The Last Picture Show

Bond film delay and the cinema industry

2020 has been a turbulent year for everyone, and the entertainment industry has been severely hampered by COVID-19 restrictions. This year has seen cinemas operated by British chain Cineworld closed indefinitely in the UK and US after a couple of false starts over the summer, and the new Bond Film ‘No Time to Die’ has been delayed from its original release for April 2020 multiple times, with the release now not scheduled until April 2021.

The cinema industry relies on blockbuster releases to keep it buoyant – these films are commonly referred to in the industry as ‘tent poles’ – they support the whole fabric of the cinema industry. So, the loss of a film from a key franchise such as Bond was a huge blow to cinemas.

It’s easy to point the finger of blame at the film studios – perhaps if ‘No Time to Die’ had been released in the autumn, then cinemas would not have been shuttered? However, it is worth pointing out that Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’, released at cinemas in September 2020, and the first real ‘tent pole’ release since the pandemic hit, was largely considered to be a box office flop, with reports suggesting that Warner Bros lost around $100 million from the film. It was released at a time when many of Cineworld’s cinemas were still open, but with capacity restrictions in place due to social distancing, nervousness from cinemagoers about health risks, takings were hugely down on expectations.

The Bond film is not the only major cinematic release to be delayed – Wonder Woman: 1984, Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Kenneth Branagh’s Death of the Nile have all been postponed.

In a further blow to the cinema industry, Warner Bros has now announced that it will release a whole year’s worth of new film releases online at the same time as the cinematic release – a decision no doubt accelerated by the poor takings from ‘Tenet’. This wipes out a key competitive advantage that cinemas once had of being THE destination to watch a movie for the first time. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it is going to be tough to get it back in again.

In more positive news, Cineworld has managed to secure a $750m of funding to help keep the business afloat until cinemas reopen in 2021, as well as negotiating rent deals with many of its landlords. Cineworld shares increased in value by 20% when the news was announced, with the belief that this lifeline will allow it to capitalise on all those delayed film releases when they finally do come to cinemas. The most recent development is that Cineworld bosses have now announced that they will open UK and US cinemas by March 2021, with the start of the rollout of the COVD-19 vaccinations giving cinema-goers greater confidence to return to watch films on the big screen.

‘No Time to Die’ will no doubt be a huge part of cinema bosses’ plans – just as it was heralded as a key cause of the struggles of the cinema industry, it may well end up being one of its saviours. There is something unashamedly nostalgic about Bond films – larger than life, full of adrenaline, sentimental in places, aspirational and a little bit silly if we’re honest, but that might be exactly what we all need as a bit of light relief! Let’s hope that cinemas are able to reassure the public that they can offer a COVID-secure environment in which to watch the film, while still making it a relaxing and enjoyable experience. And let’s hope that cinema goers realise that this could well be a case of ‘use it or lose it’.

According to a Cineworld spokesperson: “Big movies are made for the big screen and we cannot wait to reopen our cinemas in Q1 in order to offer our customers, as always, the best place to watch a movie.”

Regarding the Warner Bros move to release films simultaneously on digital and at the cinema for the time being, they added: “We believe that at such a time WB will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides.”

So, the question is not who is to blame for the delay to the release of ‘No time to Die’ and the closure of many cinemas, but how can the industry as a whole work together to create a safe and enjoyable way of welcoming paying customers back to watch the blockbuster films that the industry relies on so much, so that cinemas do not become a thing of the past.

In the meantime, if you are craving your Bond fix, then the official website for the Bond franchise has news, interviews, podcasts, and Bond-themed gifts, including that must-have item, a bottle of ‘No Time to Die’ Bollinger champagne. Aspirational and a little bit silly? Maybe. But that embodies much of what is great about Bond – bring on April 2021, and fingers crossed for no further delays!

Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Sally Wood

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