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Goodby Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square

“The Name's Bond... James Bond”
Just before the release of Casino Royale, the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square programmed a season of four James Bond films, each with a different 007, as part of their ‘Empire Earlies’ strand. The films screened at 10.40am each morning with Thunderball playing from Friday 18th - Thursday 24th August; followed by The Spy Who Loved Me from Friday 25th August, and The Living Daylights from Friday September 1, 2006. GoldenEye concluded the season but only played on 8th, 9th, 11th and 13th September.

Daniel Craig's debut as James Bond in Casino Royale was chosen as the 60th Royal Film Performance and premiered at London's ODEON Leicester Square, with simultaneous screenings at the ODEON West End and Empire, Leicester Square on Tuesday November 14, 2006.

Casino Royale World Premiere Leicester Square

Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh graced the Leicester Square premiere of Casino Royale which was also attended by new James Bond Daniel Craig and co-stars Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench who reprised her role as M. Although the film played simultaneously in the three cinemas, the celebrity guests all attended at the ODEON Leicester Square, which had been home to so many previous James Bond premieres. The Aston Martin DBS seen in the film was also on display in Leicester Square throughout the day. The car then went on to be displayed at Harrods as part of their special Casino Royale themed Christmas display which used every one of the stores 72 windows. Those located along the main Brompton Road frontage recreated some of the sets featured in Casino Royale, and featured actual props and costumes worn by leading ladies Eva Green and Caterina Murino. Conforming to the now standard theatrical release pattern, Casino Royale then opened in cinemas across the UK on Friday November 17, 2006.

Daniel Craig and co-stars Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Catarina Murino and Judi Dench

Daniel Craig's debut as 007 was a critical and commercial success and re-established the James Bond franchise for a whole new generation. The controversial casting of Daniel Craig proved to be an inspired decision on the part of co-producers Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson, resulting in spectacular ticket sales of £1.7 million for the opening day, which was more than twice as much as the previous record-holder Die Another Day. Casino Royale ultimately went on to become the most successful film of the year in the UK, despite pirate copies being available to download and sold on DVD just two days after the premiere. The window between the theatrical release and home entertainment platforms was getting shorter each year, with Casino Royale making its official DVD debut in March 2007. Casino Royale continued to break records and was the fastest-selling DVD ever released in the UK with a staggering 1.6-million copies sold in the first week!

Casino Royale played at the ODEON Leicester Square for six weeks until Thursday December 28, 2006. On Boxing Day 2006 Casino Royale had also opened at the ODEON West End, playing for a further five weeks until Wednesday January 31, 2007. Casino Royale also spent ten weeks at the ODEON Marble Arch from Wednesday November 15, 2006 to Friday January 26, 2007, and then returned to Leicester Square playing twelve weeks at the ODEON Mezzanine, and ending its five-month West End engagement on Thursday April 19, 2007.

Casino Royale Odeon Leicester Square

“Restored & Remastered... James Bond Back In Action!”
In 2006 the American film restoration company Lowry Digital Images undertook a project to remaster the 20 official EON Productions James Bond films for release on DVD. Their process involved taking the original negatives (or best surviving elements), scanning them at a very high resolution and storing the results on the hard-drives of hundreds of high-powered computers. The digital data is then manipulated using software tools to remove scratches, dirt and dust on the film and generally enhance the image to the best possible effect. Shots are dealt with on an individual basis and graded depending on their unique characteristics such as ‘day for night’ filming or optical shots that have been added later, and therefore of a different film stock and colour balance to the original negative. This kind of ‘restoration’ is undertaken in order that the film can be presented to the best advantage in the digital realm. The new series of DVDs were rush-released in the UK in August 2006 just before the theatrical debut of Casino Royale. Several errors were identified in the initial batch of films released, including the removal of the red blood effect in the water at the end of the sequence where Quist (stuntman Bill Cummings) is thrown in the shark pool by Largo’s men in Thunderball (1965). The mono soundtracks for the early films in the series were given new 5.1 DTS remixes which resulted in some bizarre audio choices. None of the original soundtracks were included on this new series of DVDs originally released in the UK. The ‘Ultimate Edition’ series was then released on DVD in the USA in November 2006 with most of the errors corrected, and with the original mono soundtrack option available where applicable. With the James Bond films now remastered in a digital format it was now possible to release these versions theatrically. The original digital files were created at a much higher resolution than DVD was capable of reproducing, and the first film to be theatrically screened in this format was the 1964 classic Goldfinger.

Goldfinger(1964) restored digital release 2007

Goldfinger was shown at 136 cinemas across the UK on Tuesday July 31, 2007 as part of a season of films celebrating ‘The Summer of British Film’. The special one-night only screening was extremely popular and grossed £42,000, which ranked Goldfinger as the 12th most successful film at the UK box office that week, a remarkable feat given that Tuesday is usually the day when cinemas relied on reduced price tickets. ‘The Summer of British Film’ season was complemented by a major new seven-part TV documentary series British Film Forever, which included the screening of From Russia With Love on BBC2 on Sunday July 29, 2007. The BBC2 screening was the first and only time an EON produced James Bond film has been shown by the network with the Lowry Digital Images version utilised for the screening, and therefore looking identical to the recently released ‘Ultimate Edition’ DVD.

The Spy Who Loved Me Empire cinema Leicester Square 2008

The second James Bond film to be shown digitally was The Spy Who Loved Me at a special screening held at London's Empire Cinema, just off Leicester Square, on Sunday April 20, 2008. Nick Varley, the managing director of Glasgow based distribution company Park Circus (who had acquired the rights to the MGM back catalogue), took to the stage before the screening to introduce three-time James Bond director Lewis Gilbert. Then aged 86 and rather frail, Gilbert reminisced about making the 1977 Roger Moore classic, although the screening itself was marred by technical issues and poor sound quality during some parts of the film. Camera operator [and later director of photography for The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence To Kill (1989)] Alec Mills was also present at the event.

‘For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond’ at the Imperial War Museum

As part of the Ian Fleming Centenary celebrations in 2008, the Imperial War Museum in London hosted a year-long exhibition devoted to the life and work of the man who created the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond. Featuring fascinating material, much on public display for the first time, ‘For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond’ looked at the author and his fictional character in their historical context and examined how much of the Bond novels were imaginary and how far they were based on real people and events. This exhibition explored the early life of Ian Fleming, his wartime career and work as a journalist and travel writer and how, as an author, he drew upon his own experiences to create the iconic character of James Bond that continues to have global appeal. In addition to the rare material relating to the creator of James Bond, the exhibition also featured many props, costumes, posters and gadgets from the EON Productions film series. The first three James Bond films starring Sean Connery was also screened for free during the first two months of the exhibition which ran from April 17, 2008 to March 1, 2009. Dr. No (1962) was shown at 2.00pm on Saturday 3rd & Monday 5th May; From Russia With Love (1963) was screened at 2.00pm on Saturday 24th, Sunday 25th and Monday 26th May, with Goldfinger (1964) at 2.00pm on Saturday 31st May and Sunday 1st June, 2008.

Best of Bond at the Barbican 2008

In March 2008 fans were asked to select which five James Bond films they would most like to see back on the big screen as part of the BEST OF BOND weekend which would be held at the Barbican Centre in central London on June 7th and 8th.

The films chosen were From Russia With Love which was shown at 6.00pm in the 150-seat Cinema 3 on Saturday June 7th,  and Goldfinger shown in the larger 280-seat Cinema 1 at 8.45pm. Casino Royale (2006) screened at 6.00pm in Cinema 3 on, Sunday June 8th, followed by Dr. No at 8.45pm. The fifth film chosen was On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) which was later shown at 60 selected cinemas across the UK on June 28, 2009 as part of the ‘Spend Sundays With James Bond’ season distributed by Park Circus. An exhibition of original props and rare collectibles were on display in the Barbican Cinema 1 foyer throughout the weekend.

“The first thing you should know is that we have people everywhere...”
Filming on Bond 22 had begun in August 2007 with action for the pre-credit sequence captured in Siena, Italy. Production was officially announced in January 2008 although at this stage a title had not been revealed. The title Quantum of Solace was then announced at a press conference at Pinewood Studios on January 24, 2008. The title is taken from the Ian Fleming short story which appeared in the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY anthology originally published in 1960. On February 7, 2008 the first teaser poster was unveiled in Germany at the Sony Center Building, on the first day of the Berlin Film Festival. A second teaser poster later appeared showing the film title with a poorly executed composite image of Daniel Craig holding the machine gun last seen at the end of Casino Royale (2006).

Quantum of Solace teaser poster

In the weeks leading up to the UK release Quantum of Solace was promoted on the side of London buses, and huge five-storey high posters surrounding the BFI IMAX cinema at Waterloo.

Quantum of Solace promotion in London

Quantum of Solace was originally scheduled for release in the UK and North America on November 7, 2008. The UK release was brought forward to October 31 following the premiere two days earlier, and the US date then pushed back to November 14th. The Royal World Charity Premiere took place on Wednesday October 29th at the ODEON Leicester Square. At the request of Prince William and Prince Harry who attended the premiere, the event benefited two charities ‘Help For Heroes’ and The Royal British Legion. The Aston Martin DBS featured in Quantum of Solace was on display outside the ODEON which hosted the Royal part of the Premiere, with the film was also screened simultaneously at the Empire Cinema on the opposite side of Leicester Square.

Quantum of Solace premiere Odeon Leicester Square

Among the stars attending the premiere were Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Gianinni (reprising his role as Rene Mathis), Jeffrey Wright (also reprising his role as Felix Leiter), Gemma Arterton and Dame Judi Dench (playing M for the sixth time in Quantum of Solace). Also in attendance were the requisite James Bond film alumni including Lynn-Holly Johnson [Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only (1981)], Grace Jones [May Day in A View To A Kill (1985)], Maryam d'Abo [Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights (1987)], Rick Yune [Zao in Die Another Day 2002)], Robbie Coltrane [Valentin Zuchovsky in GoldenEye (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999)], Samantha Bond [Moneypenny in the four Pierce Brosnan Bond films], and Colin Salmon, who played Charles Robinson in three Pierce Brosnan Bond films 1997-2002.

Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Amalric Quantum of Solace premiere

Quantum of Solace Odeon West End 

Quantum of Solace also had its first public screening as part of the 52nd London Film Festival at the ODEON West End. The screening took place immediately after the Royal Premiere on the opposite side of Leicester Square. The ODEON West End was formerly known as the Leicester Square Theatre and had been converted into a twin screen cinema in 1991. The 1964 reissue of Dr. No had first screened at the Leicester Square Theatre at the same time Goldfinger was playing at the ODEON Theatre on the opposite side of Leicester Square. Dr. No had played throughout the month of October 1964, before being replaced by Goldfinger on November 1st. Goldfinger then played for a further seven weeks following its five-week premiere engagement at the ODEON Leicester Square. Similarly Quantum of Solace then transferred to the ODEON West End (left) on Friday December 5, 2008, and screened for another seven weeks.

The ODEON West End finally closed at the end of 2015 and the building was demolished, although its historic facade remains and is now the location of The Londoner hotel which opened in September 2021. Quantum of Solace had opened in 540 cinemas across the UK and Ireland on Friday 31st October and once again made box-office history by taking a staggering £4.94-million, making it the biggest Friday opening of all time, and beating the opening weekend figure of Casino Royale (which took £11.4-million over its opening 3-day weekend) by taking £15.5-million. Whilst not as critically acclaimed as its predecessor, advertisements in London newspapers naturally chose the more positive 4-star comments to promote the film.

Quantum of Solace newspaper advertisements

To celebrate the release Quantum of Solace, the famous Knightsbridge store Harrods, once again gave over their Brompton Road window displays to an array of items seen in the latest James Bond film. Running from October 25, 2008 January 2009 the displays included the Sunseeker speedboat (exhibited until November 22nd) and Aston Martin DBS driven by James Bond in Quantum of Solace. Daniel Craig's Tom Ford suit and the black Prada dress worn by Olga Kurylenko in the film were also displayed alongside the latest OMEGA watch.

Harrods 2008 Quantum of Solace window displays

The BFI presented a special digital screening of Quantum of Solace at 8.30pm on Tuesday March 4, 2009 in NFT1 followed by a Q&A session with director Marc Forster. Quantum of Solace then made its debut on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23, 2009 just five-months after the London premiere, but it would be another four years before Daniel Craig would return to the big screen when the franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary. Before the release of Skyfall there were a number of opportunities to see the earlier films in the series back on the big screen in London and across the country.