There may be no time to open – in theaters, at least – for the latest James Bond adventure, No Time To Die. And so it should surprise no one that there’s a buzz, or more buzz than ever, about the film shaking and stirring things up as a streaming-only movie. It’d be the ultimate gift for 007 fans, and a secure way for the film’s backers to bank some money rather than waiting out the still-raging pandemic.
Will it happen? It’s possible. As Sean Connery’s agent with the license to kill so accurately stated in From Russia With Love, “There’s a saying in England. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” What’s got people’s hopes up is that two of the movie industry’s biggest trade publications, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, are reporting that a streamer might buy the film, which has been bumped a couple of times already and is now slated for release on April 2, 2021. In fact, a story in The Hollywood Reporter on October 27 asserted that Apple+ offered MGM in the vicinity of $350-$400 million for No Time To Die, but that the studio turned it down.
The business reasons are plentiful for it to have not worked out. MGM is only part of a complex equation. EON, the property owner, and longtime entity behind the Bond franchise, reportedly took a hard pass. The film cost upwards of $250 million to make, and the most recent Bond films earned between $750 million and $1 billion worldwide. Licensees and promotional partners must be considered, as must actor profit participation. And there’s simply a feeling amongst the powers that be that Bond belongs on the big screen. To that end, like all of its predecessors, No Time To Die was filmed in exotic locations around the world, shot on film (with some scenes lensed using IMAX cameras), and features top-notch talent (including Rami Malek at the mysterious villain).
Interestingly, though, there are comments made back in January by Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of legendary Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who runs EON with her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson. In an interview with Variety, she acknowledged that one day a Bond film might premiere on a streaming platform. “We make these films for the audiences…,” Broccoli said. “We like to think that they’re going to be seen primarily on the big screen. But having said that, we have to look to the future. Our fans are the ones who dictate how they want to consume their entertainment. I don’t think we can rule anything out, because it’s the audience that will make those decisions. Not us.”
But, maybe the future is now, or soonish. James Bond movies, historically, are big blockbusters, but they’re not quite as big as some other franchises. Globally, the biggest Bond movie ever was Skyfall (2012) with $1.111 billion in box office revenues worldwide. But, outside of the Daniel Craig films, there are no Bond box office numbers that high, pretty much ever. The second-highest grossing Bond movie ever is Spectre (2015) at $879.6 million worldwide. After that, it’s a pretty steep drop to Casino Royale at $594.4 million. To put it in perspective, Avengers: Endgame did 2.798 billion worldwide, while a less-than-huge Marvel movie, like Captain Marvel, still pulled 1.128 billion worldwide. Even Ant-Man and the Wasp beats a medium-grossing Daniel Craig Bond with $ 622.7 million worldwide.
So, can Bond continue to compete in the movie box-office environment in a post-COVID world? Maybe it’s time for Bond to go streaming entirely.
No Time To Die is set to open in theaters on April 2, 2021. For now.