Is James bond "No Time to Die" the end of big budget blockbusters?
So let's start from the beginning of this story to have a small context. The latest movie of James Bond "No Time To Die" cost around 250 million to produce and has spent another 150 million on marketing. So essentially this movie cost 400 million dollars. Now, because of fancy Hollywood accounting, the money they used was loaned to the studio from a bank. Which means that once they released the movie, they'd pay back the loan plus the interest and keep the rest of the profits minus other expenses such as distribution e.t.c.
Here's the problem...they didn't release the movie! Because of covid-19 they rescheduled the release date when cinemas would open. The thing is, they're not opening ,and when they do who will really be able to afford to go the movies after this economic landslide that the world has suffered? There is though a bigger problem..the interest on that loan is getting bigger every day and unless the studio does something quickly it could easily bankrupt them. The studio was in talks with several streaming platforms but none of them offered the amount that was needed to sell the latest iteration of the James Bond franchise...which was 600 million dollars!
Was the studio greedy? or were the streaming platforms lowballing them? The answer really is none. Considering all expenses and to be able to make some profit the studio would really need to sell the movie for 600 million dollars...and that's based on what it has made in it's previous releases of James Bond movies...so that makes sense. On the other hand no streaming platform at this stage seems that it will make it's money back if they paid that much for one movie! Especially if you consider that Netflix original movies range somewhere from 50 million to 150 million to produce...and they don't need to spend much on promotion or split earnings with distribution.
While writing this blog, further news also came out...Warner Bros announced that it's entire 2021 movie slate would debut in HBO Max and movie theatres simultaneously. So it's fair to understand that it has caused quite a stir in the industry and could be the event that pushes movie watching experience to a new medium for good as well as being the final nail to the coffin of movie theatres. Movie theatres are understandably not happy, as well as my favorite director Christopher Nolan who voiced his displeasure about the move! But this is the reality, and now studios have to move to a new business model that secures them from such future catastrophic events...I mean...they have to right?
So what does that all mean? well it is obvious by now that the entire movie industry is going through a what seems to be an existential shift, where it's entire business model will irreversibly move to the new technology and opportunities streaming has to offer. Although streaming is still not at the level where it can afford to pay for movies like James Bond, much less other huge budget blockbusters. My belief is that it will get there some time in the future, and they will become the new "studios"..by perhaps producing their own movies and franchises, or even collaborating directly with studios as sister companies, where the one essentially uses it's experience in making the movies, and the latter provides the budget and the platform to release the movies. Yes I understand that most of them do produce their own content, but I'm talking about slowly populating their entire catalog with their own productions. The only one that seems to have acted quickly was Disney+, but they already had nearly 90 years of catalog and have bought out massive franchises like Marvel and Star Wars, so it was the logical move for them.
If you remember what I wrote in my previous blog this is exactly the kind of existential shift the music industry went through a couple of years ago and about now it kind of smoothed out since the early days of iTunes!...gimme a second while I brag.."ha ha told you so!" ...exactly! I had mentioned how these businesses refuse to adapt until their back is on the wall! And rather than predict and prepare for what's coming they end up doing panic moves once it's already too late!
All these events could mean that big budget blockbusters might become rare, rather than the norm as it was in the past couple of years. So where does that leave us. My prediction is that we will probably enter an age where movies don't exceed 100 million dollars as far as budget is concerned, with most of them ranging from 30 to 60 million. So it might be some time before we see heavy VFX based movies, or spectacular explosions.
So where does that leave us? I believe in a better place to be honest. As far as artistic value is concerned. It seems to me that movies will now focus heavier on the script, focus more on compelling stories, less muscular but more expressive actors, and cinematography that doesn't depend on CGI but rather enhances the narrative. Let me remind you that "Joker" cost only 62 million dollars and It not only won critical acclaim and many awards but also managed to be the first R-rated movie in history to earn over $1 billion at the global box office making it one of the most profitable superhero movies of all time. Or what about Jordan Peele's "Get Out"? A movie that cost only 4,5 million to make and raked in over 250 million in the box office...plus 4 academy award nominations which it won best original screenplay. So the idea that critically acclaimed movies don't do well in the box office, and huge budget, CGI infested movies are the only ones that bring in the cash is obviously not true! If anything there are obvious cases that a good low budget movie can win the critics and at the box office. Studios execs would be fools not to jump at this opportunity the pandemic has done! It's a good chance to start producing financially viable movies that have nothing to be jealous of from huge blockbuster movies.
Perhaps Martin Scorsese was right to be critical about super hero movies!
“Cinema was about revelation – aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters – the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.”