The news that the James Bond film NO TIME DIE could’ve possibly vacated a theatrical release for a streaming launch, made a bit of noise heading into the weekend but it was virtually debunked by the start of the new week as not being a possibility. While the possibility of a streaming debut was eventually turned down as not an option, one streaming service definitely threw out an impressive number for 007 and these talks were more than just rumors.
According to “The Hollywood Reporter“, MGM did explore a licensing deal for the latest 007 movie NO TIME TO DIE, just before the film was delayed from its November 12, 2020, global release date to April 2, 2021. While “Deadline” reported this week that Netflix, Amazon, and Apple were a part of this discussion, only the latter threw out a figure. Apple reportedly offered up $350-400 million but even this figure was a non-starter for MGM. This figure seems like a pretty reasonable number for a 12-month licensing fee but MGM was reportedly looking for a number that was between $650-700 million with $800 million also possibly being thrown out as an appropriate number. The high figure ended talks between the streamer and MGM but now one has to wonder why MGM turned down the offer in hopes of something so much more lucrative?
One of the factors is the worldwide appeal of the James Bond brand. There are hopes that NO TIME TO DIE turns into a billion-dollar global hit, much 2012’s SKYFALL, which is the only film of the franchise to reach the benchmark. In the years since the release of SKYFALL, the global box office has become even more prevalent and essential to money-making prospects for studios which is why MGM has delayed NO TIME TO DIE in the wake of the global pandemic. MGM is hoping that the further they push the film, the more time there will be for things to get back to normal and they’ll be able to maintain their billion-dollar global aspirations.
There are also a lot of numbers to crunch for MGM to make a licensing agreement like this worth it for the studio. The film cost around $250 million to produce, including the tax incentives from some of the shooting locations. United Artists, co-run by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna MGM, Universal Pictures are also owned licensing fees, with the latter entity set to distribute the movie internationally. Then there are generous box office bonus deals for stars Daniel Craig, Rami Malek as well as director Cary Fukunaga and others. This is common practice with franchise releases such as this with some performers taking a bit of a pay cut upfront to get a piece of the box office profits. Craig likely didn’t take a pay cut because he is an established star of the franchise but someone like Malek likely took a deal that offered him a nice amount of what the film could make worldwide. Lastly, not included in the production costs, is the $50 million marketing spend and this is money that has been spent on a film that has been delayed twice so far.
What proved to be more interesting is why other streaming services balked at MGM’s pretty high number to obtain NO TIME TO DIE. For Netflix, the fee was a nonstarter and one top executive even said that “Bond is a one-shot kill, but is it worth it? You’d be setting up a need for a Bond-like movie once a month and for $500 [million] or more, it’s not worth it. You’re better off focusing on your own originals.” As you may have noticed, that is where Netflix is putting a lot of its focus and it has paid off for them greatly with such films as 6 UNDERGROUND and EXTRACTION.
If you dive deeper, the financial expedition bets a bit dicey because of MGM’s current financial situation. “The Hollywood Reporter” also reports that MGM is accruing around $1 million in interest a month on the money it borrowed to make NO TIME TO DIE, which it won’t be able to recoup until the movie opens in theaters. Hal Vogel, CEO of Vogel Capital Research, says that “MGM is suffering. Every major distributor at this point has a pile of unreleased expensive movies. The pile grows larger by the day. These films are inventory. They are sitting there with no return on their investment. Even with low-interest rates, the interest costs are piling up. So going the streaming route is not that crazy. You’ve spent the money. And you’re not getting it back anytime soon.”
Ultimately the deal wasn’t made and it’s honestly because of a combination of factors. MGM wanted too much money and, because they only own part of Bond, it made the deal even more difficult to obtain. EON Productions, co-run by Barbara Broccoli, daughter of original Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, owns the other half and reportedly when she learned of the talks she was against the streaming option, believing in the traditional theatrical experience for the property, even if that means more potential delays in the future.
So, what do YOU all think of this? Was MGM too greedy? Is it worth it to maintain a theatrical release for NO TIME TO DIE or is streaming the way to go, no only for this film, but for other major tentpole releases that are in a bit of limbo due to the uncertain box office climate?