Like Skyfall back in 2012, No Time to Die will mark the end of a blockbuster drought and may have the non-comic book/geek field to itself for over a month.
The official James Bond Twitter page just dropped a quick 30-second spot for No Time to Die. There’s nothing terribly “new” in the commercial for the film. I’m impressed at how MGM and friends have kept story beats, the plot reveals and even much in the way of significant action beats mostly to themselves over the last 1.5 years. This film was supposed to open in November of 2019 but moved to April 2020 after Danny Boyle was swapped out for Cary Fukunaga only to become the first Covid-specific delay. This new commercial serves to both remind you that Daniel Craig’s fifth and presumably final 007 flick is still on the way and that, fear not, it’ll still debut in theaters on October 8.
Presuming it doesn’t get delayed again (heaven forbid), the big-budget actioner (distributed by MGM in North America and Universal overseas) will have one massive advantage over its comparative tentpole competition. First, it’ll be one of the first huge movies to open theatrically in 2021. As I’ve noted many times, the summer 2021 season is mainly stacked with horror franchises, “Who asked for this?” sequels like Snake Eyes, Space Jam: A New Legacy and (strong buzz notwithstanding) DC Films‘ The Suicide Squad and some “take one for the team” tentpoles like Black Widow and F9. This summer is, at best, the first act of a slow theatrical recovery. If the post-summer season is the second act, No Time To Die could be the significant “proof of concept” smash.
It will also be the first tentpole that isn’t a comic book superhero movie since F9, which opened in late May overseas and late June in North America. Since then, all of the big hits have been/will likely be comic book superhero flicks. Black Widow is performing low by MCU standards. However, it’s still likely to be the summer’s biggest domestic grosser and (barring a Jungle Cruise or Free Guy surprise) the only summer flick outside of F9 with a chance of besting $400 million worldwide. Unless you count Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, opening on Labor Day weekend, as a summer release. Looking at the “big” movies that might break out between now and October, it’s all DC films or Marvel movies.
The so-called “Fall season” will be kicked off by Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage on September 24, which is the same weekend where No Time to Die opens overseas in the UK. Thus, if you’re a moviegoer who is hungry for a blockbuster but doesn’t want to see a comic book flick (or a horror movie, natch), No Time to Die will end an over/under (depending on where you live) four-month fast. In terms of non-horror “tentpole” movies (sorry Candyman, Malignant and Halloween Kills), the 25th “official” James Bond flick (sorry Never Say Never Again) will be followed by the commercial coin toss that is Dune on October 22. After that, it’s Marvel’s Eternals (November 5), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (November 11) and finally Top Gun: Maverick on the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Perhaps Legendary and Warner Bros.’ Dune becomes the miracle all the film nerds (understandably) hope it is. But if not, then No Time to Die will have the “non-comic book tentpoles” market covered both on opening weekend (again, as the first such thing since mid-summer) and for a month after. Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick will provide demographic competition, but six weeks is more than enough time for James Bond to run the tables at the worldwide box office. Spectre earned $192.246 million domestic by its 41st day (just before The Force Awakens opened in late 2015) from a $70 million debut. That was 96% of its eventual $200 million domestic cume. The leggy Skyfall ($304 million/$88 million in 2012) earned 90% ($274 million) of its domestic cume by day 41.
Skyfall was leggy partially because it owned the blockbuster marketplace for the rest of 2012 and early 2013. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II grossed $829 million worldwide but played strictly to the fans, as did to a lesser extent the $1 billion-grossing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December. The big Thanksgiving toon (Penguins of Madagascar) barely topped $300 million while Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph opened before Skyfall. Likewise, not only did Skyfall monopolize the “blockbuster for adults or non-geeks” demographics, it was the first blockbuster worth a damn in 2012 since The Dark Knight Rises in mid-July. After months of big action movies like The Bourne Legacy, Total Recall, Expendables 2 and Taken 2, Skyfall looked even more like a gift from the tentpole gods.
Barring another delay, No Time to Die will open theatrically on October 8, marking the longest gap between James Bond movies since Timothy Dalton’s License to Kill (July 1989) and Pierce Brosnan’s GoldenEye (November 1995). The Covid-related delays made Donald Trump the first U.S. president whose term didn’t contain a single 007 film since Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a bit of “you take the petty wins where you can” trivia. It’s still possible that, even with the buzz and excitement around this new James Bond film that No Time to Die could earn, due to circumstances beyond its control, closer to Casino Royale ($600 million) or even Die Another Day ($437 million) than Skyfall ($1.108 billion). But come October 8, it will share some of the advantages that greeted Skyfall.
It’ll be the first non-comic book tentpole since F9 months earlier, and (unless Dune surprises) the last one until Top Gun: Maverick six weeks later. As such, it will benefit not just from anticipation stemming from being a long-delayed (and terrific-looking) James Bond movie. It’ll be breaking a seasonal blockbuster fast for moviegoers who want big movies that aren’t just comic book flicks or horror movies. Suppose it survives Dune and Top Gun: Maverick. In that case, it’ll have another month until the year-ending whammy of West Side Story (December 10), Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17) and both The Kings Man and The Matrix Resurrection on December 22. There’s a lot that can go wrong between now and October. But if all goes right, No Time to Die could end Daniel Craig’s tenure on an all-time high.