We’ve been expecting you Mister Bond… (since April of this year). With the word on the street that the Bond 25 cinema release may be postponed again, (although as of 11 July midday GMT not confirmed), like many Bond fans I am feeling frustrated. However, as someone who works in the Health Services environment, I have to reiterate that cinema releases obviously pale into insignificance as we are still in the grips of the greatest existential threat humanity has faced since the Second World War. As of 10 July 2020. over 12 million people are known to have been infected with COVID-19, and half a million have died. These numbers are of course the least bad case. Entertainment at a time like this feels a million miles removed from what is important – the survival of humankind. But the entertainment industry, like every industry, has been massively impacted by the pandemic.
In early March, it was announced that No Time to Die release would be postponed until November 2020. I wrote about the exceptional nature of COVID-19 as a Public Health problem[i]. I mused on how the epidemic might have gone by the summer, or escalated around the world. I was not even trying to guess what could happen by November. My argument was that the title, No Time to Die, might seem insensitive in the current climate, and that if the plotline were to revolve around a bio-terrorism plan, a-la OHMSS or Moonraker, might be a public relations nightmare[ii].
But alas in this neoliberal world, PR is not as important it seems, as ROI. For some, this is a primary concern about the release of Bond 25. This is a fair point, as no-one does film making for the good of their health. It is after all an industry, and EON have stumped up approximately $250 million to make the 25th official Bond film. For them to make a reasonable return on investment, they will need a cinema release, and that will necessitate the pandemic to have either gone, or being under control. Neither look likely by November. I will leave you to add which year this November might fall under.
On Social Media I have on more than one occasion argued that it should be released to pay-per-view, or whatever the hell. (I am such a Luddite at times). This suggestion is one that is easily dismissed by the ROI camp. It simply cannot recoup its losses, so the argument is to delay the release to ensure monies can be recouped. Fair enough I suppose if you are an accountant or just a realist about how the world unfortunately operates. But as I said, things are not looking good from a Public Health point of view. How far back do you want to delay it? Some fear that it may actually become the 60th anniversary Bond. But really. A seven-year gap between Bond films? Apart from breaking the previous record of 6 years, that WOULD be a PR nightmare. Such a gap in the continuity of the Craig-era films might not work well for moving on to a new Bond actor any time soon after. A new Bond release works best when it has a feeling of reflecting the now. A film released in 2022 that was finished in 2019 might look dated in this world where things used to change every 5 minutes.
By that point in time, many more people will have unfortunately died from the pandemic. Some of them will have been Bond fans looking forward to the film release. So, my point is, for the sake of such people now, do we not deserve to be thinking of ways to release it in November or at least some time sooner than 2022? Rather than saying, fuck the money angle, I want to offer a proposal that is focused on recouping revenue.
Society is constantly evolving. Entertainment will be so much different post-COVID. Why do we need to be falling back on the cinema first model? Release the movie on terrestrial television and satellite simultaneously. And charge Superbowl prices for advertisements. The 2019 Superbowl charged $5.3 million for a 30 second slot[iii]. The 2020 Superbowl featured a Bond advert. So, go down that route. Obviously, the price of an advert slot will be much reduced out with the States, but it is at least a viable alternative for bringing in some immediate revenue. In years to come if things are safer in a world, we hope post-pandemic, it could then be released in theatres for those craving the “cinema experience”. For those who cry out that it would not be the same and that they are willing to hold out for cinema first, I ask them what medium it was that they fell in love with the Bond films on. (I bet it was not movies).
Ultimately Bond 25 is still expected to make a large return on investment. And so, it may be allowed to slide to a point where it will be safe to have hordes crammed into a cinema. No Time to Die may actually become analogous of the problem that dare not speak its name. What kind of world do we want if we are able to get out of the pandemic? Are we going to challenge the neoliberal tenets that exploit so many, and normally cares not about Public Health? Or do we want a world where profit is not king, and the word industry is divorced from entertainment?
Dr Donald Nicolson (@the_mopster)