LICENSED TO KILL (THE INDUSTRY)
It’s without question the most successful movie franchise ever, both in public popularity and box office takings, as well as being the longest-running in cinematic history. It has endured for almost 60 years and shows no sign of being shelved any time soon. I speak, of course, of James Bond, he of the 007 designation with a vodka martini in one hand and a gun in the other with which he is licensed by the British government, to kill any baddy foolish enough to get in his way. The actor may change, the role interpretation may vary a little but the character endures.
Over its 6-decade run, the movies have grossed over 700 billion dollars and made the copyright owners – the Broccoli family – very rich. They treat both the character and the concept with due reverence and keep absolute control within their personal remit. Actors have fallen over one another to secure the lead role, making themselves not just household names but very wealthy ones to boot. The prestige extends to the spy’s leading lady, known forever as a ‘Bond Girl’ and has also secured the careers of dozens of other cast members along the years. Millions, if not billions of people around the world, have watched every single movie since its inception but such is the allure of the character and his world-saving prowess, the films seem to draw in each new generation, spawning an army of new fans. And if you want to start a conversation at a dull party, simply pose the question as to who the guests consider the greatest Bond ever, then sit back and enjoy the verbal fireworks.
Despite its box office success and massive fan base, Bond movies traditionally have not fared well at the annual Oscars but there have been notable exceptions.
Dr. No won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female, a now defunct award category. Ursula Andress shared this award with Tippi Hedren for The Birds and Elke Sommer for The Prize, in spite of the fact that Andress’ s voice was dubbed over by a second actress throughout the entire film. Goldfinger won for Best Sound Effects and Thunderball won for Best Visual Effects. The franchise did not earn another Academy Award nomination until 2012’s Skyfall, which won two, for Best Sound Editing and Best Original Song. It was nominated in three other categories, including the only instance of a Bond film being nominated for cinematography, all thanks to Roger Deakins.
All in all, then, a huge and enduring success but who’d have thought that the current Covid pandemic could adversely affect an iconic franchise and by association, the world’s second-largest cinema group, Cineworld, but such is its industry importance. Following the announcement this week of the delay in the release of the latest Bond film, ironically entitled No Time To Die, the Group confirmed it will temporarily close all of its cinemas in the UK and US as it struggles with the lack of new films to draw in audiences, including the twice-delayed new James Bond instalment, owing to the shutdown in filming caused by the pandemic.
Forty-five thousand employees will be out of work because of the closures, including about 5,500 staff in the UK and 20,000 in the US, as well as contractors such as cleaners and security workers.
The cinema operator said its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse UK cinemas and its 536 Regal cinemas in the US would shut from Thursday. As a result, Cineworld’s share price plunged at the start of trading on Monday by 60%. The cinema industry has been caught between coronavirus pandemic safety measures in some of the world’s biggest markets, which have limited audience numbers, and the delay of key films that might tempt those audiences back.
The latest film in the Bond franchise, No Time to Die, had been rescheduled to November, but this week was delayed until 2 April 2021, a year later than initially planned. The industry was also rattled by Disney’s decision to release its live-action Mulan remake straight to its streaming service, bypassing cinemas. This comes on top of the already massive drop in audience figures as the industry tries to compete with other streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Mooky Greidinger, the Cineworld chief executive and a member of the family that owns more than a fifth of the company’s shares, said: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable re-openings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.
For the industry it could indeed be a time to die and it is to be hoped that there will be a revival in audience figures and box office returns when the world’s most popular franchise’s latest blockbuster finally comes to a cinema near you. And if you’re a film fan – of Bond or any other genre – don’t for goodness’ sake wait for it to come out on DVD, Make very sure you go out and put your proverbial on a seat, leaving the movie industry merely shaken but not stirred.