Bond 25: The week the optics changed

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

The Royal family this week, intentionally or not, gave 007 an assist with the optics of Bond 25’s production.

Prince Charles on Thursday showed up at Pinewood Studios and chatted with the likes of Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and director Cary Fukunaga on Bond 25 sets.

As is often the case, there were many media members in attendance, with video and stills being taken.

It wasn’t the prince’s first turn at doing this sort of thing, In the 1980s, he and his then-wife, Princess Diana, toured Pinewood during production of The Living Daylights.

Such visits are arranged well in advance. It’s not like Prince Charles would just show up at Pinewood.

Still, for one day at least, the images and stories generated from the visit washed away a lot of previously Bond 25 publicity concerning star injuries, script rewrites, the departure of Danny Boyle as director, an explosion that damaged the famous 007 Stage and tales of other problems.

The timing may have been coincidental. But for Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the latter handling international distribution of Bond 25), the prince’s visit could not have come soon enough.

For those who wanted more, a video by 5 News provided some Bond 25 tidbits as the prince asked questions of the Bond 25 cast and crew.

To be sure, Bond 25 has a lot of filming to go. About a third has been completed. Also, making large, big-budget movies rarely is an easy endeavor.

Still, the topic of Bond 25 conversation has been changed, at least for a while.

Bond 25 questions: Eve (?) of the announcement edition

It seems we’re about to get some Bond 25 news this week. But, given how Bond 25 development has gone the past three years, there are questions even in the home stretch.

What changes from the normal media launch might we see?

During the evening of April 23, the MI6 James Bond website came out with a story that said the following:

MI6 has been informed that there will be no traditional press conference.

Instead, specially recorded segments in Jamaica will be packaged by ABC TV (Good Morning America) in the USA and ITV in the UK (Good Morning Britain) for broadcast on Thursday and Friday this week.

Anything particularly odd about that?

U.S. network ABC, which airs Good Morning America, is owned by Walt Disney Co. Competitor NBC, which airs Today, a morning rival to Good Morning America, is owned by Comcast. Comcast, in turn, is parent company to NBC-Universal. The Universal part is Bond 25’s international distributor.

So?

From a distance, it would appear Bond 25 is messing over one of its corporate partners (Universal).

Any other concerns?

The blog is wondering if we’ll find out Bond 25’s actual title this week. This decade, at this point, we were told that Bond 23 would be called Skyfall and Bond 24 would be called SPECTRE.

Maybe we’ll be told Bond 25’s actual title. But the format of this week’s media event is different enough that the blog isn’t taking it for granted.

UPDATE (April 24): Comcast also is being shut out on the European side of the Atlantic when it comes to this week’s Bond 25 events. Comcast owns a controlling interest Sky. But ITV isn’t part of Sky. h/t to reader Rob Coppinger for bringing this to my attention.

UPDATE II: Reader @CorneelVf on Twitter has a post of a program guide indicating Comcast’s Sky will have a half-hour show on Thursday called Bond 25: The Announcement.

UPDATE III: The official Eon Productions 007 Twitter feed has details about a live Bond 25 announcement at 13:10 GMT on Thursday. Twitter users can ask questions using #BOND25. This may be a social media substitute for the traditional media event for 007 films.

 

With Fox deal, Disney gets some 007 action (for now)

Skyfall’s poster image

Walt Disney Co. apparently is now in the Bond business — until mid-2020, anyway.

Disney this week completed its $71.3 billion acquisition of most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio. One of the properties Disney picked up was Fox Home Entertainment, which handles home video releases of James Bond films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

That includes the 24-film Eon Productions series as well as the 1967 Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again. MGM and Fox last year reached a settlement in a lawsuit for not including those movies in a 007 box set marketed as containing “all” Bond films. Under the settlement the two studios distributed free digital copies of the non-Eon 007 films.

The following passage is from MGM’s third-quarter financial report for 2018.

Fox Home Entertainment (“Fox”) provides our physical home entertainment distribution on a worldwide basis (excluding certain territories) for a substantial number of our feature films and television series, including Spectre, Skyfall, Death Wish, RoboCop, Vikings, Get Shorty, The Handmaid’s Tale, Teen Wolf and other titles…Our agreement with Fox expires on June 30, 2020.

Disney had announced its Fox acquisition in December 2017. So MGM, when it issued its various 2018 financial reports, was aware that ownership of Fox Home Entertainment was likely to change.

Meanwhile, Bond 25 “physical” home video is spoken for by Universal, which is handling international distribution of the movie.

“Under this arrangement, MGM will retain digital and worldwide television distribution rights,” the studio said in a May 2018 press release about Bond 25. “Universal will also handle physical home entertainment distribution.”

It doesn’t take too much imagination to guess Universal may make a play for the other Bond films for “physical” home video after the current Fox deal expires.

Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in April 2020 and the home video products would be out in the second half of the year, after the Fox deal is over. It would make sense for a new marketing push for previous 007 films to accompany Bond 25 coming out on home video. That’d be easier if one entity handled it all.

Meanwhile, all of this is a footnote for Disney. The company currently is carrying out job cuts at Fox. Its Marvel Studios unit is making plans to use Marvel characters Fox had licensed.

Bond 25 questions: The glass half-full/half-empty edition

No time to panic..

So Bond 25 has been delayed again. It has now been assigned its third release date since July 2017. And the news came one day after fans had begun their one-year countdown art and memes.

As usual, the blog has questions. But the blog is switching up the format with this post.

Is this bad news?

Half-full answer: It’s not even a two-month delay. Nothing to see here. Move along. No reason to panic.

Half-empty answer: Any other shoes to drop?

What’s going on?

Half-full answer: Universal, which will distribute Bond 25 outside North America, is juggling its schedule. Fast & Furious 9 (working title) has been moved from April 10, 2020 to May 22, 2020. So it makes sense to movie Bond 25 to April 8 and get a start on the Easter weekend for 2020.

Half-empty answer: Bond 25 hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck. Some movies get moved earlier (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation by months in 2015 and Avengers: Infinity War by a week in 2018).

Let’s say this release date won’t change (really). Will it be good for Bond?

Half-full answer: People go to movies at times other than summer and the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Batman v Superman opened big during Easter weekend 2016. Admittedly it fell off quickly, but people came to see it opening weekend. Furious 7 (part of the Fast & Furious series) had a big opening during Easter weekend 2015.

Half-empty answer: We’ll see. This is new territory for Bond.

Isn’t this weird? Three release dates?

Half-full answer: Nothing to see here. Move along. Release dates change all the time.

Half-empty answer: Of course it’s weird. Let’s face it, Bond 25 has had a development full of twists and turns.

Star Daniel Craig and producer Barbara Broccoli each take an extended break after 2015’s SPECTRE. The first release date (November 2019) was announced in July 2017 when no distributor was in place (and wouldn’t be for months). Craig finally came back but that was followed by a long director search, one director signing but leaving (Danny Boyle) followed by a quick search for a replacement, etc., etc. etc.

So for argument’s sake, assume this newest delay is strictly Universal’s doing. It still comes on top of a longer-than-usual gap. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) went bankrupt in 2010. That resulted in a four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. The current gap already was longer with nothing as calamitous involved.

Bond 25 release pushed back 2 months

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25’s release has been pushed back almost two months to April 8, 2020, The Wrap entertainment news website said.

The change was confirmed in an announcement on the official 007 website of Eon Productions.

The Wrap’s initial story was only two paragraphs long. It provided no details nor said how it obtained the information. An updated version added some background but still had no details. The Eon announcement was only one sentence.

Bond 25’s scheduled release date had been Feb. 14, 2020.

Bond 25 had already been pushed back once. The next 007 film originally was announced as having a November 2019 release date in the United States.

The 25th James Bond film originally was to have been directed by Danny Boyle. He departed over “creative differences.” Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Bond 25 will be distributed in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures. Universal is handling international distribution.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m., New York time): Perhaps a piece of the puzzle: Universal (which is distributing Bond 25 internationally) has moved Fast & Furious 9 from April 10, 2020 (the start of Easter weekend), to May 22, 2020, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

MGM briefly mentions Bond 25 on investor call

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, during an investor call this week, briefly referenced Bond 25, mostly about the hiring of Cary Fukunaga as director.

“We wouldn’t be more excited about the creative direction of our next installment of our treasured evergreen franchise, Bond 25,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said in prepared remarks. MGM is “thrilled to add Cary’s versatility and innovation to the next James Bond adventure.”

Fukunaga’s hiring was announced in September. He got the job after Danny Boyle departed in August in the midst of Bond 25 pre-production. Fukunaga has directed both streaming television series and feature films. Brearton also referenced Bond 25’s release date being delayed to February 2020.

Other MGM subjects weren’t discussed. The company has been run by a committee of executives since Gary Barber was fired as CEO in March. There were no comments whether he’ll be replaced or not.

Also, MGM’s partner in a U.S. film distribution joint venture, Annapurna Pictures, has been hit with financial troubles. But Annapurna’s name didn’t come up. The joint venture is scheduled to release Bond 25 in the U.S. while Universal will distribute the film internationally.

There were no questions from investors on the call.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter for the heads up.

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.