Warner Bros. bets big on streaming for 2021

Warner Bros. logo

Warner Bros. plans to make its 2021 film slate available on the HBO Max streaming service the same day the movies are released in theaters, Variety reported.

The movies will be on HBO Max for 31 days. After that time, they will be only available in theaters until the normal home video window opens up, according to the entertainment-news outlet.

The films involved include a new version of Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve (a one-time contender to direct No Time to Die); The Matrix 4; and Suicide Squad.

Warner Bros. is doing something similar with Wonder Woman 1984. That film opens in international theaters in mid-month but will be on HBO Max and theaters in the U.S. starting Dec. 25.

AT&T owns Warner Bros., HBO and HBO Max, the latter intended as a streaming competitor to Netflix.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the James Bond films, reportedly had shopped No Time to Die to streaming outlets. No leasing deal took place. The 25th James Bond film currently has an April 2021 release date in theaters.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has played havoc with movie release plans, with many films being delayed multiple times.

WW 1984 becomes 1st ‘tentpole’ to debut via streaming

Wonder Woman 1984 publicity still

Warner Bros. blinked, becoming the first studio to debut a big-budget “tentpole” film, Wonder Woman 1984, via streaming in the United Sstates.

The studio will release the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman on Dec. 25, both in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service, Variety said. The movie will be shown in theaters internationally ” wherever theaters are open on Dec. 16,” Deadline: Hollywood said.

During this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, studios have played a game of chicken, with nobody wanting to debut their biggest movies while the coronavirus rages. COVID-19 has intensified this fall in the U.S., a major movie market.

As a result, the studios have delayed their big films repeatedly, including No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film. The Bond adventure was pushed back from April 2020 to November 2020 and again to April 2021.

The conventional wisdom is the big budget movies need a theatrical release and can’t debut on streaming services.

But, as the pandemic has dragged on, inhibiting theater attendance, there has been more financial pressure on studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, reportedly explored leasing No Time to Die to streaming services. For now, there’s no sign that will happen.

There are promising COVID-19 vaccines being developed but there are questions how quickly they can be deployed.

HBO Max is the streaming service being marketed by AT&T, parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO. AT&T is looking to HBO Max to compete with Netflix.

Trade group chief says Bond will remain a theater product

No Time to Die poster

The head of a movie theater trade group predicted to Variety that James Bond films will remain a theatrical product first.

“The backers of the Bond movies have told us that they really want the movie to play theatrically,” John Fithian, chief of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in an interview with the entertainment-news outlet.

“We believe that franchise will continue being a theatrical one and we look forward to selling a ton of tickets for ‘No Time to Die.'”

Fithian made the comment in response to a question concerning reports last month that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, sought bids from streaming services, including Apple Inc.’s service, for No Time to Die.

Details of the reports varied. One of the most detailed appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. THR said Oct. 27 that Apple considered an offer of $350 million to $400 million for a one-year license for No Time to Die but that wasn’t enough for MGM.

The studio has said No Time to Die isn’t for sale. Meanwhile, MGM reportedly is incurring interest expense of $1 million a month while the 25th James Bond film figuratively sits on the shelf.

No Time to Die had been scheduled to come out this month. It was delayed until April because of COVID-19.

“There’s a reason I don’t think blockbusters like Bond are going to debut on streaming services,” the trade group official told Variety. “Our challenges are dire in the short term, but in the long term we know this business is going to be healthy again. The model works best for studios and they make the most money when they release movies in theaters first.”

Fithian expressed concern in the Variety interview about the lag between Warner Bros.’s planned Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die.

“There are a bunch of movies in January, February and March, but Bond is the next biggie” after Wonder Woman, Fithian told Variety.

“If ‘Wonder Woman’ sticks with its Christmas Day opening and people come out for that, we hope that other studios will move titles from later in 2021 into the first quarter,” he said. “That’s certainly the hope. We need movies to get back into business.”

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.

Bond 25 questions: The miscellaneous edition

“I want to see No Time to Die right now!”

Well, we keep getting new No Time to Die promos. Does that mean we’ll really, really get to see the 25th James Bond film in November?

Naturally, the blog has questions.

So is the movie really coming out in November?

Well, the various promos would have you believe that. New posters. A new promotional video from Omega. A new promotional video from Eon Productions featuring Rami Malek’s Safin villain.

So you’re saying yes, right?

I’m saying maybe.

What? Why?

We’re a little under 60 days from the U.S. release date for No Time to Die. The U.K. premiere date is before that.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t announced until March 4 that No Time to Die’s early April release date was pushed back to November. (The world premiere had been scheduled for March 31, just 27 days later).

So, there’s still time for yet another delay to be announced.

Oh come on! You’re being a Debbie Downer! Aren’t you?

Let’s just say the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which led to the April-to-November delay is still out there.

The coronavirus remains a big factor in the U.S. and U.K. If you look at the COVID-19 site maintained by Johns Hopkins University, the virus is still pretty widespread.

Meanwhile, other studios, including Walt Disney Co., are delaying 2020 releases into 2021. Disney’s Marvel Studios, for example, has delayed its Black Widow movie yet again, this time to May 2021

Those studios may be influenced by Warner Bros.’s Tenet, the first big theater release during the pandemic.

Anything to add?

Well, if No Time to Die sticks with its November release date, it will have less competition.

UPDATE (Sept. 25): The Wall Street Journal has a story today about how major theater chains are looking to No Time to Die to deliver customers.

At least MGM still seems committed to a November release of its latest James Bond movie, the aptly named “No Time to Die.” Any sign that the suave spy’s schedule also is slipping would be terrible news for Cineworld and its U.S. peers AMC and Cinemark.

About that whole Bond 26 thing

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This week, a website I am totally unfamiliar with stated that Tom Hardy is definitely the next film James Bond.

Naturally, Bond fans jumped in to debate, argue and discuss whether this was so. I’m not going to link to it because there has been enough heat and no light.

Perhaps a better subject would be under what circumstances a Bond 26 movie would occur.

Specifically, with the advent of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is making a $200 million to $250 million movie practical anymore?

The Christopher Nolan-directed Tenet was supposed to save cinema. It’s not happening in the United States (still a major movie market). Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has responded by delaying (again) Wonder Woman 1984 to Christmas.

But, Bond fans say, James Bond is different. It’s an established intellectual property (known as IP).

Sure. But a second COVID-19 wave is occurring internationally. And the U.S. as a whole, still has yet to get the pandemic under control. Major states such as Florida, Texas and Georgia are a big mess. Theaters in New York and California are still closed.

The traditional business model was movies came out in theaters, followed by video on demand, followed by home video. All of those sources were vital.

Movie studios (including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio) were grappling with the future before COVID-19. Netflix was the main source of pressure and the studios were coming out with their own streaming competitors.

The pandemic puts more pressure than ever on studios. What’s the future for movies in theaters?

Tom Hardy is guaranteed to be the next James Bond? The question is whether James Bond movies are guaranteed in the future.

No Time to Die is a pre-COVID-19 film trying to come out amid COVID-19. The future for Bond is uncertain — as uncertain as it is for movies generally.

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 25: The release date (again) edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

No Time to Die is cruising toward a November release — or is it?

The blog has some questions. Let’s take a look.

What’s the latest?

Deadline: Hollywood is reporting that Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman 1984 may be delayed (again) from a scheduled October release to November or December. This follows mixed results in the U.S. for Tenet, the spy-fi/sci-fi film from director Christopher Nolan.

How is that significant for No Time to Die?

There’s a lot of volatility amid COVID-19 for movies and their release dates. If this news pans out, it will be another bit of volatility.

Another superhero movie, Marvel’s Black Widow, currently is scheduled to be released on Nov. 6 in the U.S. It was originally slated to come out in May but was delayed because of COVID-19.

Anything else going on?

The U.K. is banning social gatherings of more than six people starting next week in England, according to the BBC.

That applies to “schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports,” the BBC said.

That suggests it will be difficult to hold the kind of grand premieres normally associated with James Bond films.

In a follow-up story, the BBC said: “Pubs, restaurants, shops and other venues will remain open, but people can only attend in groups of up to six. Venues should also allow for social distancing between groups.”

Tenet’s U.S. box office debut is mixed

Tenet poster

Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan-directed film, had a mixed debut in the COVID-19 stricken United States.

For the Labor Day weekend, Tenet will generate an estimated $20.2 million in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo in 2,810 theaters. (Box Office Mojo listed that figure for both the regular Sept. 4-6 weekend and including the Labor Day holiday.)

This comes after Tenet had an international opening weekend last weekend of about $53 million.

The spy-fi/sci-fi move is now up to an estimated $146.2 million internationally, according to figures compiled by Box Office Mojo.

The question is whether ticket sales are enough in the U.S. to support an expensive “tentpole” movie.

Warner Bros. has been supporting Nolan’s desire that Tenet get a full theatrical experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Other studios have been watching Tenet closely concerning their own tentpole releases.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, reactivated its marketing efforts for No Time to Die. A new poster and trailer were released, both emphasizing how the 25th James Bond film was sticking with a planned November 2020 release.

What does all this mean for Bond? 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.