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Throughout the Sixties and into the early Seventies the release of each new James Bond film was a guaranteed money maker for EON Productions and distributor United Artists. Re-issues and double-bills kept the money rolling in before the premiere of the next instalment in the series. The growth in television ownership in the United States in the mid-1950s had prompted film-makers to come up with ever more outlandish methods of getting audiences back into movie theatres. Widescreen, 3-D, stereophonic sound and ‘Roadshow’ releases all tried to present things that television could not. The growing youth culture ushered in more films aimed at a younger audience, but the decline in cinema attendance continued until it reached an all-time low in 1970.

ABC TV advertising

ABOVE: (left) Slide advertising the US TV premiere of Thunderball on 22 September 1974. (right) Newspaper advertisement announcing the 1976 ABC screening of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. For its US TV premiere  On Her Majesty's Secret Service was re-edited and shown over two nights on 16 & 23 February. The first part was re-sequenced and opened with a flashback narrated by Alexander Scourby as James Bond. Scourby had also narrated the 1965 TV special The Incredible World of James Bond. The ABC screening did little to enhance the reputation of George Lazenby's only outing as 007.

Eventually film-makers had to concede that although television had a hold over the majority of the nation, it was still a secondary market where money was to be made. As early as September 1966 Goldfinger and Thunderball had each attracted bids of $3.5-million for a single television showing, or $7-million for one showing of both!

In June 1967 United Artists offered the first five films in the series (and the then unmade On Her Majesty's Secret Service) to US TV stations for $30-million. The proposed deal would allow two films to be released each year over a three-year period; each film could be shown twice and after the deal expired the rights would revert to the owners. Although there was interest at this stage, the record-setting price of $5-million per film proved too expensive at that time.

$30 million TV tag on six 007 films

United Artists eventually signed a deal with US Television network ABC giving them the rights to screen the first seven films in the series for $2.5-million each. The timing of the sale to US television was clearly a purely financial decision, as it came during the biggest upheaval in EON Productions decade-long history. With the box-office disappointment of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) compared with its predecessors, and the one-off return of Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), EON and United Artists needed an injection of income as they embarked on the production of Live And Let Die. With the introduction of another new James Bond, the filmmakers could hardly predict it would be a guaranteed financial success. As it turned out Roger Moore's debut was a huge international box-office hit when released in July 1973, and the success of the series was assured for the foreseeable future.

Goldfinger was shown first on September 17, 1972 as part of ABC's ‘Sunday Night Movie’ strand, followed by From Russia With Love on January 14, 1974 and Thunderball on September 22, 1974. ABC then premiered Dr. No on November 10, 1974, Diamonds Are Forever on September 12, 1975 and You Only Live Twice on November 2, 1975. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was controversially screened in two parts on Mondays 16th and 23rd February 1976. The film was re-edited with an opening flashback narrated by Alexander Scourby as James Bond. Scourby had also narrated the 1965 ABC-TV special The Incredible World of James Bond. A repeat screening of On Her Majesty's Secret Service on March 7, 1980 was shown in one part but retained the flashback structure. All future screenings have been the theatrical version. The Bond films were hugely successful on US television (although often heavily censored), and introduced a new audience to 007 throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

ABC James Bond film screening advertisements

The 1960s James Bond films had been hugely profitable when first released in the UK with hardly a month going by when one or more was not screening somewhere in the country. The films were re-released individually and revived on double-bills with earlier entries in the series, reaching a peak just before the release of Live And Let Die in 1973. Although the Sean Connery films were still being shown around the country it became increasingly harder to see them once Roger Moore was established in the role of James Bond.

Daily Mail 7 January 1974

The Battle for Bond on the small screen
In January 1974 United Artists announced that they had sold the TV rights to screen the first six James Bond films to ITV in a record £850,000 deal. The initial contract allowed each film to be shown only twice, and not exceed a total of two screenings in any one year. Cinema owners were outraged at the sale, as far as they were concerned the films were still making significant money theatrically. There was a fear that cinemas would be empty on the nights Bond films were on TV. One cinema owner commented that “Selling Bond to television is not only killing the golden goose, but also auctioning off the eggs”. There was an incredible amount of coverage in the British Press and Cinema/TV trade papers surrounding the announcement in January 1974.

UK newspaper & trade magazine coverage 1974

Hugh Orr, president of the Association of Independent Cinemas said: “We are protesting to United Artists, the company which distributes the films, and to the Department of Trade and Industry”. Even James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli was not convinced by the deal and responded with: “Personally, I am against the sale of Bond films to television at this moment. They still have a very long way to go at the cinemas”. Despite Broccoli's misgivings, the six Bond films had also been sold to American television for £7-million.

On January 8, 1974 the Daily Mirror reported that the news had also angered trade unions, and Alan Sapper (general secretary of the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians) claimed that the fee [reported as £1.5-million] was far too low for films that would get two TV showings, and small cinemas would be hit because the films would lose any cinematic value. Protests were made to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, and the Independent Broadcasting Authority. The Daily Mirror incorrectly stated that Live And Let Die was part of the deal instead of You Only Live Twice, which explains the inclusion of a still from the film in their report (pictured above). ITV's response to the news was: “This is all a bit premature”. Two days later in the industry trade paper The Stage and Television Today, their front-page claimed that although several reports had appeared that week stating that ITV was to buy six James Bond films for sums ranging from £850,000 to over £1,000,000, ITV has denied that there is any such deal.

The Daily Mail of Friday January 18, 1974 then confirmed the news that the £850,000 deal (negotiated by Leslie Halliwell the noted author, critic and film buyer for Granada Television) had now been signed with a consortium of ITV companies, and that cinemas had won a year's reprieve as the first film Dr. No, due to be shown in September, would now not be screened until September 1975. The delay prompted United Artists to show all six Sean Connery films in a season at the London Pavilion cinema in May/June 1975, and then across the UK in the lead up to the TV premiere. The controversy did not end there as the debate then moved to the House of Commons, where junior Trade and Industry Minister Anthony Grant promised to consider the suggestion that the BBC and ITV should pay a £1,000 levy on every feature film shown. There is no evidence that this was actually acted upon. The eventual screening of Dr. No in October 1975 sparked a whole new dispute when Thames Television (and Trident, which handled advertising in the Yorkshire/Tyne Tees regions) tried to increase the advertising fees for a 30-second spot during the commercial breaks from £3,700 to £5,000, in order to capitalise on the anticipated huge viewing figures. The UK Price Commission stepped in and ultimately prevented Thames and other companies from imposing the higher rates during the film. There was also a great deal of Press coverage in the weeks leading up to the TV premiere of Dr. No, and it was estimated that the first James Bond film was seen in 10.5 million homes (an an estimated 27-million viewers) – the biggest ITV audience since Miss World in 1968.

Television Today 18 Spetember 1975

Dr. No premiered on British television at 8.00pm on Tuesday October 28, 1975 and was networked in all ITV regions except Northern Ireland, which showed Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman in its place. The Ulster TV franchise refused to comment why Dr. No was not scheduled. A spokesman for the Independent Television Authority commented that is was up to individual companies to decide whether or not to show specific films. Ulster television was also the only ITV region that chose not to screen the acclaimed American film Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969) a few weeks earlier. Dr. No was not broadcast in Northern Ireland until December 27, 1975 and was the first time a James Bond film was shown independently by one of the ITV franchise holders. From Russia With Love then had its ITV premiere on May 2, 1976, followed by Goldfinger (November 3, 1976), Thunderball (ITV Network February 26, 1977 - Harlech, Channel and Westward Television February 27, 1977), You Only Live Twice (November 20, 1977), and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on September 4, 1978. The first four films of the series all made the front cover of the TV Times - a weekly listings magazine, which in those days only gave details of programmes shown on the ITV network; BBC programmes were listed in the Radio Times.

TV Times October 1975/Guardian parody

ABOVE: (left) TV Times for the week October 25 - 31, 1975 with a cover promoting the UK television premiere of Dr. No on Tuesday 28th. (right) The Guardian newspaper published a satirical essay by James Moore on the day of the Dr. No premiere with a cartoon poking fun at Prime Minister Harold Wilson, MP Barbara Castle (then the Secretary of State for Health and Social Services), and a bald Sean Connery as James Bond!

The May 1-7, 1976 edition of the TV Times featured a cover illustration by Mike Francis depicting the main characters in From Russia With Love, and a page 5 feature on the gadgets by the same artist. The February 26-March 4, 1977 edition advertising Thunderball used a photo of Sean Connery from Diamonds Are Forever.

TV Times May 1976 From Russia With Love - illustrations by Mike Francis

The ITV premieres of You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty's Secret Service did not make the front of TV Times, but the 1978 Christmas Day premiere of Diamonds Are Forever was promoted with a cover featuring popular comedy double-act Morecambe & Wise and a life-size still of Sean Connery. The TV listings magazine was issued in two versions that Christmas due to print union industrial action limiting the availability in some regions. The Christmas double-issue was released as a full-colour edition featuring listings for all ITV programmes and regional variations from December 22, 1978 - January 5, 1979; and a half-price black-and-white ‘Emergency Supplement’ of just 24-pages with listings from December 23, 1978 - January 5, 1979 but not region specific. However the screening of Sean Connery's final official James Bond film was not a TV ratings winner on its first broadcast.

TV Times covers 1976, 1977 & 1978

The screenings of the early films on ITV were also promoted heavily on the cover and featured inside Look-In, a weekly magazine which was essentially a junior version of TV Times aimed mainly at a younger audience. Starting with the first screening of Dr. No in October 1975, the magazine often featured painted covers by renowned Italian poster artist Arnaldo Putzu (1927-2012). Look-In ran from 1971-1994, and throughout the 1970s also featured painted covers by Putzu promoting each new Roger Moore James Bond film when it was first released.

Look-In magazine James Bond covers 1970s

In 1976, encouraged by the huge success of the screening of the first two James Bond films, ITV purchased the rights to show Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun for a sum reported to be more than half-a-million pounds. These films not part of the original deal then premiered on ITV in their correct order with Diamonds Are Forever the big film for Christmas Day 1978, Live And Let Die on January 20, 1980 and The Man With The Golden Gun on Christmas Day 1980. Live And Let Die still holds the record as the most viewed film on UK television with a staggering 23.50 million viewers. The Spy Who Loved Me (shown March 28, 1982) had 22.9m viewers and Diamonds Are Forever (its second showing on March 15, 1981) with 22.15m viewers. Out of the Top 10 all-time highest viewing figures on UK television, Bond films hold 3rd, 5th and 9th place. With the proliferation of TV channels today it is very unlikely that these records will ever be broken.

Roger Moore TV Times covers 1979-1980

ABOVE: Roger Moore would also make the cover of the TV Times on several occasions (L-R) The Royal World Charity Premiere of Moonraker was televised on June 26, 1979 and the actor presented a special programme entitled ‘My Name Is Bond... James Bond’, featuring pre-filmed sequences and clips from earlier films. The 1980 premiere of Live And Let Die on January 20th still holds the record as the most-viewed film ever screened on UK television. The Man With The Golden Gun also premiered on ITV on Christmas Day 1980, and the TV Times cover featured Roger Moore with comedian Janet Brown (1923-2011) [who had appeared as Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher at the end of For Your Eyes Only (1979)], along with Morecambe & Wise whose Christmas specials were still one of the highlights of the festive season on television. The 1982 Christmas double-issue of the TV Times [not pictured] featured an illustration of Roger Moore from The Man With The Golden Gun to promote the ITV premiere of Moonraker on December 27th.

BELOW: The TV premieres of The Spy Who Loved Me in 1982 and For Your Eyes Only in 1986 were both advertised with a front cover featuring a publicity photograph from the film. The 21st anniversary of James Bond in the cinema in 1983 was celebrated with a TV special entitled James Bond: The first 21 years in which various celebrities and politicians (including US President Ronald Reagan) paid tribute to the character as if he was a real person!

Roger Moore TV Times covers 1982-1983

The screenings of the James Bond films on ITV were always big news and advertisers were keen capitalise on the huge audiences they commanded in the days when there were only a handful of TV channels in the UK. London Weekend Television (ITV franchise holder for London and the Home Counties) often used the screenings of James Bond films to poke fun at the establishment during the 1980s and tied in the screenings with topical news stories of the day. Moles in the secret service and gay spy revelations were cleverly disguised as advertisements for the screening of the Bond film. Huge posters were displayed in the London Underground and on billboards across the city during the week the film was shown.

LWT James Bond underground posters

ITV has retained the rights to screen the Bond series on UK terrestrial television since 1975, although other cable and satellite channels have also shown the series in the intervening years. With the exception of Casino Royale (1967) which had its UK TV premiere on BBC1 on Boxing Day evening 1973, and Never Say Never Again which the BBC screened on New Year's Day 1996 (and again on Boxing Day 1996), the only other Bond film to be shown by the BBC is From Russia With Love. BBC2 screened the second James Bond film on Sunday 29th July 2007 as part of a season of films celebrating the Summer of British Film. The season was complemented by a major new seven-part documentary series British Film Forever, and the re-release of selected British films in UK cinemas including the 1964 James Bond classic Goldfinger. The version of From Russia With Love screened by the BBC was the Lowry Digital Images restoration, which was also then available on DVD in the UK as part of the two-disc Ultimate Edition series. Unlike the majority of ITV screenings of the films, the BBC broadcast was uncut, and in the correct aspect ratio. The ITV premieres of more recent films in the series have failed to live up to the record-breaking audience figures the series commanded in the 1970s/80s. With the window between a theatrical release and home entertainment edition narrowing each year, most people have seen the films DVD or blu-ray already, so it is not surprising that the most recent ITV premiere of Spectre on New Year's Day 2018 only managed to pull in only five million viewers. With the sheer number of channels and choice available nowadays, it is impossible for any programme to achieve the kind of viewing figures attracted by the Bond films when they first screened on ITV.

TV Times Montage

ABOVE: (top centre) The 1978 premiere of Diamonds Are Forever was promoted on the cover of the Christmas double-issue of the TV Times as part of a special photoshoot by popular comedians Morecambe & Wise (whose Christmas shows commanded huge audiences in the 1970s and 1980s). The magazine often published unusual photos or graphical representations of Bond each time the films were screened. The artwork accompanying a 1986 screening of Live And Let Die (bottom left) was an unused concept poster artwork by Robert McGinnis. ‘My Name Is Bond... James Bond’ was broadcast at 11.00pm on Tuesday June 26, 1979 following the Royal World Charity Premiere of Moonraker at the Odeon Leicester Square earlier that evening. Hosted by Roger Moore, and featuring footage from the premiere and interviews with the stars and filmmakers, the 40-minute special was also one of the first to present documentary footage and numerous clips from earlier James Bond films as part of the programme.

Although the TV premiere of later James Bond films did not make the cover of TV Times, the 25th anniversary of the longest-running cinematic franchise was celebrated with a 50-minute programme James Bond: Licence to Thrill co-hosted by former Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell. The TV special was screened on June 29, 1987 and featured archive footage and new interviews with former James Bond actors and filmmakers, along with coverage of the Royal World Charity Premiere of The Living Daylights at London's Odeon Leicester Square.

TV Times 25th, 40th & 50th anniversary covers

TV Times 50 Years of Bond Pierce Brosnan cover

ABOVE: (left) TV Times June 27 - July 3, 1987 celebrating 25 years of James Bond in the cinema and the Royal World Charity Premiere of The Living Daylights at London's Odeon Leicester Square. (centre) One of four covers issued in November 2002 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of James Bond in the cinema. (right) Four further souvenir covers were issued to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of James Bond in the cinema in October 2012.

TV Times celebrated the 40th anniversary of James Bond in the cinema was with a series of four different souvenir covers featuring Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Inside a 9-page tribute included an interview with Pierce Brosnan, and overview of the 20 films in the series and the usual features on girls, gadgets and cars. George Lazenby was relegated to a small photograph (printed the wrong way round) on the Timothy Dalton cover. Lazenby was also also absent (along with Timothy Dalton) from the set of four souvenir covers issued in 2012 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of James Bond in the cinema.

James Bond on TV - UK Television premiere screenings on the ITV Network*

FILM ITV Network Premiere date Start time Audience
(no. of homes)
[no. of viewers from 1981]
in millions
Overall weekly position in ITV network programme ratings
Dr. No (1962)* Tuesday 28 October 1975 8.00pm 10.5 1
From Russia With Love (1963) Sunday 2 May 1976 7.55pm 9.2 1
Goldfinger (1964) Wednesday 3 November 1976 8.00pm 9.8 1
Thunderball (1965)** Saturday 26 February 1977 8.00pm 8.6 7
Casino Royale (1967)*** Wednesday 26 December 1973 7.00pm n/a n/a
You Only Live Twice (1967) Sunday 20 November 1977 7.45pm 20.8 1
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Monday 4 September 1978 7.30pm 16.8 1
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)**** Monday 25 December 1978 6.45pm 14.4 5
Live And Let Die (1973) Sunday 20 January 1980 7.45pm 23.5 1
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) Thursday 25 December 1980 6.10pm 15.3 9
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Sunday 28 March 1982 7.15pm 22.9 1
Moonraker (1979) Sunday 27 December 1982 6.30pm 15.5 1
For Your Eyes Only (1981) Sunday 31 August 1986 7.15pm 14.7 2
Never Say Never Again (1983) Thursday 25 December 1986 6.30pm 11.5 33
Octopussy (1983) Saturday 30 January 1988 7.15pm 15.9 5
A View To A Kill (1985) Wednesday 31 January 1990 8.00pm 16.9 7
The Living Daylights (1987) Saturday 3 October 1992 6.30pm 12.4 15
Licence To Kill (1989) Monday 3 January 1994 8.00pm 15.3 10
GoldenEye (1995) Wednesday 10 March 1999 8.35pm 13.2 14
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Wednesday 13 October 1999 8.00pm 11.8 12
The World Is Not Enough (1999) ITV1 Wednesday 14 November 2001 8.45pm 9.8 16
Die Another Day (2002) ITV1 Wednesday 27 October 2004 9.00pm 7.5 22
Casino Royale (2006) ITV1 Saturday 19 September 2009 9.15pm 4.8 36
Quantum of Solace (2008) ITV1 Saturday 26 March 2011 9.00pm 5.16 41
Skyfall (2012) ITV1 Wednesday 24 December 2014 8.00pm 7.15 26
Spectre (2015) ITV1 Monday 1 January 2018 8.05pm 5.68 37
****Not broadcast by Ulster Television until 27 December 1975
****Not broadcast by Harlech, Channel and Westward Television until 27 February 1977
****Premiered on BBC1
****Not broadcast by Yorkshire Television until 27 January 1979
TV Times Christmas Day page header 1978
Morecambe & Wise 1978 TV Times Photoshoot

James Bond tops the TV ratings
With only three television channels to choose from, the first UK screenings of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger all achieved the number one position in that week's overall programme ratings on the ITV network. From Russia With Love was shown for a second time on December 28, 1976 - just seven months after its TV premiere. It was not until 1982, with the launch of Channel 4, and in 1998 when ITV added their second commercial channel that viewers had more choice. Surprisingly, Thunderball was only the seventh most popular programme on the network when it premiered on Saturday, February 26, 1977. The fourth 007 outing had been the most successful of the series when released in cinemas, and could still be seen up and down the country on a double-bill with You Only Live Twice as late as January 1977. The lower than usual viewing figures were due to the fact that Thunderball was not originally broadcast in Wales, The Channel Islands, or the South-West of England at the same time as the rest of the UK. Harlech, Channel and Westward Television all chose to screen Thunderball at 7.55pm on Sunday, January 27, 1977. The UK television premiere of You Only Live Twice was fully networked in all ITV regions, and returned James Bond to the top of the weekly ratings when it was viewed in a staggering 20.8-million homes. Even the then black-sheep, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which had its ITV premiere on Monday, September 4, 1978 pulled in an audience of 16.8-million, once again topping the weekly ratings.

Although Diamonds Are Forever began the tradition of the Christmas Day Bond film, and just shown just seven years after its cinematic debut (the narrowest window to date), it only achieved an audience of 14.4-million, making the film the 12th most popular television offering that week, but only the 5th most viewed ITV broadcast. However, two factors played an important part in the lower than usual viewing figures. Firstly, the 6.45pm start for Diamonds Are Forever clashed with the last half hour of the popular 1965 Julie Andrews musical The Sound of Music on BBC1, also receiving its UK television premiere. This was followed by a Christmas episode of the equally popular BBC comedy Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, and impressionist Mike Yarwood's own Christmas special, both of which garnered huge viewing figures that year. The Industry magazine Television Today reported on January 11, 1979 that the BBC1 screening of The Sound of Music had attracted an average of 26.5-million viewers, narrowing missing the record set by Dr. No on ITV in 1975. The two comedy shows broadcast on BBC1 at the same time as Diamonds Are Forever attracted 16.5-million viewers, indicating that much of the BBC audience stayed with the channel all evening. The second reason that viewing figures were lower than usual was the fact that Diamonds Are Forever was not fully networked, as had been the case with the previous James Bond films except Dr. No, which was not shown in Northern Ireland until December 27, 1975; and Thunderball which was broadcast in three ITV regions on the day after its network premiere. Yorkshire Television was completely off-air for the whole of the 1978 Christmas period due to industrial action. The Yorkshire franchise of the Independent Television Network accounted for a significant proportion of the viewing population, and the loss contributed greatly to the final audience figures. Diamonds Are Forever (along with many other programmes lost due to the strike) was later screened by Yorkshire Television on Saturday January 27, 1979 after the channel had resumed broadcasting in the first week of the New Year. This was the second occasion that an EON-produced James Bond film was shown independently by one of the ITV network franchise broadcasters. It should be noted that the second ITV screening of Diamonds Are Forever on March 15, 1981 (this time networked in all regions) attracted an audience of over 22.15-million viewers.

Live and Let Die/From Russia With Love TV Times listings

ITV then chose to screen Goldfinger on Christmas Day 1979, but this time at 3.15pm directly after The Queen's Christmas message and thereby holding onto a captive audience. Although trimmed to suit its afternoon slot [and shown opposite The Beatles’ A Hard Day's Night (1964) on BBC2], Goldfinger attracted a respectable audience of 14.5-million viewers for its third TV outing. Four weeks later Live And Let Die premiered on the ITV network at 7.45pm on Sunday January 20, 1980 and broke all records by being viewed in 23.5-million homes. The Man With The Golden Gun then had its ITV premiere on Christmas Day 1980, six years after its theatrical debut. Screened at 6.10pm, Roger Moore's second James Bond film could not compete with the BBC's line-up of popular entertainment programmes, and only achieved the number nine position in that week's overall ratings, being watched in 15.3-million homes. A second transmission on March 6, 1983 showed that a non-Christmas screening was even more popular, attracting 15.7-million viewers, and only beaten as the most popular ITV broadcast that month by the long-running soap opera Coronation Street.

From Russia With Love did not receive its third ITV screening until Sunday, October 31, 1982 [the same week that saw the launch of Channel 4, and a week after the television premiere of the blockbusting Star Wars (1977)] so had been largely unseen for six years. The second James Bond film, From Russia With Love, had been released on VHS (along with Goldfinger) in June of 1982, and was the first James Bond film available to rent on video in the UK. It therefore came as no surprise that the ITV broadcast attracted a very large audience of almost 14-million viewers, only beaten in the weekly ratings by the soap opera Coronation Street, and the popular surprise biography show This Is Your Life (featuring much-loved English actress Diana Dors).

With Thunderball not fully networked on all ITV channels when first shown in 1977, it was not until its fourth broadcast on Monday, January 2, 1984 (almost six years since its last screening) that the film reached the number one spot in that week's ratings, with an audience of 16.65-million - beating it nearest rival Coronation Street by over one-million viewers. It is perhaps no surprise that ITV chose to screen Sean Connery's fourth James Bond film at the same time his comeback Never Say Never Again was in cinemas across the UK. Interest in Ian Fleming's controversial 1961 novel was clearly at a peak, and had even prompted EON Productions to re-issue Thunderball exclusively at London's Empire 1 cinema in Leicester Square, on a triple-bill with For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy for two weeks to coincide with the UK opening of Never Say Never Again in December 1983.

Even the third ITV screening of On Her Majesty's Secret Service on Friday April 1, 1983 had 14.25-million viewers, placing it 21st in the 50 most-viewed programmes on the ITV network for that month. It should be noted that since 1981, viewing figures were calculated by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), the organisation that compiles audience measurement and television ratings in the United Kingdom. It was created in 1981 to replace the two previous independent systems, and began reporting audience figures in August of that year. ITV ratings were earlier compiled by JICTAR (Joint Industry Committee for Television Audience Research), while the BBC carried out their own audience research. BARB calculated the total of individual viewers rather than number of households watching a particular programme or film.

Goldfinger & Thunderball TV Times Listings

Although the James Bond films were massively popular when first shown on the ITV network, and still attracted a huge audience on later broadcasts; they failed to top the ratings when screened on Christmas Day, or on a Saturday evening, when they had far more competition from other programmes. The James Bond series still remains a major part of ITV's scheduling, with hardly a week going by without one or more of the films being shown on the network's channels, although viewing figures are nowhere near what they were before the series became widely available on home media. Screenings nowadays are no longer the television event they used to be, when almost half the nation tuned in, and probably now viewed more as background entertainment to be dipped into while channel-hopping. With the shift away from feature films as the must-see shared experience; they have been replaced by talent contests and reality television, and no longer the ‘Did you see..?’ talking point in so many workplaces and school playgrounds on the morning following the broadcast.


LONDON CALLING! - JAMES BOND IN THE CINEMA

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