The global release of the new James Bond film "No Time to Die" was postponed on Wednesday by seven months amid the coronavirus outbreak that has closed movie theaters in China and caused widespread headaches for other Hollywood productions.
The release of Daniel Craig's last outing as agent 007, being distributed internationally by Universal Pictures, will be postponed from the start of April until November, producers said.
"After careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020," a posting on the official James Bond Twitter account said.
According to another Wednesday's post, the film will now be released in the United Kingdom on November 12 and in the United States on November 25.
Fans called for the postponement
Fans also raised concerns about the timing of the release of the new James Bond movie, one of the biggest entertainment events of 2020.
James Bond fan sites had written to the studios urging for a delay.
The founders of MI6 Confidential and The James Bond Dossier posted an open letter, which also noted that the world premiere planned for March 31 in London with 5,000 attendees, could be problematic.
"With the coronavirus reaching pandemic status, it is time to put public health above marketing release schedules and the cost of canceling publicity events," read the open letter.
"We have all waited over four years for this film. Another few months will not damage the quality of the film and only help the box-office for Daniel Craig's final hurrah," the letter added.
The Bond franchise is one of the movie world's most lucrative, with 2015's "Spectre" raking in 880 million U.S. dollars at the box office worldwide, while "Skyfall" in 2012 grossed more than one billion U.S. dollars globally.
"No Time to Die" cost an estimated 200 million U.S. dollars to produce and was due to open in movie theaters from April 2 after a world premiere in London on March 31.
Global theatrical market is suffering
The Wednesday posting made no specific reference to coronavirus but follows reports in entertainment trade media last week of the cancellation of plans for the film's red carpet premiere in China, Hollywood's biggest overseas market.
China is a key market for Hollywood blockbusters with its population of more than a billion people and where cinema-going has soared in popularity in recent years.
The last Bond film "Spectre" set box office records for a 2D film in China, while grossing more than 880 million U.S. dollars (971 million euros) worldwide, according to movie industry magazines.
The James Bond postponement followed coronavirus disruptions to filming new movies and TV shows and delays in releasing U.S. movies in China.
A planned three-week shoot in Venice, Italy, for Tom Cruise's new "Mission: Impossible" film was postponed last week due to the outbreak, and producers of the CBS television global competition show "The Amazing Race" said last week they had temporarily suspended filming of a new season.
Apart from the latest installment of the 007 movie series, several movies have fallen victims of the epidemic, postponing their releases in China.
Among them are Disney's live-action remake of "Mulan," staring all-Asian cast led by Chinese actors Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, and Jet Li, as well as "Sonic the Hedgehog" – a live-action adventure based on the global blockbuster videogame franchise “Sega."
Movie theaters have been closed in China since January and in other countries, including Japan, South Korea, and parts of Italy are also closing theaters in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.