Oswald the Rabbit makes his (sort of) MCU debut

Oswald the Rabbit, created by Walt Disney, circa 1927

Oswald the Rabbit, a character created by Walt Disney before Mickey Mouse, made his sort-of Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

It takes a bit of explaining. Let’s just say Oswald is shown on a television screen being watched by the imaginary kids of Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. There’s a later scene where the kids are watching the 1930s Disney version of Snow White.

Oswald (also known as Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit) originally was created in 1927 for Universal.

For decades, Disney (the company) wanted to get the rights to Oswald back. In the 2000s, Disney and Universal negotiated a swap: Universal would grant Disney the rights to Oswald. Universal (whose properties include the U.S. network NBC) would gain the services of sportscaster Al Michaels so the latter could work on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. (Early in Michaels’ career, he had a bit part in an episode of Hawaii Five-O.)

Yes, a cartoon character was swapped for the services of a human being. You can CLICK HERE for an account of the trade.

That’s how big business operates. Michaels this past season finished up his Sunday Night Football contract.

The Johnny Williams era of television

John Williams

John Williams told The Assocated Press earlier this month, that his score for Indiana Jones 5 may be his final movie work.

“I don’t want to be seen as categorically eliminating any activity,” The 90-year-old composer told AP. But a Star Wars score, he said, is a six-month commitment and “at this point in life is a long commitment to me.”

Williams is known mostly for his film scores, which include 51 Oscar nominations beginning in the 1960s for scores and songs. Williams was the composer of choice for director Steven Spielberg, a collaboration that lasted decades.

However, once upon a time, Williams was known as Johnny Williams and his work was all over television in the 1950s and 1960s.

Television Days

Williams played piano on the Peter Gunn theme for Henry Mancini. Williams also played as a musician in film scores such as The Magnificent Seven, Sweet Smell of Success and To Kill a Mockingbird, he recalled in a 2002 tribute to composer Elmer Bernstein.

Before he was famous: John(ny) Williams title card for the Kraft Suspense Theater episode Once Upon a Savage Night (black and white copy of a color original).

Williams was hired in 1958 by Stanley Wilson, music supervisor for Revue television (later Universal), to score episodes of M Squad, a police drama starring Lee Marvin. At that point, the composer was billed as John T. Williams Jr.

Wilson evidently liked the results and kept bringing Williams back for work. One of Williams’ jobs for Revue writing the theme for Checkmate, a 1960-62 series created by Eric Ambler.

Checkmate concerned the exploits of two private eyes (Anthony George and Doug McClure) assisted by an academic (Sebastian Cabot). Williams was now billed as Johnny Williams.

Before he was famous: John Williams title card for the unaired pilot of Gilligan’s Island.

Williams also did the theme (and scored some episodes for) a Revue anthology show, Kraft Suspense Theater. One of the installments he scored, Once Upon a Savage Night, was a particularly tense story about the search by Chicago authorities for a psychopathic killer (Philip Abbott).

In his TV days, Williams was versatile. His credits included the odd sitcom, such as the unaired pilot (plus additional episodes) of Gilligan’s Island as well as the theme for The Tammy Grimes Show, a quickly canceled program in the 1966-67 season.

Producer Irwin Allen brought in Williams to work on series such as Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel, which credited Johnny Williams for their themes.

Johnny Williams even showed up on camera in the first episode of Johnny Staccato, a 1959 series starring John Cassavettes and made at Revue. Williams, clean-shaven and with hair, played a jazz pianist. He was listed in the cast as Johnny Williams.

The Johnny Williams era drew to a close by the late 1960s. His credit for the theme of Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants series listed the composer as John Williams. For Williams, the best was yet to come.

Bond 25 questions: The box office edition (updated)

No Time to Die poster.

No Time to Die passed two box office milestones, $700 million worldwide and $150 million in the United States.

How important is this? Naturally, the blog has questions.

This is good news, right? It means that No Time to Die is the No. 6 box office movie in the U.S. so far this year and No. 2 globally among movies financed by major U.S. studios. The Bond movie may be about to catch F9: The Fast Saga at $721 million.

So? That means, even in a post-COVID 19 pandemic era, that James Bond still is very popular.

Is there a caveat? Yes. No Time to Die still hasn’t reached profitability during its theatrical release.

During a film’s theatrical run, studios split the take with theaters. No Time to Die’s production cost approached $300 million. It had additional marketing costs on top of that. The most notable was a February 2020 Super Bowl TV ad estimated at $5.69 million that was flushed down the drain by COVID delays. There were tens of millions of more dollars spent after that.

But aren’t there more revenue streams? Sure. There are video on demand rentals (which began in the U.S. on Nov. 9) and the early home video releases.

Still, studios prefer a movie get into profit territory during its theatrical release.

With COVID-19, studios are in new territory. Before the pandemic, studios were able to generate box office of $1 billion or more per movie in theaters. In 2019, Avengers: Endgame scored almost $2.8 billion in theaters worldwide.

In 2021, no movie has reached $1 billion. It’s a new world for studios for a lot of reasons.

No Time to Die was made during one era. It was released during another. Clearly, Bond’s popularity remains high. But the future may require changes. As usual, we’ll see.

No Time to Die goes past $667.5 million mark globally

No Time to Die teaser poster

No Time to Die this weekend reached the $667.5 million mark, according to Box Office Mojo.

In its fifth weekend in the United States, the 25th James Bond film, managed to hold onto a significant part of its’ audience, according to Exhibitor Relations Co.

No Time to Die is scheduled on Tuesday to be available for video on demand (VOD) in the U.S. This will be a little more than a month after No Time to Die was released in U.S. theaters.

The Bond film is one of the most most popular movies at the global box office since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it was made with an expensive pricetag.

The Bond film made its debut in China last weekend. Later this week, No Time to Die is scheduled to be released in Australia.

No Time to Die is being released in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures. The movie is being distributed by Universal internationally.

NTTD to debut on VOD in U.S. next week, Screen Rant says

No Time to Die logo

No Time to Die will debut in the U.S. on video on demand Nov. 9, Screen Rant reported.

The entertainment news site said that United Artists Releasing confirmed the VOD date. United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures, is handling distribution of No Time to Die in the U.S. Universal is in charge of international distribution.

Earlier, Screen Rant writer Cade Onder shared a screenshot of a YouTube ad via Twitter.

Studios have moved to reduce the time that films are available only in theaters. Warner Bros. this year has been debuting films simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service.

In the U.S., Oct. 8 was No Time to Die’s official release date, although there were Oct. 6 showings at Imax theaters and Oct. 7 preview showings at theaters generally.

The 25th James Bond film has had a U.S. box office of almost $137 million as of Nov. 4, according to Box Office Mojo. The film’s global box office is about $610.4 million.

Movie attendance generally has been held down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus also spurred three delays in the release of the Bond movie from spring 2020 to fall 2021.

In pre-pandemic times, 2012’s Skyfall generated a U.S. box office of $304.4 million while 2015’s SPECTRE scored $200.1 million in the U.S.

Vulture highlights ‘hidden costs’ of NTTD delays

No Time to Die logo

Vulture, part of New York magazine on Oct. 22 came out with an article about the “Huge Hidden Costs of Holding a Blockbuster.” While it included various delayed films, its prime example was No Time to Die.

The story by Chris Lee provides pieces of the financial puzzle involving the three COVID-related delays for the 25th James Bond film.

Among them:

–February 2020 Super Bowl ad for No Time to Die cost $5.69 million. The next month, the first of the COVID delays was announceed.

–Product placement partners spent $66 million during 2020 only to see the movie delayed into 2021.

–Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, and Universal, the movie’s international distributor, spent $175 million in prints and advertising costs in the last few weeks before the film’s release.

There was also this passage:

 While some Hollywood watchers speculated that No Time to Die’s days on the October-release calendar were numbered, others gave voice to a grim reality — namely, that half-siblings Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the top executives at 007’s longtime production company Eon (which has final say on the film’s distribution strategy), couldn’t afford to hold it any longer. “The Broccolis care about the U.K. more than anything — making it a big hit in the U.K., a decent hit in the U.S. and the rest of the world,” says a person with knowledge of Eon. “But they’ve lost so much money by moving No Time to Die, the marketing has gotten stale.”

The business about Eon Productions most caring about the U.K. has been reported by other outlets. But this article gets into other aspects of the delay. Another excerpt:

In February 2020, Billie Eilish dropped the movie’s slow-burn theme song, “No Time to Die,” which generated 2.2 million YouTube views within six hours and hit the top of the U.K. singles chart). And co-star Ana de Armas graced the cover of the March issue of Vanity Fair — invaluable promotional real estate for which there would be no do-over.

To view the entire article, CLICK HERE.

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.