MGM watch: Respect looks for some

Respect, a movie about the life of singer Aretha Franklin, got off to a show start at the U.S. box office.

The film, made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and released by United Artists Releasing, is estimated to produce $8.8 million in its opening weekend, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data.

Respect originally was scheduled to be released in 2020. MGM looked to the film to generate Academy Award nominations. But Respect was pushed back to this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respect is being shown only in theaters and is on more than 3,000 screens. The same applies to Free Guy and Don’t Breathe 2, which also debuted this weekend. Respect was No. 4 this weekend, according to Exhibitor Relations.

MGM and United Artists Releasing (MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures) have the same theater-only opening strategy for No Time to Die. The 25th James Bond film is scheduled to come out Oct. 8 in the U.S.

Here’s how Exhibitor Relations summarized Respect’s opening weekend box office.

UPDATE (Aug. 29): Respect already is available on pay-per-view. Apparently the movie didn’t get much respect in the theater.

Some COVID-19 related movie news

There are some new tea leaves to read regarding motion pictures and COVID-19. Nothing definite, certainly not in connection with No Time to Die. But a few items to keep in mind.

Falling moviegoer confidence: The Hollywood Reporter said a late July poll indicates that confidence among moviegoers has lessened as the new delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.

An exerpt:

The results of a late July poll on moviegoing confidence levels were alarming. The National Research Group survey, closely watched by studios, showed that the overall comfort level had tumbled from a pandemic-era high of 81 percent to 72 percent in the span of just three weeks amid the delta variant. Moms appeared to be the most concerned about taking a trip to the multiplex, with their comfort index tumbling from 75 percent to 59 percent.

The story, by Pamela McClintock, references how the family film Clifford the Big Red Dog has been delayed from a planned September release. It raises questions whether other movies may also get delayed.

A notable comic book movie starts slow: Warner Bros.’s Suicide Squad debuts this weekend. It is available both in theaters and on HBO Max. It’s directed by James Gunn, who helmed two Guardians of the Galaxy films for Marvel. It’s essentially a do-over for the group of villains forced to work for the U.S. government. It also follows Birds of Prey, another Warners-DC comics film.

Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data, said on Twitter that film’s Thursday night preview shows were nothing special.

Of course, it’s still early.

UPDATE (Aug. 8): Things didn’t go so well.

There’s another MGM movie about to come out: That would be Respect, a film about the life of singer Aretha Franklin (1942-2018).

At one point, MGM viewed Respect as a way to get Oscar nominations. But then COVID-19 caused the studio to delay from late 2020 to the Aug. 13 weekend.

Like other MGM films (including No Time to Die), it is distributed in North America by United Artists Releasing, MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Respect is being shown “only in theaters,” just like No Time to Die.

h/t to David Zaritsky, via Morten Steingrimsen, who flagged The Hollywood Reporter story to my attention.

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.