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Goodby Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square

“James Bond will return...”
In a world media first, the trailer for the highly anticipated 25th James Bond film No Time To Die was released on the iconic Piccadilly Lights in London on the afternoon of Wednesday December 4, 2019. The large format digital screen was upgraded in 2017 and is one of the most photographed landmarks in London. The screen is situated just a few yards away from the former London Pavilion where Dr. No first opened on October 5, 1962; and where all James Bond films up to and including Moonraker (1979) had played during their initial West End release, or later as a double-bill re-issue.

No Time To Die trailer Piccadilly 2019

The premiere of No Time To Die was originally scheduled to take place at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Tuesday March 31, 2020. The film would then have been released across the UK on 2nd April and the US on 10th April. The troubled production had already seen two changes of release date, and in a cruel twist of fate the world was then plunged into a global crisis as the Coronavirus pandemic took hold at the start of 2020, with many countries going into lockdown in order to control the spread. Cinemas, theatres and other entertainment venues were among the first to be closed, and on March 4, 2020 distributors MGM, Universal and James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli announced that the release of No Time To Die would be postponed until November 2020. A season of all 24 official James Bond films which was due to take place at the Cineworld cinema at the O2 Arena in Greenwich was also cancelled. Situated within the Millennium Dome which featured in the pre-credit sequence of The World Is Not Enough (1999), the 19-screen Cineworld cinema is the largest in the UK, and had planned to show all 24 films in order from March 9th in the run up to the opening of No Time To Die on April 2nd.

Cineworld cancelled James Bond season 2020

No Time To Die was then delayed once again and due to be released in the UK on November 12, 2020 with worldwide dates to follow, including the US launch on November 20, 2020. The advertising campaign was put on hold and teaser posters quickly revised to reflect the new release date. With worldwide venues closed, the James Bond films have remained popular small screen entertainment in many households, and frequent TV screenings on the ITV network in the UK continued unabated. On Sunday April 19, 2020 Men's magazine Esquire invited fans to a live GoldenEye watchalong with James Bond himself Pierce Brosnan providing the commentary and answering questions about his 1995 debut as 007.

The advertising campaign ahead of the rescheduled November release of No Time To Die resumed in September 2020, with new posters, trailers and marketing tie-ins appearing almost daily. Although some cinemas had reopened with new safety measures in place and reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, several distributors were still reluctant to release their films in an uncertain marketplace. With the world, and particularly the USA, still in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, cinemas in key cities such as Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco remained largely closed. Then on October 2, 2020 it was announced that the release of No Time To Die had been delayed once again, and the film would be seen in cinemas from April 2, 2021. The industry has been hit hard by the global pandemic, and the latest delay to the release of No Time To Die was been blamed for the temporary closure of 536 cinemas in the USA, and 127 in the UK operated by global giant Cineworld. At the start of a new year and with ever-changing worldwide COVID-19 restrictions, there was much speculation as to whether the scheduled release date of April 2021 was viable. Distributor MGM reputedly turned down a $600-million offer to make No Time To Die available via streaming platforms. On January 22, 2021 came the brief announcement that No Time To Die would now be released in cinemas globally from September 30th, and in the USA/Canada on October 8, 2021.

Prince Charles Cinema closed during the Coronavirus Pandemic 2020/21

“James Bond Is Back!”
As the UK relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in May 2021, cinemas were allowed to reopen with certain limitations on audience numbers. London's Prince Charles cinema programmed a ‘JAMES BOND 007 SELECTROSPECTIVE’ to welcome audiences back. The season included 11 Bond classics, screening on Saturday afternoons and early evenings from May 22 - August 21, 2021, with at least one film from each actor to portray James Bond in the official EON Productions series. The full line-up was From Russia With Love (22 May 18:25); Goldfinger (5 June 8.15pm); On Her Majesty's Secret Service (19 June 2.55pm); Live And Let Die (3 July 5.30pm); The Man With The Golden Gun (10 July 5.30pm); The Living Daylights (17 July 5.30pm); Licence To Kill (24 July 5.30pm); GoldenEye (31 July 5.30pm). The World Is Not Enough (7 August 5.30pm); Casino Royale (14 August 5.15pm), and Spectre (21 August 5.00pm).

Most of the screenings sold out very quickly, although it should be noted that with social distancing rules still in place cinemas could still not fill to capacity, meaning that the Bond films at the Prince Charles Cinema had sell-out performances with just a few hundred people, opposed to the two-and-a-half thousand audience members who saw the films in the vast auditorium of the ODEON Leicester Square just a few hundred yards away on their original release

September 2021 Burlington Arcade

Ahead of the premiere of No Time To Die, the Burlington Arcade in London's Mayfair hosted a special 007 themed installation. Featuring a James Bond inspired entrance at Burlington Gardens, inside special 007 arches ran the full length of the arcade, with a James Bond Gun Barrel photo opportunity in the centre. The connection between the Burlington Arcade and James Bond has its foundation through three Arcade residents and long-time Bond partners: Crockett & Jones, Globe-Trotter and N.Peal. Two further Bond partners Omega, the luxury Swiss watch manufacturer, turned over their retail floor space into ‘Omega Bond House’, and Bollinger had an exclusive 007 Champagne bar. The installation was launched with the obligatory celebrity reception on Monday September 20, 2021. Guests included five-time James Bond composer David Arnold and official photographer Greg Williams. An Aston Martin DB5, and V8 Vantage were parked outside the entrance.

Burlington Arcade Spetember 2021

Although Omega have had a presence in the Arcade via their vintage store since 2006, the new space was totally dedicated to 007. The new ‘Omega Bond House’ boasts a ground floor retail pop-up, an Omega private members bar, and an exclusive exhibition by photographer Greg Williams. Also on display were key props and watches from the James Bond films, including portraits of Bernard Lee [last seen in The World Is Not Enough (1999)], Robert Brown, and Judi Dench as ‘M’ (painted by Desmond Mac Mahon) all featured in No Time To Die (2021). To celebrate the launch a special Omega inspired carpet, in the same colours as the NATO strap that features on James Bond watches, ran the full length of the arcade. In late November 2021 the installation was adapted into a festive display, inspired by the forthcoming 60th anniversary of James Bond in 2022.

Daniel Craig at the Royal Albert Hall for the premiere of No Time To Die (2021)

“The past is not dead...”
After two years of delays beginning with the departure of original director Danny Boyle in August 2018 (and the subsequent appointment of his replacement Cary Joji Fukunaga); coupled with the ongoing effects of a global pandemic, No Time To Die finally had its World Premiere at London's Royal Albert Hall on the evening of Tuesday September 28, 2021. Due to COVID-19 protocols there was no public access for non-ticket holders to view the celebrities arriving on the red carpet at the premiere, and as such the event was a somewhat scaled-down occasion. Cast members Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Rory Kinnear, Ana de Armas, David Dencik and Dali Benssalah were in attendance, alongside director Cary Joji Fukunaga, composer Hans Zimmer, and ‘No Time To Die’ writer/performers Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell. They joined Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the premiere of the 25th Bond film, which benefited charities supporting serving and former members of the three intelligence agencies (the Secret Intelligence Service, the Security Service and GCHQ).

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 and V8 Volante featured in No Time To Die (along with a bullet-riddled version of the DB5 and a Triumph Scrambler motorcycle) were also on display on the red carpet, which featured a huge 007 logo sculpture emblazoned with Union Jack colours. The sculpture had been displayed in Leicester Square in the week leading up to the premiere.

Aston Martin DB5 & DBS on display at the World premiere of No Time To Die (2021)

The premiere at The Royal Albert Hall was one of 57 screenings of No Time To Die (including the press previews) taking place across the globe. With cinemas eager to capitalise on the pre-release ticket sale success, the first public screenings of No Time To Die began at 00.01 on Thursday 30 September, 2021, with the general release starting the following day. No Time To Die began its West End engagement at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square. The cinema was formerly known as the ODEON Leicester Square (and home to the West End engagement of the James Bond films since 1963) and was re-branded as part of the ODEON Luxe chain in December 2018. Now much reduced in capacity with luxury seats, the venue was the first commercial Dolby Cinema screen to open in the UK. Once the flagship venue of the ODEON cinemas circuit operated by The Rank Organisation, the former front stalls now has 259 recliner seats in nine rows; the front of the circle (Royal Circle) now has three rows of 90 recliner seats, and the rear circle has 446 regular seats. Total seating capacity in screen 1 is now 794 + 6 disabled spaces (reduced from the 1,683 seats of recent years). Screens 2-5 in ODEON Studios (formerly ODEON Mezzanine) have between 35 and 54 seats offering a more intimate viewing experience. No Time To Die was shown simultaneously on three of the smaller screens in addition to the main Dolby auditorium. Although the interior of the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square has been redesigned, the exterior facade retains is impressive marquee to promote the films playing at the venue. For No Time To Die the ODEON logo was also incorporated with the 007 logo for maximum effect!

No Time To Die at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square

No Time To Die is the first James Bond film to have sequences shot with IMAX cameras, and was showcased in this format at the 485-seat BFI IMAX, Waterloo which also had a midnight screening of the film on Thursday September 30, 2021. The venue boasts an IMAX digital screen 20 metres tall X 26 metres wide, which is currently the largest cinema screen in Great Britain. Daniel Craig's swansong as James Bond went on general release across the UK on Friday October 1, 2021 - a week ahead of its US opening.

In addition to screening at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square, No Time To Die also played in London's West End at the newly opened ODEON Luxe West End (formerly the Leicester Square Theatre and renamed ODEON West End in 1988) - situated in the basement of The Londoner hotel; ODEON Haymarket; ODEON Covent Garden; ODEON Tottenham Court Road; ODEON Panton Street, and VUE West End (formerly the Warner West End where Never Say Never Again had its European Charity premiere in December 1983).

No Time To Die BFI IMAX London/Vue West End

No Time To Die had the widest release of any film in the UK to date, with a staggering 772 cinemas playing the film in its first week. 30,000 eager fans attended the first midnight screenings across the country. Consequently No Time To Die grossed £5-million on its first day of release; and went on to take £21-million at the UK box office over its opening weekend, although like Spectre, ticket prices were higher than for other films. Reviews in the mainstream press were generally positive, but within 48 hours of the film appearing in cinemas No Time To Die had already been pirated and its controversial storyline leaked online.

No Time to Die

The same day that No Time To Die opened across the UK a home media edition was announced for release on December 20, 2021. With the window between the theatrical and streaming/home entertainment release of films shrinking all the time, this is a far cry from the days when Bond fans had to wait until the West End release had ended before the films often went into wider distribution. Now that MGM has been acquired by Amazon, No Time To Die also debuted on their Video-On-Demand streaming platform PRIME (and other premium American VOD platforms) on November 9, 2021 - just a month after its US theatrical release, and was available on PRIME in the UK from November 19th. As Daniel Craig bows out after his 15-year tenure as 007, we can only guess what the future will hold for the character, despite the end credits of No Time To Die reassuring us that James Bond will return...

60 Years of James Bond 1920-2022

As the world awaits the news of who will be cast as the next 007, 2022 marks the 60th Anniversary of James Bond in the cinema, and no doubt many special events will be announced in due course, although no new film will be released in the diamond jubilee year. However, Londoner's were treated to another season of films at the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square. The PCC showed each official James Bond film from Dr. No (1962) to Spectre (2015), and included screenings of Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983). The season began on Saturday January 15, 2022 - and continued through the first half of the year, culminating in August.

James Bond Season at the PCC

Each film had two afternoon screenings each week on Thursday and Saturday, with You Only Live Twice having an additional screening on Sunday June 16, 2022 at 5.30pm to celebrate its 55th anniversary. Stunt co-ordinator Paul Weston attended a Q&A session following the screening of Licence To Kill on Saturday May 28, 2022. The Living Daylights also received an additional 35th anniversary screening at 6.00pm on Monday June 27, 2022. The Prince Charles Cinema is working hard to get the latest James Bond film No Time To Die (2021) added in August to fittingly finish the season off. All films were shown in 4K on the 302-seat screen downstairs auditorium, with a handful of screenings in the smaller 104-seat upstairs screen.

“Celebrate 60 Years Of Bond On The Big Screen!”
Following celebrations at the Academy Awards® and the BAFTA’s, the 60th Anniversary celebrations continued with UK and Irish cinema screenings of all 25 Bond titles from mid-April 2022, culminating in ‘Global James Bond Day’ on 5th October. The films were projected in stunning 4K and screened chronologically with a new film each week at VUE, ODEON and Cineworld cinemas across the UK and Ireland starting Friday April 15, 2022 with the 60th Anniversary of Dr. No (1962), through to No Time To Die (2021) in September, alongside other celebratory programmes at selected cinemas nationwide. The 60th anniversary re-issues were generally screened at the weekend the UK and Ireland, and usually on smaller screens with limited capacity.

Following on from the two 2021 James Bond themed installations at the Burlington Arcade in London's Mayfair, Globe-Trotter updated their window display (pictured right) to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Dr. No, and their exclusive Dr. No luggage range, with a nod to Maurice Binder's iconic main title design for the first James Bond film.

As part of the re-issue program Dr. No (1962) played in the 800-seat Dolby Cinema at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square on Tuesday April 19, 2022; and marked the first time in its 60 year history that the film had screened at the prestigious West End venue. Dr. No failed  to attract a large audience, and subsequent films in the series played on smaller screens, including Thunderball on Tuesday May 10, 2022 which was also screened for the first time to paying customers at this cinema. The last time the fourth James Bond film had played at the venue was the 1965 press screening held on the morning of December 28th - the day before the Gala Premieres held at the London Pavilion and Rialto Cinemas.

Globe-Trotter luggage window display Burlington Arcade

For the 60th Anniversary re-issue of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971), the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square added an additional Sunday afternoon screening for each film which did not prove any more popular than the Tuesday evening slot. With the re-issue season also playing at the VUE West End on Saturday evenings (and the Prince Charles season still playing in Leicester Place), it was evident that there was now only a limited number of people still wishing to see the films on the big screen. The ODEON Luxe Leicester Square did not programme a Sunday afternoon screening of Live And Let Die as the nation was preoccupied with celebrations commemorating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which included a parade of James Bond vehicles as part of The People's Pageant on June 5, 2022. However Roger Moore's cinematic debut as James Bond did prove successful at the UK box-office that weekend taking £10,916 across 114 cinemas, which was significantly more than any of the Sean Connery films (with the exception of the Goldfinger) re-released as part of the 60th Anniversary. The Spy Who Loved Me performed even better, taking £12,844 at those 101 venues screening the film over its opening weekend June 17-19, 2022. However, the box-office receipts for the 60th Anniversary re-issues have been disappointing to say the least, with only a handful of audience members attending most screenings. The ODEON Luxe Leicester Square continued with their Tuesday evening performances with The Spy Who Loved Me proving the most popular yet, although a sell-out audience of just 34 seats was a far cry from the thousands of cinemagoers watching the film at each screening in the same cinema on its original release in 1977.

No new posters were created for the 2022 60th Anniversary re-issues and unusually ODEON, Vue, and Cineworld all chose the American 1-Sheet poster artwork to advertise each film on their website. This is somewhat anachronistic as the films were only shown in the UK as part of this anniversary re-issue series, and never promoted with these posters upon their original release. In fact, the 60th anniversary of Dr. No technically isn't until May 2023 in the USA, as the first James Bond film didn't open there until a full seven months after its original UK release.

James Bond will return...
Casino Royale Odeon Leicester Square 2006

©007 MAGAZINE 2022
Part Two first published August 31, 2020