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.

Nolan’s Tenet is delayed again; what it means

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Tenet, has been delayed yet again, according to Variety. The move may have significance beyond that.

Tenet originally was scheduled to come out on July 17. It was pushed back a couple of times, most recently to Aug. 12. Warner Bros., in effect, was gambling it could get people back into theaters amid the pandemic stemming from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Steven Zeitchik, a writer for The Washington Post, suggested the latest development may be a twist in how studios have been releasing films in recent years.

Warner Bros. left the door open for the movie to come out in other countries by the end of the summer — before it is released in the U.S. But that too will depend on conditions overseas.

The postponement scuttles Hollywood’s plan for a mid-summer reopening and is likely to delay other entertainment-reopening plans across the country.

Why should James Bond fans care about this?

No Time to Die was made during a pre-pandemic time. The notion was you’d roll out a movie as soon as possible globally.

With COVID-19, that may not be possible. The coronavirus appears to be under control in much of Asia and much of Europe. But there are major breakouts of COVID-19 in the U.S., including some of the country’s most populated states (Florida, Texas and California).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and Universal (which is handling No Time to Die’s international distribution) have to take all of this into account. For now, No Time to Die is scheduled to come out in November.

Bond 25 questions: Another delay (?) edition

New (well, tweaked) No Time to Die character poster

There is a report (via the MI6 James Bond website) that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal are seriously considering pushing back No Time to Die’s release to the summer of 2021.

The movie currently has a November release date. This week’s news follows a series of delays in the release date for the 25th James Bond film.

Naturally, the blog has some questions.

Can’t the movie come out on a video on demand (VOD) format?

There’s not enough cash involved to make a profit on a movie that cost $250 million (give or take a million or two) to make.

Such expensive movies need to have as many revenue sources as possible. And for a pricey film like No Time to Die, that means a theatrical release — whenever it can happen.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the Bond franchise’s home studio) doesn’t have deep pockets.

Maybe a big studio can roll the dice and put a “tentpole” movie out first on VOD. But MGM ain’t it.

But I’m 60 or older and am among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Why can’t we go ahead with VOD?

Studios don’t care about you. Neither do advertisers or most marketers (except for makers of catheters or other products intended for older people).

Put another way, once you hit 50 years old, you’re nothing to them.

Who do they care about?

Younger people who have to buy a lot more products than their parents and grandparents. In the case of movie studios, younger people are more likely to see movies.

But I’m a long-time fan! I’ve followed Bond for decades!

See answer for question 2.

Isn’t that a cynical outlook?

The studio bosses don’t think so. That’s the way it is.

MGM, Universal consider 2021 NTTD date, MI6 says

No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal are considering pushing No Time to Die’s release date to a “Summer 2021 release window,” the MI6 James Bond website said.

A decision on such a move “will be due soon,” the website reported.

The 25th James Bond film currently is scheduled for November after a delay from April.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has jumbled movie release schedules. Films such as Tenet, a new Christopher Nolan movie, have had multiple release dates.

In March, when the decision was made to delay No Time to Die until November, COVID-19 had caused theaters in China to shut down and Italy was the site of a major outbreak in Europe. Marketing for No Time to Die was well underway when the delay to November was announced.

Since then, Asia and Europe have moved to contain the virus. But major states in the U.S. — including Florida, Texas and California — have had major outbreaks. Theaters in the U.S. have been deciding when and how to reopen.

No Time to Die is being released in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, co-owned by MGM, and by Universal internationally. MGM also is Bond’s home studio.

The last James Bond film to have a summer release date was 1989’s Licence to Kill.