The release of the new James Bond film has been delayed again.
The premiere of No Time To Die had already been moved from April to November because of the pandemic.
The film has now been further delayed until 2 April 2021 “in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience”, a statement on the film’s website said.
“We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing No Time To Die next year.”
No Time To Die, the 25th instalment in the Bond franchise, marks Daniel Craig’s final appearance as British secret service agent, 007.
Trailers for the film, as well as Billie Eilish’s title song, have already been released – with the Eilish video debuting mere days ago – before Friday’s last-minute decision to delay.
Industry insiders had been speculating whether the studio would stand by the November release date, following lacklustre box office returns for the Christopher Nolan blockbuster Tenet, which was released last month.
The sci-fi epic, which cost approximately $200m to make, has so far made $243 million internationally, but only $41m in the US – where cinemas in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco largely remain closed.
A significant part of Bond film earnings come from the UK and European market, where coronavirus is once again on the rise and there may be been concern by the studio that potential restrictions could limit box office earnings in November.
The previous Bond film, 2015’s Spectre, took almost $900m (£690m) at worldwide box offices – winning an Oscar for best original song. The latest film will no longer be in contention for the 2021 Oscars under current guidelines.
The postponement of No Time to Die comes after both two major autumn releases, Wonder Woman: 1984 and Marvel Studios’ Black Widow – starring Scarlett Johansson – were both pushed back.
With Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Kenneth Branagh’s Death of the Nile remake also delayed, it could spell disaster for many struggling cinema chains, which rely on big budget releases for much of their income.
In the US, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association wrote an open letter last week calling on Congress to bail out “our country’s beloved movie theatres”.
The letter stated that if the current situation continued without additional support, 69% of small and mid-sized cinemas in the US would likely go bankrupt or close. The letter was signed by a string of Hollywood directors, including James Cameron, Clint Eastwood and Britain’s Steve McQueen.
But John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told Variety it was also essential that the studios played their part in supporting cinemas – by continuing to release films.
“If we don’t have any movies until we’re fully vaccinated as a world, a lot of the theatre companies are going to be gone and the theatres themselves won’t be there,” he said.
“This idea of waiting out the pandemic to make your movies more profitable doesn’t make sense to me. There won’t be as much of an industry left to play your movies in if you do that.”
In China, cinemas reopened in July – with restricted numbers – while in India they are due to partially reopen in mid-October, ahead of the Diwali holiday in November.
Cinemas in the UK were given the go-ahead to reopen in July, with social distancing measures in place, staggered start and finish times and pre-ordered popcorn, among the measures.
However many sites did not open immediately. Cineworld, the world’s second-largest cinema chain, reopened many of its locations across the UK in early September. It recently reported a $1.6bn loss in the first six months of the year.
On Friday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden urged the British public to “support your local cinema” as he announced a government cash boost of £650,000 to 42 independent cinemas across England as part of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
Some fans on Twitter have called for the latest franchise to be released digitally rather than delaying the release date to next Easter. Earlier this week, Warner announced that the big budget remake of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway, will debut on the streaming platform HBO Max in the US.