About that No Time to Die release date

Well, maybe.

The blog asked March 20, “How confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date?” The answer: “Get back to me when we know how the coronavirus plays out.”

The picture hasn’t cleared up much since. Movie theaters still are mostly closed in a number of major markets.

Even when they reopen, the theaters may have to strictly limit the number of tickets sold for each showing of a film. A “packed” house may consist of perhaps 25 percent of the seats sold.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives, in a March call with investors, said delaying the movie to November from April was a bold and necessary move.

Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said 007’s home studio was “able to secure Bond’s place on the release calendar…This was the right decision for MGM and the storied James Bond franchise.”

Of course, that assumed theaters would be operating normally and audiences would feel comfortable going to films again. Neither can be assumed right now.

This week, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, wrote that “some studio executives are now thinking its release should be pushed back even further — into next year, if an available date can be found. So many blockbuster release dates have already been shunted into 2021 that available screens are scarce.”

Bamigboye over the past decade has seen a number of his Bond-related scoops proven correct. While he doesn’t write about Bond as much as he used to, he still draws attention when he does report on 007. Other outlets quickly summarized his report (which was one item in a weekly column).

The thing is, the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is causing plenty of other uncertainty. There’s still no cure, no vaccine and few treatment options.

An example of the real-life impact: Manufacturers are trying to restart operations but likely will have to deploy workers further apart. They may have to run more shifts while making fewer products.

COVID-19’s impact is huge. There have been more than 1 million confirmed cases in the U.S. alone, with tens of thousands of deaths.

Revisiting that March 20 post question — how confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date? — there isn’t much reason to feel more confident. But, as ever, we’ll see.

NTTD stumbles into a long-term theater-video conflict

Universal logo

No Time to Die, through no fault of its own, has stumbled into an inflection point concerning the future of entertainment.

Namely, will traditional movie theaters remain a key player? Or has the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) forced a shift to video on demand (VOD)?

This week, AMC Theaters, which also owns the Odeon chain in the U.K., said it won’t show any more movies from Universal.

The latter, because theaters are shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, brought out the animated movie Trolls: World Tour on premium VOD. Universal executives declared the move a success after charging consumers directly for viewing it.

That rubbed AMC the wrong way, prompting the financially troubled theater chain to make its declaration about banning Universal movies. (CLICK HERE to read The Hollywood Reporter’s story on the conflict.)

How does No Time to Die figure into this? Universal is distributing the 25th James Bond film internationally, including the U.K., while United Artists Releasing (co-owned by Bond home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) handle North American distribution.

If AMC sticks to its guns, that means the Odeon chain won’t be showing No Time to Die, currently scheduled for release in November. Odeon theaters and the Bond film series have a long history together.

To be sure, AMC’s stance may end up being the opening salvo in a long negotiation. Theaters currently have a 90-day window to show films before they go to home video. Perhaps AMC and Universal negotiate a “new normal.”

The conventional wisdom is that big, expensive “tentpole” movies such as No Time to Die, or the Fast and the Furious or Jurassic Park movies (the latter two Universal products) need both a theatrical as well as home video releases. Less expensive movies can get by with VOD alone.

But will that be true in a post-COVID-19 future? Hard to say for sure.

People have been predicting the end of movie theaters since at least the 1970s. At least, that’s the first time I heard such predictions.

Movie theaters have hung on. Still, when change happens, it doesn’t wait. Both Jack Lugo of the James Bond Radio website and the MI6 James Bond website published stories on May 29 analyzing the trends involved.

The thing is, had No Time to Die met its original release date (fall 2019) or its second (February 2020, before COVID-19 was a factor), none of this would really matter.

Instead, the delays put the Bond film into the middle of an entertainment industry debate on how to proceed. COVID-19 has shaken everything up. Walt Disney Co., less than six months ago, seemed to be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Today? Not so much. Disney’s movie release schedule is scrambled, its theme parks are closed and its ESPN network has few live sports events to telecast. Life comes at you fast.

At this point, the answers about the future of cinema aren’t certain. The fate of No Time to Die is just one of many variables.

(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.

Bond 25 questions: The coronavirus delay edition

Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond

James Bond defeated the likes of Dr. No, Rosa Klebb, Auric Goldfinger, Blofeld, et. al. But even 007 had to retreat in the face of a potential pandemic with the delay of No Time to Die pushed back to November.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened? The coronavirus (technical name COVID-19). It surfaced in China at the end of 2019. It spread to Japan, South Korea, Italy, and other nations. There have now been deaths in the U.S. from the disease.

Why is that such a big deal? COVID-19, at this point, is very contagious. It also is more potent than normal seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu has a death rate of between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. The new coronavirus had been estimated at 2 percent. The World Health Organization then raised it to 3.4 percent. But that’s a moving target, subject to revision as more data becomes available. The 1918 “Spanish flu” had a death rate of about 2.5 percent. It killed between 20 million and 50 million globally.

Is there a broader context? Yes. Theaters in China have been closed for weeks. Coronavirus outbreaks in Europe have had results, including the cancellation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Some countries are cracking down on events with mass gatherings in an effort to cut back on spread of the disease. Many major companies are eliminating travel for employees for now.

How did No Time to Die get involved? The 25th James Bond film’s Beijing premiere was canceled a while back. So was a publicity tour in China, South Korea and Japan.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier published an open letter urging Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the international distributor) to delay the movie’s March 31 premiere. The letter noted that major markets for Bond films already had been affected by the coronavirus, with more impact to come.

The open letter went viral. Over the next two days, a number of outlets wrote about the open letter, beginning with The Hollywood Reporter. Others include the BBC, Variety, IndieWire, The Guardian, Daily Mail, and Uproxx among others.

Chances are Eon, MGM and Universal were already thinking about it. But the global reaction to the open letter had to be a factor.

What happens next? Presumably the publicity build-up goes on hold and we’ll come back to it later.

For what it’s worth, Bond films since 1995’s GoldenEye have been released in either November or December. No Time to Die  is back in that part of the calendar. But the delay does cement the 2015-2020 gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die as the second-longest in the history of the Eon series.

No Time to Die delayed to November because of coronavirus

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

The release of No Time to Die was delayed until November because of the coronavirus, it was announced today.

“MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020,” according to a tweet on the official Eon 007 account on Twitter.

In a follow-up tweet, it was specified the U.K. release was now Nov. 12, 2020 while the U.S. release will be on Nov. 25.

The move comes amid the spread of the disease, with governments moving to clamp down on places where large numbers of people gather.

Movie theaters in China have been closed for weeks. There have been outbreaks in Europe that resulted in the closing of the Louvre museum in Paris and the cancelation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to premiere on March 31 in London, with an April 2 release. The U.S. release had been set for April 10.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier had published an open letter to Eon and the studios urging them to delay the film’s release. The open letter was then picked up in a number of outlets including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, IndieWire and others.

Here’s the first tweet:

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MI6 site urges NTTD delay because of coronavirus

No Time to Die poster

The MI6 James Bond website urged No Time to Die’s production company and studios to delay the release of the 25th 007 film because of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

With the coronavirus “reaching pandemic status, it is time to put public health above marketing release schedules and the cost of canceling publicity events,” the site said.

No Time to Die’s world premiere is scheduled for March 31 in London.

“Hundreds of fans and celebrities from around the world will be flying to the UK to attend,” MI6 said of the premiere.

“The Royal Albert Hall capacity is above the 5,000 limit that affected countries are banning for public gatherings. Just one person, who may not even show symptoms, could infect the rest of the audience. This is not the type of publicity anyone wants.”

The letter suggested delaying the release until summer “when experts expect the epidemics to have peaked and to be under control.”

The coronavirus first broke out in China. That country has closed its movie theaters. No Time to Die’s Beijing premiere was canceled as was a publicity tour for China, South Korea and Japan.

Since then, there have been outbreaks in Europe. The Geneva Motor Show, a major auto industry event, has been canceled for this year after the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people through March 15. In Paris, the Louvre museum has been closed because of the virus.

“Developed nations that are suffering from community spread of the virus, including Italy, France, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea have banned large public gatherings,” MI6 said. “Italy closed all cinemas in their ‘red zone’ last night. The outbreaks in the UK and the USA are just starting to trend towards epidemics.”

The MI6 site’s article was written as an open letter to Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the Bond franchise’s home studio) and Universal, which is handling international distribution.

The letter was signed by James Page, co-founder of MI6 and MI6 Confidential magazine, and David Leigh, founder of The James Bond Dossier website.

Disclosure: MI6 also produces the James Bond & Friends podcast, where I sometimes appear as a guest.