The James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli was one of the leading figures who added their names to a special letter which has raised concerns about the state of British cinema in light of the impact of the current pandemic.

The letter, which was published in the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper on 17th January, called for additional support from the British government for the country’s film industry, and was also signed by other major actors and figures in the industry, including the directors Danny Boyle, Paul Greengrass, Guy Ritchie, Sam Mendes and Christopher Nolan.

The letter-writers noted: ‘All our careers have been built in large part on the benefits brought by the UK’s cinemas. But they are among the venues that have been hit the hardest by Covid-19. They need further support if they are to survive’. The letter pointed out that cinemagoing offers ‘proven benefits’ in terms of jobs, high-street footfall and community cohesion, as well as mental health benefits that are now more important than ever: ‘This is all at risk’.

While recognising the support the UK’s government has already provided, the signatories fear it will not be enough: ‘The challenges are most acute for large cinema operators that have not been eligible for tailored funding’. Representing more than 80% of the market, they help drive the success of film distribution and production: ‘Without them, the future of the entire UK film industry would look extremely precarious’.

The letter added gravely: ‘UK cinema stands on the edge of an abyss. We urgently need targeted support to ensure that future generations can enjoy the magic of cinema’.

The Sunday Times also carried an editorial the same day which noted that Britain’s film-makers are understandably upset by the prolonged closure of the nation’s cinemas and that the industry has reason to worry. After so many months away from giants screens, film-lovers may be slow to return. However, the newspaper added that the outlook is not wholly bleak: ‘The latest instalment from the James Bond franchise awaits. Other blockbusters will surely follow… Lockdowns will one day be gone with the wind’.

Big-screen Bond

Interestingly, a month ago there was quite a campaign started by British directors in interviews, including Paul Greengrass and Christopher Nolan, in defence of traditional big-screen cinema. They warned that releasing new films straight to streaming services could seriously undermine the future of cinemas and the medium of film. It is also thought that EON are sypathetic to this preference for big-screen releases to remain the first priority of movie producers and distributors.

The new 007 film, which stars Daniel Craig in his final turn as Ian Fleming’s secret agent, cost an estimated £195 million to make and the producers need to get that investment back and make much more on top. The very difficult calculation that will have to be made to maximise revenue returns is very dependent on getting the timing just right and whether No Time To Die can be released take full advantage of a possible return of public confidence in cinemagoing once the latest lockdowns are eased.

The letter in the Sunday Times came as growing rumours have emerged in Hollywood that the release of the new James Bond adventure may have to be delayed yet again, as the coronavirus has proved to be much more durable than many movie insiders originally assumed. The only person to take comfort from this is undoubtedly that master of germ warfare, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.