Forget about a licence to kill. It would appear that James Bond may have been in search of a licence to stream. That’s according to Variety who reported that MGM was reportedly shopping No Time to Die around to prospective streaming platforms for a digital release and eschewing theatrical distribution in the process. MGM was not willing to confirm the report, with the studio saying it doesn’t comment on rumours, but the 25th James Bond film being dropped on a streaming service makes a lot of sense.
No Time to Die is set to be star Daniel Craig’s final run as James Bond after he played British secret agent 007 for 13 years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with the release date of his last hurrah. The Cary Fukunaga directed spy thriller was supposed to hit cinemas earlier this year, but it was the first major blockbuster to get pushed back as MGM penciled it into a new November slot. As the few films from other studios hit cinemas and barely made much money, it forced MGM to rethink its plans with No Time to Die being pushed back again, this time all the way back to April 2021. But even that may not be far enough.
The constant delays has reportedly already cost MGM between $30 million and $50 million and with a production cost of $250 million, the studio may just be looking to cut its losses. With a second wave of the pandemic currently hitting James Bond’s Britain something fierce, shutting down an already struggling theatrical market once again, moving to a streaming platform seems like a sound move. But while other major Hollywood studios have sold several titles to the likes of Netflix, Apple+, and Amazon Prime Video recently, none of these boasted the tentpole status of No Time to Die. And that’s a huge problem.
According to Variety’s sources, the studio is reportedly offering the film up for sale to a premium streaming platform for a whopping $600 million. All the big guns have been approached but Netflix and Apple+ have seemingly passed on the film, citing the price tag as being too rich even for them. On top of just the raw cost, MGM has a co-distribution deal with Universal Pictures, which is responsible for releasing the film outside of the US and UK. Universal would need to be compensated in full for all its efforts thus far. Then there are all the lucrative merchandising deals that go with the James Bond franchise. Hundreds of millions of dollars change hands with the release of each new film just to get Bond to drink a specific beer, wear a specific watch, or drive a specific car onscreen. The likes of Heineken, TAG Heuer, Aston Martin and more would need to have their deals honoured and they would need to sign off on any streaming plans. That may be way too much red tape to make this viable.
So where to now? Even Fukunaga is convinced that the film is going to get delayed again, telling The Wall Street Journal that MGM “made a very smart decision” to be the first major studio to delay their movie earlier this year and that there are bigger stakes than just a movie right now.
I think there’s always the potential of that. I look at it unemotionally right now… There are so many bigger things happening. I have friends who are losing businesses, restaurants, and other friends who have lost family members.
The film will come out when it’s right and it will perform in the context of this new world, in which no one really can define what success or failure means.
No Time to Die is currently scheduled for release on 2 April 2021. Let’s see if it stays there.
Last Updated: October 26, 2020