MGM to Take $30 Million-Plus Hit After Moving Bond Film 'No Time to Die'

James Bond No Time to Die Still 6 - Publicity - H 2020
Nicola Dove

The studio was facing a much costlier alternative given that worldwide theater closures could have resulted in a minimum of 30 percent shaved off the final box office tallies.

After weighing the pros and cons of keeping a scheduled April 10 bow for its main action tentpole amid the coronavirus outbreak, MGM opted for a cautious route by pushing the upcoming James Bond outing No Time to Die to November. But how much will the move, prompted by growing disruptions due to the epidemic, cost the studio that fully financed the film?

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that MGM will likely take a $30 million to $50 million hit by moving the film's release back by seven months when the dust settles. Although the bulk of the marketing campaign for the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed pic — the 25th installment in the storied 007 franchise — had yet to roll out, the marketing outlay already was significant with just four weeks to go before the release, including a $4.5 million Super Bowl spot that ran in February. MGM declined comment.

Still, the alternative MGM was facing was far more costly, and even an eight-figure loss will be easier for a film like No Time to Die to withstand considering the broader profit margins on a Bond film. The production budget for the latest installment is on par with the $245 million budget for the last Bond film, 2015's Spectre. Sources say the studio’s decision to move No Time to Die to Nov. 12 in the U.K. and Nov. 25 in North America — which was made on Tuesday, one day before announcing the delayed release — was largely based on the economic reality that large swaths of theaters across the world have been shuttered in recent weeks, stretching from Japan to Italy. That could have resulted in a minimum of 30 percent shaved off the final box office tallies — a possible $300 million out of a likely $1 billion global haul.

The producers had already been bracing for the prospect of a release date move in recent days. "They obviously are doing the right thing by putting the public safety, world safety, first," No Time to Die producer Barbara Broccoli told THR on Feb. 26. Added producer Michael Wilson, "How will coronavirus affect the whole world markets and affect trade in general? We’re just one of the people that have to work in that environment."

In China alone, some 70,000 theaters have been closed since January, with no plans to reopen anytime soon. Spectre made $84 million in the Middle Kingdom, representing roughly 10 percent of its $881 million worldwide cume. Smaller Asian markets likewise are being impacted due to the virus, and there’s concern that the outbreak in Italy could spread across Europe. The U.K., where the fictitious Bond originated and which appears vulnerable to theater closures, represents a huge slice of No Time to Die's expected revenues (Spectre earned $125 million there).

No Time to Die, which marks the final outing of Daniel Craig as 007, had been set to launch with a world premiere in London on March 31. Some promotional events or brand tie-ins cannot be rescheduled or stalled. Craig, who is set to host NBC's Saturday Night Live this weekend, was in the middle of rehearsals when news broke of the film’s move. It would have been impossible for SNL to pivot to a new host on such short notice, and Craig will carry on as planned.

Likewise, Omega last month launched a 007 edition watch, which already has begun to hit stores. Given that the watch is not necessarily a No Time to Die timepiece but rather a Bond-inspired product, stores will continue to sell it and not hold back the luxury item until the fall. Swatch also went ahead with its Thursday release of a limited-edition watch tied to No Time to Die. Adam Holdsworth, managing director of N.Peal, the brand behind a navy ribbed army sweater worn by Craig's Bond in the film and available for preorder this week, said he had not been notified of the pic's release being pushed back to November ahead of the Wednesday announcement. "We fully understand and appreciate the reasons for the delay given the potential disruption of the virus in the coming weeks — so we fully support the decision," he said. The sweater will also be relaunched in the fall, tied to the release.  

Meanwhile, MGM is scrambling to salvage ad buys it already had made for the coming four weeks and move them to the fall. So far, the studio’s partners have been accommodating. But other pricey purchases can’t be recouped, like the Super Bowl spot that ran in February. (The studio, however, doesn’t see that money as lost, given that it likely would have run the ad during television’s most-watched event of the year even if the film was originally dated for November.)

Still, a fall campaign will come with added expenses. Broadcast ads that run in the fourth quarter of the year are typically more expensive than the spring, given that the quarter coincides with the kickoff of the new TV season as well as football. The film will also be competing for ad space with other studios' awards-facing prestige titles and major holiday offerings, as Disney's Marvel film Eternals and Warner Bros.' tentpole Godzilla vs. Kong will also be released in November. 

But opening a tentpole amid a global epidemic, which is expected to turn into a pandemic, became untenable for MGM. So far, no other studios have followed its move, though that could change as the number of cases across the U.S. and the world increase by the hour. On Wednesday, California declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak as it marked its first death. There are currently 98,059 cases of coronavirus worldwide and 3,356 deaths caused by it.

Pamela McClintock and Lindsay Weinberg contributed to this report.