When movie releases are delayed, it comes at a price

From “Dune” to “Black Widow” to “No Time to Die,” the latest in the James Bond franchise, major Hollywood movie releases have been pushed back as the pandemic has driven audiences away from theaters. But according to a story from Vulture film reporter Chris Lee, those delays don’t come cheap – and some movies may not be able to recoup the loss.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Lee about the costs of filming delays. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: I want to ask you a question on this line in your story: “No one really knows how to measure the exact dollar amount that has been lost other than to say it’s a gargantuan sum of several billion dollars.” ” It’s something.

Chris Lee: Yes, there is a huge amount of money that has been lost in the pandemic, and all of these various delays in these movies. You never saw a giant blockbuster get pulled from the release date, basically at the 11th hour. It would be almost the equivalent of a battleship turning 180 in the middle of the ocean. But oceans of silver have been burned trying to promote films that don’t come out for months or years; careers were suspended. No one can really put the dollar amount on what has been lost so far.

Ryssdal: Yes to all that, but a Bond movie is a Bond movie is a Bond movie. And James Bond is always going to get people to go to the movies, right?

Lee: Yes and no. So “No Time to Die” is the 25th James Bond film. He raised $ 709.2 million worldwide. This is the fourth largest film to open [in the Bond franchise]. It is the third highest grossing Bond film in history. And yet, it doesn’t look like it’s going to achieve profitability.

Ryssdal: It’s crazy. … What is happening here?

Lee: Well, the Bond film is unlike almost any other film on the release schedule this year, as it has so many promotional partners. When it was first postponed in March of last year, by then they had already spent $ 5.6 million on a trailer that aired during the Super Bowl. Then when they were going to release it around Thanksgiving last year, they put an additional $ 65 million into the pipeline to promote it. So they held the film three times in total. And according to some accountants, they were burning a million dollars a month in fundraising costs. The company releasing the film, MGM, borrowed money to fund “No Time to Die”, which it could not recover until the film hit multiplexes. And due to this delay, S&P Global ultimately downgraded MGM’s credit rating from B + to B for high and sustained leverage due to continued delays in theaters.

Ryssdal: OK, so if it’s tough for Bond during the pandemic and the delays and all that, if you’re just kind of a mid-range movie, you’re just sunk, right?

Lee: I mean, getting market share when it feels like a month, people are happy to go back to the multiplex, and another month they’re totally scared, it’s definitely harder for these little movies. The most successful movies of the year, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”, “Black Widow” – they all happened. But now that they’re coming back to the multiplex, it’s kind of to the exclusion of some of those smaller, mid-level movies that you mention.

Ryssdal: Play it forward for a second. Will it be just a wild Wild West for a number of years, until things work out a bit?

Lee: Well I think what you are seeing is that movies can still make a ton of money. But I think studios might not be able to make their way to a blockbuster. They may be able to fight their way to profitability – or close to profitability – but things will turn sour for the next one who knows how long.

Eleanor C. William