The latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die, was supposed to have been released in April.
A month from now. In theaters. Worldwide.
Yet, this week, MGM announced that due to the coronavirus, the film would be delayed and moved to Thanksgiving 2020.
Except, that’s not the story, nor is it the real reason for the move.
Man, this virus thing is really providing a lot of people a lot of opportunities to avoid embarrassment, failure, financial ruin and general egg-in-the-face. For example? Bob Iger’s early (and sudden) exit from Disney finally made sense in the face of a virus that would cripple their Park business; but was more of an excuse since what he knew was that there was an already expected decline in the movie business now that Marvel and Star Wars had reached their end. CFOs around town were happy to declare expected losses in revenue this fiscal year because of “the virus” despite the fact that it was probably going to happen anyway due to the trends of the changing business. Even movie theaters, seeing a significant year over year decline, were able to feel more positive in announcing said losses because…well..of course — the virus!
So, then what the hell was up with No Time To Die?
If you’ve tracked the film over the last few years, the movie has not had an easy time of it. There was the horrible script that required endless rewrites. There were the injuries that Daniel Craig faced, and the time it took to get his psyche and his ankle back up to speed. There were behind-the-scenes drama with Broccoli and Daniel Craig, MGM, and the oft-discussed male-centric character of Bond that required bringing in a new 007 who was a woman, and who was a minority.
And then came the tracking.
Word on the street is that as the April date was approaching rapidly, on the heels of a lackluster single by Billie Eilish that was supposed to energize a younger audience, but made them yawn instead… that the tracking of the film, the awareness of the brand, and the general interest level of the last Daniel Craig-starring Bond vehicle…was kind of meh.
But what the heck is a studio supposed to do when they’ve planted their huge blockbuster movie on Easter weekend years prior and the awareness and interest levels of their movie isn’t where it needs to be? You can’t move the movie. That would signal failure. That would push expected global revenue into a different financial quarter. There would be no way to explain away such lack of performance, and it would not only sully the brand but it would put executives at the studio in a bad place.
Then New Line Cinema’s own Michael DeLuca was named President of Production at MGM studios.
The last thing DeLuca wanted was to come in and be in charge and post a horrible Bond number on the board. But with a freight train going a million miles an hour and all the marketing plans set in place for an April release, how do you come in and suggest a change?
You don’t. You let coronavirus do it for you.
So despite all the news that the film was moved because of the virus…because of the potential of movie theaters globally not being as frequented by consumers as they would expect… Because of a potential loss in revenue because people were staying at home nursing their colds versus going to see Bond… The reality was, that MGM felt like the perfect excuse of the virus gave them another seven months to build awareness around a brand that has been declining year over year.
The virus, in no uncertain terms, has the potential to save James Bond.
These kind of opportunities only come around once in a blue moon. So when you have the opportunity to defer failure, increase the potential success metric, and potentially save a brand that is the crown jewel in your studio’s catalog?
Yes. You ask Bond to back down.