Wednesday and the day before Thanksgiving, a major U.S. holiday. Essentially, the movie is now being tied to that holiday in the U.S., when a lot of people are off from work and school. Still, U.S. Bond fans aren’t likely to be happy with the longer wait.