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.

The Name of the Game redux

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa in a publicity still for The Name of the Game

UPDATED POST: Several years ago, the blog took a look at The Name of the Game, a 1968-71 series made by Universal and airing on NBC.

Since then, more information has emerged. The Hollywood Reporter ran a lengthy 2018 feature story about the history of the series. Each episode cost an unheard of (at the time) $400,000 an episode. 

Occasionally, more episodes show up on YouTube. It’s hard to know how long they’ll stay up. They include an installment set in Cold War Berlin written by Richard Levinson and William Link as well as an episode where ace writer Jeff Dillon (Tony Franciosa) gets involved with espionage. 

ORIGINAL POST: Over the weekend, on a Facebook group, there interesting give and take about a television series that doesn’t get much attention these days: The Name of the Game.

The 1968-71 series consisted of 90-minute episodes dealing with three major figures at a magazine publishing company: its proprietor, Glenn Howard (Gene Barry); a top reporter/writer, Jeff Dillon (Tony Franciosa); and Dan Farrell, an FBI agent turned journalist (Robert Stack). Universal dubbed this the “wheel,” with rotating leads. Susan St. James as Peggy Maxwell would end up assisting all three.

The “wheel” concept would become a staple at Universal with the NBC Mystery Movie in the 1970s.

There’s a bit of spy connection. During the series, there was an episode that revealed Glenn Howard worked for the OSS during World War II. The episode concerned accusations by a Washington politician that Howard used an OSS operation to obtain the funds he’d use to start his publishing empire.

Essentially, Glenn Howard was a younger, handsomer version of Henry Luce (1898-1967), who founded Time, Life, Fortune and Sports llustrated. Like Luce, Glenn Howard was an influential man and traveled the globe.

The series had its origins with Fame Is the Name of the Game, a 1966 TV movie starring Franciosa as Jeff Dillon.

That TV movie also included George Macready as Glenn Howard, Dillon’s boss. But when NBC decided on a series, either Universal, NBC, or both, decided they needed a better known actor. As a result, Gene Barry, who had already done at least two Universal TV movies by this point, got the nod.

The Name of the Game attempted to deal with contemporary issues: the environment, race relations, corruption.

Over time, the 90-minute format fell out of favor for television syndication. The preferred formats are either 30 or 60 minutes or two hours. As a result, The Name of the Game is not seen very much these days. The show ran 76 episodes — hardly a flop, but syndicators usually prefer at least 100 episodes.

Nevertheless, a number of talented people worked on the show. Among them was Steven Spielberg, who directed a third-season Glenn Howard episode about environmental dangers. That episode, LA 2017, has a Twilight Zone quality. Did Howard really travel into the future or what it just a dream?

Other crew members included Norman Lloyd (producer of some Franciosa episodes), Dean Hargrove (a writer-producer who worked on Glenn Howard episodes), Steven Bochco (who was story editor for the Robert Stack episodes the last two seasons) and Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits who produced the first-season Franciosa episodes.

The show also featured a snappy theme by Dave Grusin, seen below:

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.

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: The future of MGM edition

No Time to Die poster from spring 2020

It turns out No Time to Die is not just a James Bond movie. It’s also a bargaining chip concerning the future of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s going on?

MGM is owned by hedge funds. They acquired the studio when it was in bankruptcy in 2010. Hedge funds typically acquire assets and sell (or “flip”) them a few years later at a profit.

MGM’s hedge fund owners have held onto to the studio for a full decade. That’s longer than is typical of hedge funds.

There have been attempts at selling the studio. MGM spent part of 2016 trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer, according to news reports in early 2017. CEO Gary Barber was in early “unsanctioned” talks to sell MGM to Apple in 2018. That spurred MGM’s board to fire him, The Wall Street Journal said in part of a story about MGM on Oct. 11.

No Time to Die, a $250 million production, was supposed to generate $1 billion in global box office pre COVID-19. That could boost an MGM sales price. But various delays, including two COVID-related ones, have complicated that rosy scenario.

Why should Bond fans care?

The Bond franchise has felt the impact of shaky MGM ownership ever since MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. At times, Eon Production was under the gun to get movies out fast or hold costs down. The whole 1989-1995 hiatus was the direct result of a financial mess at MGM.

Any push by MGM to sell now would be amid the growth in streaming services. Possible buyers may include Apple and Amazon.com, two tech companies active in streaming.

What happens now?

As once said in Diamonds Are Forever, people are playing Monopoly with real buildings, or at least movie and TV studios.

This week’s Wall Street Journal story depicts Anchorage Capital Group, the largest single MGM hedge fund owner, as under pressure to do a deal.

In one passage, the story indicates that Anchorage views the still-unreleased No Time to Die as something that could boost a sales price. A buyer could assume control of No Time to Die’s distribution.

There is a complication, according to the Journal. Comcast Corp.’s Universal is set to distribute No Time to Die internationally. If someone other than Comcast buys MGM, Comcast may need to be compensation.

But I just want my Bond movie! Why do I to follow this other stuff?

Life is complicated sometimes.

NTTD: Key events, dates that shaped expectations

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All they need to do is change the “3” to a “2.”

No Time to Die has become one of the longest soap operas in the history of the Eon Productions James Bond film series. But how did it get that way?

What follows are some key events and dates. All of them helped shape outside perspective of the production.

July 24, 2017: Both Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announce that Bond 25 will be released on Nov. 8, 2019. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are onboard as writers.

At this point, MGM had no way of distributing the film. As it turns out, MGM was working to get back into distribution. But that wouldn’t be firmed up for some time. MGM and Annapurna would form a joint venture, later called United Artists releasing, for U.S. distribution. Eventually, Universal would be picked for international distribution.

In any case, the announcement creates the expectation Bond 25 would be out in fall 2019.

Aug. 15, 2017: Daniel Craig, on CBS’s The Late Show, says he’s returning as Bond in the new movie. The July 2017 announcement didn’t specify who was playing Bond.

Craig’s appearance helps create the impression of momentum. The Bond film machine is stirring.

Oct. 31, 2017: MGM and Annapurna announce their joint venture. Bond 25, for now, is not part of the deal. (It would become part of it later.) But again, the news creates the image of momentum.

February 2018: Entertainment news outlets report that Danny Boyle is a contender to direct Bond 25. Ultimately, it turns out Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, have a competing idea for the film and Hodge is working up a script. If that idea gets approved, Hodge is in the director’s chair.

Boyle confirms all this in March.

May 25, 2018: Official announcement is made that Boyle is directing and Hodge is writing Bond 25.

It’s a new day. Now, that’s what you call momentum.

Aug. 21, 2018: Danny Boyle, we hardly ye. He’s out, according to a new announcement. (It later becomes clear Hodge is gone, too.) Now, that’s what you call slamming the brakes on momentum.

Sept. 20, 2018: Bond 25 has a new director, Cary Fukunaga. It also has a new release date, Feb. 14, 2020, according to an official announcement.

That’s a mixed bag, but at least work is moving ahead.

Feb. 15, 2019: New release date is announced, now April 2020. The news was a bit of a letdown to Bond fans who had started their “one year to go” countdowns the previous day.

April 25, 2019: Eon conducts a livestream event in Jamaica ahead of the start of the production of Bond 25. There are some technical hiccups. There’s still no title. But, hey, filming is starting at long last.

We’re on our way now. What could go wrong?

May 22, 2019: Eon confirms Daniel Craig suffered an injury and will have ankle surgery. It’s not the firm time Craig has gotten hurt. Eon says the April release date is still in effect.

June 4, 2019: There’s an explosion at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. No serious injuries but the optics weren’t the best.

007 Stage after the June 4, 2019 incident.

Aug. 20, 2019: Bond 25 gets a title — No Time to Die. This helps re-establish momentum and anticipation. A title helps things seem more real. A movie is actually coming.

Oct. 25, 2019: Eon announces filming has concluded. Whatever bumps took place, the movie is done. Anticipation builds.

Over the next few months, the first trailer comes out, an expensive ad appears during the Super Bowl and plans for a world premiere get announced.

Then, on March 4, Bond 25/No Time to Die is delayed to November 2020. This week, it was delayed again to April 2021. In both cases, the actions stem from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The pandemic has slammed a lot of industries, including the film industry.

The point of bringing all this up is that Bond 25 has had 1) a lot of ups and downs and 2) had those ups and downs for an extended time.

As a result, if fans are feeling a little whipsawed, there’s good reason.

The movie is sitting there, presumably secure and ready to be shown. When that happens, anticipation will build yet again. But nobody should blame fans for feeling a little uneasy at this point.

Bond 25 questions: The new delay edition

No Time to Die teaser poster that needs updating.

So, No Time to Die has been delayed. Again. Naturally, the blog has questions.

We saw a marketing blitz this week, including a title song music video, putting the soundtrack album available for pre-order (again), even listing the titles of the various tracks, a new six-part promotional podcast and other tie-ins. What happened?

A lot of that activity was handled by companies that did deals with Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal. They have deadlines based on a release date. Evidently, those companies didn’t get the word from Eon, MGM and Universal to hold back.

Isn’t that crazy?

As the saying goes, there’s no business like show business.

Enough with the jokes! Isn’t that inconsiderate to the fans?

It absolutely is. But, typically, business comes before fan relations.

And what business considerations caused yet another delay?

One consideration was the same thing that caused a delay from April to November: The novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles remain closed because of the virus. COVID-19 is still a problem in the U.K. and Spain. There are new surges in some U.S. states such as Wisconsin. And the president of the U.S., Donald Trump, has come down with the coronavirus, putting even more attention on the disease.

What’s more, other major film releases have reacted to COVID-19. Tenet, the latest Christopher Nolan-directed film was released by Warner Bros. The movie has generated a global box office of almost $285 million, according to Box Office Mojo. But only $41.2 million of that was in the U.S.

Meanwhile, other films, including Marvel’s Black Widow was pushed back for a second occasion, this time to May 2021. F9, newest entry in the Fast and the Furious franchise, already delayed once by a year, was further pushed back to May 28, 2021.

In announcing the delay, a statement from Eon Productions and its studio partners, said the move was made to ensure No Time to Die can ” be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.” Essentially, the Bond camp is saying that won’t be possible in November.

Are you confident No Time to Die will make that April 2021 release?

Color me skeptical. As usual, we’ll see.

Black Widow may be delayed again

Poster for Black Widow

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow may be delayed again, further muddling the U.S. movie release outlook, Variety reported.

Variety said Black Widow, currently slated for a Nov. 6 release, was “likely” to be pushed back. The Marvel film originally was to have come out in early May. But it was delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

COVID-19 earlier spurred Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal to delay the release of No Time to Die from April to November.

From the perspective of Bond fans, the question is whether a Black Widow delay (assuming it happens) affects No Time to Die.

This month, MGM and Universal seemingly doubled down on the November release for No Time to Die. A new trailer was released. Also, a new online promo featuring Rami Malek as the Bond film’s villain came out.

One view: A Black Widow delay opens the field more for No Time to Die in November.

Another view: Walt Disney Co., assuming it delays Black Widow, shows is not confident about releasing a major film in November.

In the United States, about 70 percent of theaters are open. But COVID-19 closings on movie theaters are still in effect in New York and Los Angeles, the two largest movie markets.

The main major film that has been released during the pandemic is Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan-directed movie. Warner Bros.-released Tenet’s box office has been mixed, doing better internationally than in the U.S.

As usual, we’ll see.

Bond-related emoji reappear on Twitter

No Time to Die poster

James Bond-related emoji have reappeared on Twitter.

The hashtag #BondJamesBond and #JamesBond create a 007 logo to accompany it. The hashtag #NoTimeToDie gets you an Aston Martin DB5 emoji.

That doesn’t happen by accident. In this case, studios pay for the privilege (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists Releasing and Universal with this example).

Such emojis were seen on Twitter early this year ahead of No Time to Die’s original April release date. After the movie was delayed until November, the emojis went away as well.

Naturally, this development did not go unnoticed by Bond fans. There’s speculation that another No Time to Die trailer is ready to pop and the 25th Bond film will make that November release date.

As usual, we’ll see.

No Time to Die: Waiting for news

New No Time to Die poster

So are we any closer to knowing the fate of No Time to Die?

Answer: Not really.

A Dutch fan site, in an Aug. 3 post, says (via Google translate) there’s a “pretty big” chance that the 25th James Bond film will make its currently scheduled November release date.

“Maybe even 70%.,” according to the website.

The thing is, Bond fans don’t know. It’s hard to tell if the studios involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, or Universal, which is handling international distribution) know at this point.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a moving target. The United States is the global hot spot for the pandemic, with some of its most-populated states (Florida, Texas and California) some of the worst locations for the pandemic.

Do studios follow the pattern that Warner Bros. seems to be following with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (an international release in August with a limited U.S. release in September)?

The thing is, AT&T owned-Warner Bros. is a bigger operation than MGM. Warner Bros. has more options than MGM, the run of Hollywood’s studio litter, has.

For now, there’s a lot more uncertainty than certainty. We’ll see.