The coronavirus is serious, so wash your damn hands. It’s also tanking the film industry at the moment, especially in China, where no one wants to leave their house, let alone sit in close proximity to a bunch of people who may or may not have the disease. The government has shuttered its exhibition structure for safety reasons. That’s not to mention the theaters closing in Europe. For major international blockbusters that’s a huge hit to ticket sales, so it should come as little surprise that No Time to Die, the latest James Bond film and Daniel Craig’s last outing as the character, is delaying its release from April 10 to Nov. 25.
MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020. pic.twitter.com/a9h1RP5OKd
— James Bond (@007) March 4, 2020
The hope is obvious: By November, the virus will ideally have slowed down and the Chinese box office will be ripe for the picking for a powerhouse franchise. Obviously the studios are going to take a massive financial hit on this, but they’ve probably calculated the amount they were going to lose with China’s nonexistent box office and decided this was the best decision.
Deadline does report that this is an entirely economic decision and not one based upon fears of the coronavirus spreading in theaters that are still open. The article stresses that this “should not be perceived as a concern about the safety of theaters outside of areas where public health officials have restricted or recommended against attending public events,” but instead it is because at the moment China wouldn’t bring the money to make Bond a success.
The move also puts Bond back into the holiday movie season, a place he’s been in for almost every film since GoldenEye and one where the franchise has succeeded. While it’s always risky and costly to delay the release of a film, this shouldn’t harm No Time to Die in the long run, especially since there’s not much direct competition for the movie over Thanksgiving weekend. Other movies opening that weekend are Warner Bros.’s King Richard, Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, and Sony comedy The Happiest Season. None of those films hold the clout or draw that a Bond movie does. The move does leave Easter weekend open for another studio to swoop in, but it’s not clear if any would given the same box office troubles are hurting everyone. In itself, China could lose more than $2 billion from shutting 70,000 theaters this year, so why would any studio want to push something out?
This probably won’t be the end of major event films getting delayed. Now that Bond has pulled the trigger, we’ll probably see more movies push their dates to wait out the closure of the Chinese theater industry. Depending on how long it takes to get the virus under control, we could see a very crowded holiday season.