About No Time to Die saving cinema

Last shot of No Time to Die spot on Saturday Night Live last spring.

The past few weeks, there’s been a repeated trope saying that No Time to Die will save cinema.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to be released in April. But it was delayed until November because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Recently, a new trailer was released again saying the movie would be out in November. That, in turn, generated the idea that James Bond was coming to the rescue of the traditional movie theater.

The thing is, the Christopher Nolan-directed film Tenet was also supposed to be saving cinema. It was the first major movie to come out during the pandemic.

At the moment, Tenet is the only major new movie out in theatres. Its global box office total as of midday Sept. 12 is $152.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 

For a movie with a production budget of $200 million (with additional marketing costs), that’s not so great. But these aren’t ordinary times. Tenet shows that some people will show up at a theater, pandemic, or no pandemic.

Still, saving cinema? Here in the United States, movie theaters are closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest movie theater markets. They’re still closed where I live, in southeastern Michigan.

The U.S. accounts for about 25 percent of the global audience for a James Bond movie. If No Time to Die really makes that November release date, there may be big chunks of the country where theaters aren’t open.

Perhaps there will be enough international markets open where No Time to Die will do OK. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has delayed Wonder Woman 1984 again, this time from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25. That’s not the biggest vote of confidence.

Will No Time to Die follow suit? Who knows?

Another possibility: Cinema won’t be saved until people feel comfortable going to the theater again. That includes those with pre-existing health conditions (diabetes, etc.) or those 60 or older. Or both.

All of that will depend on a lot more than a single movie.

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.”

Bond 25 questions: End of times edition

New No Time to Die poster

With the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, going around the globe, life isn’t the way it used to be. Theaters are shut down in many markets. High-profile sporting events are indefinitely delayed. Many people, if they haven’t been laid off, are working from home.

Even from a narrow James Bond perspective, things aren’t the way they used to be. Naturally, the blog has questions.

How confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date?

Get back to me when we know how the coronavirus plays out.

The virus has been as serious as advertised. It’s clearly more potent than regular seasonal flu.

The latter has a death rate of about 0.1 percent. The coronavirus has a death rate of 3.4 percent at the moment, although that’s subject to revision as more data comes in. But it’s likely to remain far higher than seasonal flu.

Also to be seen is how long the coronavirus stays around. The virus now officially is a pandemic. The last similar event was the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which killed tens of millions of people around the globe.

No Time to Die was among the first big movies to announce a delay in release. Meanwhile, F9, the ninth Fast and the Furious movie, has been pushed back 11 months to April 2021. Black Widow, the newest Marvel Studios film, has been delayed without a specific release date.

Are there entertainment industry events that give you pause?

Studios have announced early video-on-demand releases. This has raised the idea that maybe movies will bypass theaters altogether. The Wrap entertainment website reported that Warner Bros. is discussing taking Wonder Woman 1984 directly to streaming. (UPDATE: IndieWire says it was told by Warner Bros. that Wonder Woman will get a full theatrical run).

At the same time, Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter has a story that notes the math is more difficult for big expensive “tentpole” movies to go this route. Such films need theatrical releases as an additional revenue stream. With an estimated production budget of $250 million, No Time to Die qualifies as a “tentpole”.

Does all this make you feel unsettled?

Of course. I live in the U.S. California is on lockdown. New York City is almost there.

There are many industries that are being affected by the coronavirus. North American auto plants are being shut down temporarily, for example. The only thing that seems uncertain is the impact of the coronavirus isn’t ending soon.

Bond 25 questions: The new director edition

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director 2.0 for Bond 25

Almost a month after the old director left, Bond 25 has a new director. Of course, the blog has questions.

Who is Cary Joji Fukunaga, the new Bond 25 director? Fukunaga, 41, is a U.S.-born writer-producer-director. His credits go back to the early 2000s. They include TV series such as True Detective and Maniac as well as films such as the 2011 version of Jane Eyre.

He had been slated to direct a film based on Stephen King’s It. He left the production. The movie came out in 2017 and was a big hit. Fukunaga was one of the credited screenwriters.

What’s the significance of hiring an American? Probably not much, if anything. It matters to some fans who argue on internet bulletin boards and the like that a Bond film should never be helmed by an American.

Truth be told, however, American Phil Karlson was favored by some United Artists executives for Dr. No, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The main thing against Karlson was his $75,000 asking price. Terence Young was paid about $40,000. Karlson ended up directing two Matt Helm films produced by Irving Allen, former partner of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

What about the script? In July 2017, Eon said it would be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. On May 25, Eon said Bond 25 had an “original screenplay” by John Hodge. He’s a writer who’s worked with Danny Boyle, who left the project in August.

The announcement naming Fukunaga as director doesn’t mention the script. Last week, multiple media outlets said Purvis and Wade had been brought back to turn a previous treatment they had written into a script. Assuming that’s the case, the director may want to revise whatever Purvis and Wade produce. But that remains to be seen.

The movie’s release date has been pushed back to February 2020. Is that a good move? Yes. Bond 25 originally was to begin filming Dec. 3. That meant that a new director would have a little more than two months to do his pre-production work. Now, the start of filming has been delayed until March 4. That gives Fukunaga five months of pre-production time.

Also, Bond 25’s original November 2019 U.S. release was getting crowded. Wonder Woman 1984, sequel to last year’s hit film, would have come out the week before Bond 25. Star Wars Episode IX is scheduled for Dec. 20. That would have limited Bond 25’s window for audiences.

Bond 25 will still face competition in February but according to the movie release schedule of The Numbers website, it includes an untitled DC Comics movie from Warner Bros. and an untitled Walt Disney film.  So the February 2020 situation is a little hazy and changes may be made before then.

Today’s announcement says Bond 25 will have a “worldwide” release date of Feb. 14, 2020. Is that right? No U.K. release 10-14 days before the U.S.? That’s what it says. We’ll see if that stands.

UPDATE (11:10 a.m. New York time). The Guardian interviewed the director a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read the interview

UPDATE II (2:10 p.m. New York time). IndieWire has a quote from an interview with Fukunaga: “I’ve wanted to do one of these [Bond films] for a long time, so that’s not new. So right now it’s just kind of dealing with the shock that it’s real and the honor obviously and now the responsibility.”