James Bond’s Box Office History Shows Why a ‘No Time to Die’ Release Move Was Necessary

Modern Bond films make less from America than other blockbusters, so 007 couldn’t afford to arrive in a world hit by the coronavirus

Last Updated: March 5, 2020 @ 6:50 PM

James Bond has faced plenty of villains, but his greatest foe yet might be the coronavirus, as the ongoing fight against the disease has caused the latest 007 film to be pushed from an early April release to November. A look at the spy’s box office history shows why this sudden move was made.

While some franchises — like the Marvel Cinematic Universe — generally take 35% to 40% of their total global grosses from North America, there are others for which that domestic share falls below 25%. The Bond films are such an example. When “Skyfall” hit theaters in 2012, it became the first Bond film to cross $1 billion worldwide with just over $1.1 billion. Of that total, $804 million, or 72.5%, came from overseas markets. Three years later, “Spectre” took 77% of its $880 million global total, or $680 million, from outside the U.S.

And while Bond has never been a big draw in China, the increasingly lucrative box office market that became the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, the combined box office footprint of the countries most affected by the disease is substantial. For “Skyfall,” the combined grosses in China, Korea, Japan and Italy came out to just under $125 million. For “Spectre” it was approximately $133 million. China’s entire movie theater industry has been shut down to combat the coronavirus, while the other three countries have had several chains close their theaters and moviegoer turnout has been reduced to nearly zero.

Beyond those four countries, concern over the virus has created unease in countries like France and Bond’s home country of the U.K. where the virus is not as widespread but starting to take root. In England, 115 cases have been officially reported along with two deaths. If the situation continues to worsen, it would have left “No Time to Die” risking a franchise-low opening weekend in its most important market.

The one silver lining for MGM, the domestic distributor for “No Time to Die,” is that this push may boost the film’s North American grosses in the long run. While the studio will have to eat tens of millions in marketing costs already spent for the film’s April release, including a $4.5 million Super Bowl ad spend, “No Time to Die” will have the advantage of a Thanksgiving weekend release that would make it the biggest film coming out for the holiday period. Its competitors are now the Disney animated film “Raya and the Last Dragon” — which is aimed for a different target audience — along with the Williams Sisters biopic “King Richard” and the LGBTQ+ rom-com “Happiest Season.”

If critics and audiences agree that “No Time to Die” gives Daniel Craig a fitting send-off after five films as James Bond, it may become a big — if not initially expected — holiday season moneymaker.

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