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Will streaming beat movie theaters? The new James Bond is a major test

If ‘No Time To Die’ flops at the box office, the movie theater industry may as well pack it up and turn it over to streaming.

Will streaming beat movie theaters? The new James Bond is a major test
Daniel Craig attends the World Premiere of No Time To Die at the Royal Albert Hall on September 28, 2021 in London, England. [Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Universal Pictures]

On Friday, one of the most anticipated movies of the year is finally arriving in theaters. After four COVID-19-related delays, the latest 007 installment, No Time To Die, is launching around the country.

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The film has even more built-in hype than most Bond films. After all, it’s Daniel Craig’s last turn in a Bond suit. Reviews are strong (it has an 87% Rotten Tomatoes audience score). And with a reported $250 million budget (plus another $100 million in marketing), it’s one of the most expensive movies of the year. It’s also receiving more attention as the crown jewel of MGM, which was recently acquired by Amazon for $8.5 billion. (The deal has not yet received regulatory approval.) 

In other words, if there’s any movie this year to get people back into theaters and prove that streaming is not necessarily the de facto future of enjoying movies, it’s Bond, which is only being released in theaters. That means it is eschewing the hybrid streaming-theatrical model that has become so in vogue during the pandemic with studios like Disney and Warner Bros. 

To be sure, there have been other theatrical-only movies released during the pandemic that have proven the movie business is not (quite) dead. But they have been almost exclusively superhero movies—or at least movies fashioned specifically to appeal to dudes, such as Marvel’s Shang-Chi and F9, respectively (both did well by pandemic standards). Bond is the first movie to come out during COVID-19 that has a shot at attracting an audience beyond fanboys, making it the purest test yet of what the future of moviegoing will look like, and whether the industry should just pack it up and turn it all over to Netflix and its ilk. 

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Older audiences after all, have always been a reliable category for Hollywood. Less tech-savvy than millennials, and less likely to be distracted by YouTube and Fortnite, older audiences have long been considered a group still willing to go to movie theaters. Streaming services, meanwhile, have fought to win them over with series like The Crown on Netflix and the new Hulu series, Only Murders in the Building, with Steve Martin and Martin Short. They may not be as zealous as the superhero crowd, but they are a dedicated group that the movie theater industry will need to have firmly in their grip in order to survive. 

Consider the audience for Bond. According to Deadline, nearly one-third of the audience for the last 007 film, Spectre, which came out in 2015, was over 45. Fifteen percent was over 55. Those folks were a big reason for how the film grossed $880 million worldwide.

The pandemic has understandably instilled caution in older audiences when it comes to seeing movies. According to NRG, compared to the 73% of total moviegoers who feel comfortable going to movie theaters, only 66% of those 45 and older feel that way. That number has improved, however, since last August, when only 52% of people 45 and up felt comfortable. As for people in that demo up who are “very” comfortable going to the movies, it’s just 30%. 

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Superhero movies like Venom 2, which opened last weekend, are not doing much to move the needle when it comes to getting adults back to theaters. According to the Hollywood Reporter, only 9% of that film’s opening audience was 45 and older.  

Whether those numbers shoot up with Bond this weekend is “the multimillion-dollar question,” as Deadline put it, and not just for MGM, but for the movie industry as a whole. And if they don’t, fear not. The next Bond film will likely be released on Amazon. 

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About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based senior writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety

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