Bond 25 questions: The box office edition

No Time to Die has been out for a few weeks. Once a movie is released, entertainment-news outlets chew over the numbers. Fans then react to stories.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

So how well is No Time to Die doing?

As of Oct. 17, it had an estimated box office take of $348.3 million internationally and $99.5 million in the U.S. for a grand total of $447.8 million.

That has been depicted as strong internationally, not so much in the U.S.

Why “not so much” in the U.S.?

Because as recently as Oct. 4, two weeks ago, there were some estimates No Time to Die’s U.S. opening weekend could be $100 million, according to CNBC.

The movie’s final U.S. opening weekend number was $55,225,007, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s nothing to sneeze at but obviously not $100 million.

And the 25th James Bond film’s U.S. opening weekend was below recent movies such as Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($90 million) and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($75.4 million).

I see estimates it may take a global box office of more than $900 million for the movie to break even. How is that?

The studios split that box office with theaters. Precise figures vary, but a rule of thumb is studios get about 50 percent. In China, that’s only 25 percent. But that’s a huge market, so the studios want to be there.

No Time to Die also was very expensive. A U.K. regulatory filing last year indicated the production cost was nearing $300 million. There were also marketing costs, including a pricey Super Bowl ad, in February 2020. Pandemic-related delays may have boosted the marketing expenses.

The MI6 James Bond website published an analysis on Aug. 2. It said No Time to Die “needs to clear $928m at the box office to avoid losing money.” Other outlets have published similar figures. Variety, in an Oct. 11 story, said the film will need “to gross at least $800 million globally to get out of the red (probably closer to $900 million).”

To be clear, the accountants at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, and Universal, handing international distribution, know far more than fans and other outsiders.

Since the pandemic, what movie has had the highest box office?

F9: The Fast Saga at almost $716.6 million.

Can No Time to Die beat that?

The movie is to be released in additional markets. It remains to be seen.

Marvel’s Shang-Chi opens strong

Shang-Chi logo

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had a strong U.S. opening, providing hope for theaters that the fall movie season can remain viable despite COVID-19.

The opening also was being watched by James Bond fans, looking for No Time to Die to stick with its Sept. 30 opening in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

Shang-Chi is estimated to bring in $71.4 million for Friday-Sunday weekend and $83.5 million for the four days including Monday’s Labor Day holiday, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data.

Shang-Chi made his Marvel Comics debut in the 1970s and isn’t as well known to the general public as other Marvel characters. The movie also is opening only in theaters. Black Widow, another Marvel movie, opened in both theaters and as premium offering on the Disney Plus streaming service.

There are still questions related to Shang-Chi. A number of movies released during the pandemic era have fallen off sharply during their second weekend of release. Still, Shang-Chi’s opening seems to bolster Marvel’s reputation of making successful movies featuring lesser-known characters such as Ant-Man.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal released what they called final U.S. and international trailers for No Time to Die. But there has been speculation the movie may not be out of the woods yet. No Time to Die has been delayed five times, three times because of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Marvel has another movie, Eternals, featuring lesser-known characters. The Eternals comic book was created by Jack Kirby in 1976, in a title he wrote and drew. Kirby co-created many other Marvel characters such as Captain America, Thor and The Avengers.

Here’s the tweet posted by Exhibitor Relations Co.

M:I 7 gets pushed back further into 2022

Tom Cruise

Mission: Impossible 7 is being moved further back into 2022 as Paramount opted to delay two Tom Cruise movies.

The studio pushed back Tom Gun: Maverick to Memorial Day weekend 2022, with M:I 7 now slated for Sept. 30 of next year. M:I 7 previously had the Memorial Day date.

The seventh M:I adventure has had its share of delays stemming from COVID-19. The original plan was to have M:I 7 and 8 film back-to-back and then be released in 2021 and 2022. But that idea was abandoned early this year.

Both M:I 7 and 8 are being directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who helped Cruise’s two previous Mission: Impossible movies.

The M:I series in the past decade has drawn attention for its stunts, which have star-producer Cruise as an active participant. Also, M:I had been coming out more frequently (three films from 2011 through 2018) than James Bond movies (two entries in the 2010s) before the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 had an impact on both. No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of the coronavirus. But those all took place after principal photography was completed. M:I 7 has had delays in the midst of filming. This week, it was announced No Time to Die will proceed with a Sept. 30 release in the U.K. (and other countries) with an Oct. 8 U.S. release.

Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data, made observations on social media.

The move also means M:I 7 won’t be out until the seemingly ageless Cruise turns 60 on July 3, 2022.

Bond 25 questions: Are we set for real?

No Time to Die poster from some time ago

No Time to Die’s final international and U.S. trailers are out. After five delays, it would seem the 25th James Bond film is a lock to come out soon.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this really it?

No Time to Die is scheduled to come out on Sept. 30 in the U.K. (and other countries). It’s scheduled to come out in the U.S. on Oct. 8. There are 28 days before the movie’s world premiere. There are likely fewer days before movie reviewers get to see it to do their reviews.

It would seem to be more than difficult to push it back a sixth time (twice because Danny Boyle was replaced as director, three times because of COVID-19).

Still some Bond fans recall this image from the Peanuts comic strip.

Many Bond fans won’t believe it until they’re in the theater watching No Time to Die.

What does this tell us?

It tells us there’s a limit how many times you can kick a movie down the road. At least that’s what studios (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal) as well as production companies (Eon Productions, which makes Bond films) apparently have concluded.

But is this the best time to release movies?

No. COVID-19 became a factor in early 2020. The pandemic has become more complicated as the virus has evolved. Viruses do that. At the same time, the money types evidently have concluded, at least in No Time to Die’s case, this has gone as far as it can.

Any other thoughts? I will repeat something I’ve said multiple times. No Time to Die was conceived in one era — studios could spend a ridiculous amount of money but get bailed out if the films generated billion-dollar global box office results.

That was supposed to happen with No Time to Die. Skyfall had a $1.1 billion global box office. SPECTRE fell short. But No Time to Die was intended to be the climax of the Daniel Craig era for Bond.

At this point, a $1 billion box office for No Time to Die seems a distant dream. The money people, it would seem, have decided to get what they squeeze from the production.

Bond 25 questions: The marketing & box office edition

No Time to Die logo

We’re a month away from No Time to Die being released in the U.K. It appears the 25th James Bond film is done with delays and ready to confront the COVID-19 pandemic head on. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s the movie’s global box office going to be?

In the pandemic era, the movie with the largest global box office total is F9: The Fast Saga at about $704 million. Can No Time to Die match or exceed that? Naturally, Bond fans think so. But box office totals depend on more than hard-core fans.

What are the marketing dynamics?

To begin with, it’s a three-headed monster.

–You have Eon Productions, which makes the movies. Eon’s Michael G. Wilson said in 2015 that the company really manages the marketing. The distributors just execute Eon’s plan.

“We create it, they execute it,” Wilson said at that time.

–You have Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which foots the bills. No Time to Die is being distributed in North America by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures.

–You have Universal, which is distributing the film internationally. Supposedly, Universal was selected because of its track record, which included turning The Fast and the Furious series into a $1 billion per film juggernaut per film prior to COVID-19. In that case, Universal ran the whole show. Now it’s dealing with another studio and a strong-willed production company.

On Aug. 24, Vulture, the arts website of New York magazine, had a story about the difficulty in scheduling movies amid COVID-19. It quoted someone it identified only as ” a person with knowledge of business practices at Eon.

“They’ve lost so much money by moving [No Time to Die]; the marketing has gotten stale,” this person says. “The Broccolis care more about the U.K. than anything — making it a big hit in the U.K., a decent hit in the U.S. and the rest of the world.” (emphasis added)

If true, it’d be interesting to know what MGM/United Artists Releasing thinks about that. It’d also be interesting to get the view of Universal, responsible for a lot more than just the U.K.

Anything to be on the lookout for?

The marketing is gearing up. Some commercials have run recently. Assuming there isn’t another delay (there have been five to date), we’ll be getting to judge the marketing efforts for ourselves.

Studios committed to NTTD release date, newsletter says

No Time to Die logo

SECOND UPDATE (12:34 a.m., Aug. 20): The COVID-19 situation may be moving faster. MI6 HQ (James Bond MI6 website tweeted out that Australia has postponed No Time to Die to Nov. 11 from Oct. 8. Theater lists like this one from an Imax theater carry the Nov. 11 date. Later, MI6 HQ tweeted that New Zealand is also delayed to Nov. 11.

ORIGINAL POST: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal “are said to be committed” to No Time to Die’s current Sept. 30 U.K./Oct. 8 U.S. release date, according to a newsletter by a former Hollywood Reporter editor which cited “numerous sources” he didn’t identify.

Here’s an excerpt of the newsletter by Matthew Belloni, one-time editorial director at The Hollywood Reporter and a former entertainment lawyer:

No film is under a bigger microscope on this issue than No Time to Die. Numerous sources have told me there just isn’t a way to make much money in the current environment on a $250 million-plus production, but distributors MGM and Universal—with pressure from the Broccoli family, of course—are said to be committed to that Oct. 8 release date. Bond movies typically do nearly 80 percent of their business outside the U.S., particularly in the U.K. (where it’s set to open a week early) and Europe, and Universal is hoping the Delta peak will have passed there.

The passage is part of a larger item about the upcoming CinemaCon, an annual theaters convention and ongoing attendance problems related to COVID-19, including the more contagious Delta variant.

Belloni addressed whether No Time to Die can get a China release.

“China also hasn’t yet allowed the film, but previous Bonds got in (2015’s Spectre grossed $85 million there), and the fall release date was picked in part to avoid the country’s summer ban on Hollywood fare,” he wrote. “It needs every penny from every market.”

No Time to Die’s production cost was closer to $300 million as of mid-2020, according to a U.K. regulatory filing. The 25th James Bond film has been delayed five times — twice related to the departure of original director Danny Boyle (Cary Fukunaga took his place) and three times because of COVID. The film’s original release date was fall 2019.

No Time to Die is being distributed in the U.S. and Canada by United Artists releasing (joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures) and by Universal internationally.

Belloni is part of Puck, a media startup company.

UPDATE I: Belloni was also on a podcast called Hollywood Breakdown. On the podcast, he said one consideration is movies can’t be postponed indefinitely because 1) a film may be seen as stale by audiences and 2) there are marketing costs with each new release date. Belloni also said the thinking is if No Time to Die generates box office of $600 million to $800 million “they’re going to be OK if they can do that.”

CBC carries NTTD ad during Olympics telecast

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. logo

There’s no telling how signficant this is but the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ran a No Time to Die spot during the network’s coverage of the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

The spot ran between 9:45 a.m. and 9:50 a.m. eastern time.

There wasn’t any new footage (or if it was new it was significiantly different) compared with earlier trailers. For example, star Daniel Craig delivers his “Bond, James Bond” line to a security screener at MI6 who clearly doesn’t know who the former agent is.

Because this is part of the North American release, the spot had an Oct. 8 date for the movie’s debut. The U.S. and Canada release is being handled by United Artists Releasing, the joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures. The movie is getting an earlier release (as things stand now) in the U.K. and other countries where Universal is handling distribution.

Amazon in talks to acquire MGM, Variety says

MGM logo

Amazon is in negotiations to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for about $9 billion, Variety reported.

MGM has been owned by a group of hedge funds since the studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. MGM reportedly has been for sale for months. According to Variety, talks have taken on new urgency. Here’s an excerpt from the Variety story:

Amazon’s interest in acquiring the studio has taken on a new tenor beyond the usual rumor mill. The deal is said to be being orchestrated by Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Amazon Studios and Prime Video, directly with MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich, whose Anchorage Capital is a major MGM shareholder.

MGM and Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, control the Bond franchise. MGM is one of the last of the independent studio operations available for aquisition.

Bond would be one of the major properties that would interest a buyer. MGM also controls the likes of The Pink Panther and Rocky/Creed franchises. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981

Amazon runs the Amazon Prime streaming service. The company, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has been expanding its entertainment properties.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film is scheduled to be released this fall. United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna, is to distribute the movie in the U.S. Universal will handle international distribution.

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: