No Time To Stream???

I’ve written in the past about the unlikely prospect of No Time To Die receiving a PVOD (Premium On-Demand) release. Usually the idea of a new Bond film going PVOD gets shot down by any number of fans or industry “insiders” who might kindly remind me that the film costs over $300 million dollars and that there’s absolutely no way the studios could earn the amount of money they seek to make if they choose to defy the traditional theatrical release strategy.  In normal times I would defer to this consensus of opinion, but we are not living in normal times, now are we? Now that the global COVID-19 pandemic has yet again forced No Time To Die to delay this time to April 2021, it may be worth revisiting what circumstances MIGHT lead to the highly unlikely event of the film somehow receiving a PVOD release albeit not anytime soon.

“Come On, Bond”

During our last JBR podcast, we talked at length about what the future might hold for the Bond franchise.  One of the things I brought up in the conversation was MGM’s intention to be acquired. This story even made the rounds earlier this year prior to the onset of the pandemic in January when No Time To Die had been in post-production. MGM owns what used to be Harry Saltzman’s stake in the Bond franchise. As most Bond fans know, Eon through its parent company Danjaq, LLC controls the other half.  Prior to No Time To Die, MGM was in a weakened position as the studio could not distribute its own films. Sony distributed Skyfall and Spectre. Last year MGM partnered with Annapurna to form United Artists Releasing, which will distribute No Time To Die domestically while Universal will distribute the film internationally.

The recent new delay for No Time To Die has left many Bond fans frustrated, disappointed, and deflated. While I was not planning to attend the cinema in November for personal reasons, I allowed myself to get swept up in the excitement of the potential release with the onslaught of all the marketing that had been ramping up for the film.  I was excited for my fellow Bond fans who were going to venture out to cinemas to see it (with every precaution possible for public health concerns of course) and even more excited that I could potentially see the film once the home video / digital release would follow suit after the usual 3 month theatrical window.  By February 2021 I would’ve seen No Time To Die, and while all may not have been necessarily be right with the world by then, at least within my little corner of Bond fandom things would be a little better –  maybe even a lot better if the film is as good as I hope it will be.

It’s that nearly 3 month theatrical window that has been the subject of much debate within the film industry with the resolution being that there could be some kind of revenue sharing between theater owners and studios for those who choose to break the theatrical window. It would appear, however, that a recently negotiated deal to reduce the theatrical window to 17 days would not apply to tentpole films such as Tenet or No Time To Die.  The studios and the theater owners (usually represented by an organization called NATO – National Association of Theater Owners) previously agreed to a 3 month period for theaters to exhibit films exclusively before the films can receive a digital release via the PVOD platform.

Here’s where things could get interesting… What if a company with deep pockets like Apple (there are others but let’s stick with Apple for this hypothetical scenario) were to come along an acquire MGM? They would then own half the Bond franchise.  Apple could theoretically make a play to buyout Eon’s shares of Bond, but given the nature of the family connection Bond has on Eon’s end represented by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, perhaps we can safely assume that they’ll want to hold onto Bond unless the buyout concedes their retention of some kind of creative control for a period.

Okay, so let’s assume for the sake of argument that Eon and Apple get on great as new partners. Then as the April 2021 release date for No Time To Die approaches, not enough theaters are open in markets to justify a theatrical release due to the pandemic and gathering restrictions put into place by regional and local governments. A further delay to late 2021 or 2022 could be considered, but perhaps a scenario could very well unfold whereby both Eon and Apple decide to surrender the prospect of a theatrical release and offer No Time To Die as premium content within Apple’s platform. What of the $300 million plus it costs for this film to be produced in addition to all the marketing costs? Maybe that’s something can be absorbed into the cost of the acquisition of MGM.  If Apple were to even set a higher price point for No Time To Die than your standard PVOD release, I would imagine a number of Bond fans and mainstream moviegoers would bite at the chance to premiere the new Bond film in their own home. Maybe $50 for a 48 hour rental the first weekend with the price declining in following weeks could set a new standard for rolling out tentpole films. Of course if Apple were to takeover MGM’s position, they can offer all sorts of different packages to entice moviegoers with the Bond catalog and further content. This is not to mention what a company like Apple might begin to plan in delivering new and additional Bond content at a rate that would be a lot steadier than what Bond fans are used to right now.  I grant that a lot would have to fall into place for this to happen, but when I ask myself if that would be such a bad thing, I can’t help feeling that it wouldn’t be.  This is strictly from the perspective a fan of course.  I don’t claim to be an “insider” or a “Bond expert” by any means so take this for whatever it’s worth, but I bet a number of fans might feel the same way as I do so maybe that should matter at least within Bond fan circles.

Maybe there’s an upside to releasing a new Bond film via PVOD after all. When I was younger, I came to watch most of the films released prior to Goldeneye for the very first time on VHS and TV. I’d have to say that my exposure to Bond has mostly been on the small screen ever since.  Of course watching a new Bond film for the first time in the cinemas on a large screen has become my preferred experience.  I had already bought tickets to 2 IMAX screenings for the April release of the film when that delay was announced.  Eventually DVDs then Blu-Rays replaced VHS tapes, and my TVs grew larger and wider with the advent of HDTV. My set up isn’t really anything to brag about, but I can still sit down comfortably in my own home and enjoy a movie when I want to.  The video and audio quality isn’t anywhere near as grand as you would get siting at an IMAX screening, but I can still enjoy the experience of watching a movie in my own home as many people can attest to for themselves. The point is if my first time watching No Time To Die is on my TV at home (and it most likely will be), I’m okay with that. My first time watching my favorite Bond film, From Russia with Love, was also at home on a small screen. The more times I’ve watched it on bigger screens with better sound, the more I’ve come to love it.

From Russia With Love at my backyard cinema

Over the summer as gathering restrictions shuttered movie theaters my family invested in a digital projector, which we’ve then used to project the movies onto the back of our house.  For my birthday, I got to choose a movie for the family to sit and watch outside in our backyard.  Naturally, I chose From Russia With Love. A good time was had by all with some of my family members watching that film for the very first time.  I’d like to think that that experience for those family members seeing my favorite Bond film for the first time at our makeshift backyard cinema brought just as much joy to them as it would if they had attended a real movie theater. When I finally sit down to finally watch No Time To Die (most likely at home unless circumstances surrounding the pandemic seriously improve), I don’t think the thrill I experience watching a new Bond film will be lost in any way.  If the film as great as I hope it is, I’ll be diving deep into it with repeated viewings and analysis. As Bond himself tells M in the new trailer, “You can imagine why I’ve come back to play.”

 

By Jack Lugo

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