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‘No Time to Die’ Set to Hit China After Passing Official Censorship

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The latest James Bond film “No Time To Die” will have its chance to blow up the Chinese box office this year, as it has now passed local censorship and has a pass into the world’s largest film market, official local media said on Friday.

Although no specific release date has been set, the development is certainly welcome news for Hollywood, as the blockbuster will need significant global sales to turn a profit during a pandemic given its huge budget of around $200 million.

The film was originally scheduled to open in North America on April 2, but that date was pushed back to Oct. 8. It will hit certain European and Asian markets, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, even earlier, between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. Piracy will very likely significantly reduce China sales if the release date for the world’s largest film market falls too long after those initial openings.

A simultaneous release in China, however, is unfeasible, as all of those dates fall right in the midst of China’s patriotic National Day holiday beginning Oct. 1 — a weeks-long period of a strict protectionist blackout on foreign films to bolster sales of the major local propaganda blockbusters set to release that week. Among the big guns this year will be “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a war film co-directed by Dante Lam, Tsui Hark and Chen Kaige.

“No Time to Die” may also end up cannibalizing a measure of the China box office for “Dune,” which has also passed censorship and been confirmed for local release but has not yet set a specific date. The latter will open in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other international territories in mid September.

“No Time to Die” is the 25th film in the James Bond franchise produced by Eon Productions. It is star Daniel Craig’s fifth and last turn as the titular MI6 agent. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, it also stars Rami Malek, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Wishaw, and Ana de Armas, among others. MGM is distributing the film in N. America, while Universal has international rights.

China is one of the most important overseas markets for the Bond franchise, and was the highest grossing overseas territory for its last installment, “Spectre,” other than the U.K. That film, also starring Craig, made $881 million worldwide, $84 million of which came from China. China was the fourth largest oversea territory for “Skyfall,” which earned $59 million there.

Murder mystery “Knives Out” starring Craig grossed $28 million in China in 2019, outstripping its haul in all other territories including the U.K., where it made $17 million.

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