After the theatrical release of No Time To Die got pushed for the fourth time, will the makers of the James Bond film give up on waiting for the pandemic to go away and instead premiere on a streaming service? Despite reports that originated with a Bloomberg scoop yesterday, sources say an emphatic no. Bloomberg wrote about a rumor that has been making the rounds the last week and a half, that MGM offered the film to streamers Netflix, Apple and Amazon for a proposed one year license of $600 million. Dialogue between MGM and streamers did happen the same week MGM moved the Bond film out of its Thanksgiving slot. The studio also considered doing a PVOD deal, like the one Disney did with Mulan, charging viewers directly. But Deadline hears none of the streamers was willing to put up more than half the amount asked for the one year license. More importantly, Deadline hears that James Bond franchise gatekeeper Eon and principal producer Barbara Broccoli flatly nixed the deal and might have been surprised real negotiations were taking place. It sounds like MGM was over its skis, tired of waiting on a revenue event that the studio expected to happen a long time ago.
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We’ve heard right along that studios with numerous finished films shelved by the pandemic have had cursory talks with streamers, but cursory conversations don’t usually lead to articles. What streamer wouldn’t kill to premiere a movie like Top Gun: Maverick or the sequel to A Quiet Place, and what studio that has seen theatrical revenues completely dry up wouldn’t want to add cash to its bottom line? But most studios have decided it would be shortsighted to empty its slates of its best titles, and been resolute in hanging onto most of its slam dunk hits. A few deals have happened, where cash-hungry studios sold finished films for a substantial markup. That includes the WWII Tom Hanks film Greyhound, which Sony sold to Apple TV + and most recently with Paramount selling the Eddie Murphy Coming To America sequel to Amazon. But many feel MGM and the Bond franchise would likely be better served hanging in. While MGM is working on a Creed sequel that Michael B Jordan will direct, and a new creative team is aggressively building a promising slate, Bond remains MGM’s crown jewel.
If it’s any good, No Time To Die has the opportunity to generate a billion dollar global gross in a healthy theatrical market. It is the 25th Bond film, and likely the last one to star Daniel Craig. A healthy gross would certainly boost MGM’s standing, as rumors race that the the studio might sell. It would also boost the 007 franchise by driving library sales. All of that would be compromised by debuting the film as a home entertainment offering so early in its revenue run. While there is the frustrations all studios feel in carrying interest costs indefinitely because of the pandemic, interest rates are low right now. Sources say that the notion of making a streamer deal also would have been complicated by obligations to the international and ancillary rights held by Universal, and the advertising partners whose goodwill likely was strained by MGM waiting so long before pulling the film from its Thanksgiving date even when it was clear that was the right thing to do. Starting and stopping the promotion on a Bond film is arduous, and the picture had a spot on the last Super Bowl. It is unclear how P&A will work because many don’t believe 007 will stick to its current April 2021 date.
The Bond demo is an older one, and barring a miracle vaccine that puts the pandemic firmly in the rear view mirror by then, No Time To Die might be a title taken to heart by a high risk demo that won’t flock to movie theaters to see what would be the film blockbuster in theaters. It is also conceivable that if a vaccine doesn’t materialize by the middle of next year, that the wisdom of a big bucks streaming bow for Bond might look much better.
An MGM spokesperson acknowledge the rumors but said the film will be released theatrically in order to preserve the theatrical experience for moviegoers.