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Goldfinger London Pavilion 1968

“A Bond-Buster of a Programme!”
With Goldfinger not seen on UK cinema screens for just over two years, it became the perfect choice to be paired with the most successful James Bond film to date Thunderball, in what would be the second official 007 double-bill released by United Artists. Goldfinger was originally revived at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus for two weeks commencing Thursday June 20, 1968 (just five weeks after Operation Kid Brother starring Sean Connery's brother Neil had vacated the venue). This was immediately followed by Thunderball which played for another 13 days, finishing on July 16th to make way for the World Premiere of The Beatles Yellow Submarine. Along with Thunderball, the double-bill of Dr. No/From Russia With Love had proved to be one of the biggest money-spinners for distributor United Artists in 1965/66. In July 1968 Goldfinger/Thunderball was re-issued as a double-bill to play in the evenings as part of a new programme with Thunderbird 6 showing in the afternoon.

The National Screen Service once again produced an Exhibitors’ Campaign Book and poster for this re-release. Although not technically a triple-bill (Thunderbird 6 was designed to play matinees for children as a ‘U’ certificate; and the two Bonds for adults as ‘A’ certificates in the evenings), a full-colour quad-crown poster was produced and used in those cinemas which played all three films. Many cinemas chose to simply book Thunderbird 6; whilst others across the country opted for the 007 double-bill. A separate quad-crown poster was available for the two Bonds, but due to its uninspired design was rarely used. Some enterprising cinema managers simply created their own foyer display using two single double-crown posters (20" X 30") also available from the National Screen Service. Thunderbird 6 and Goldfinger/Thunderball played at cinemas on the Rank circuit in London and across the country during July and August 1968.

Thunderball London Pavilion 1968

Thunderbird 6 - Goldfinger/Thunderball quad crown poster 1968

ABOVE: UK quad-crown poster [30" X 40"] for those cinemas that screened Thunderbird 6 and Goldfinger/Thunderball. BELOW: (left) What's On IN LONDON magazine promoting the ‘New Idea In Entertainment’ which played in North London from Sunday July 28, 1968 and South London cinemas from August 4, 1968. The three films had first opened in larger cities north of the border from Monday July 15, 1968 as the Scottish summer school holiday traditionally started a week earlier than in England. The trio films also played across the UK in late July/August 1968. (right) The ODEON Oxford Road in Manchester [pictured below] screened the three films from July 28th, but they did not reach provincial Manchester cinemas until the end of September.

What's On In London magazine July 26, 1968/ODEON Oxford Road Manchester

United Artists’ concept of ‘A New Idea In Entertainment’ was a very short-lived experiment and lasted only six weeks (the length of the UK school summer holidays) in 1968. The idea of two different programmes on the same day was not repeated, although a few provincial cinemas did revive the programme just after Christmas 1968, where once again they had a captive audience. This was generally in those cities which had not originally booked Thunderbird 6 in the summer, and could therefore advertise it as a premiere engagement.

Goldfinger/Thunderball quad crown and double crown posters

ABOVE: (left) The extremely rare UK quad-crown poster available for those provincial cinemas which chose to play the Goldfinger/Thunderball double-bill. (right) Goldfinger and Thunderball double-crown posters [20" X 30"] were available to cinema managers wanting to create their own foyer displays.

“Double the danger!”
You Only Live Twice
was released again on a double-bill with Dr. No at the London Pavilion for two-weeks from Thursday February 27, 1969. An alternate double-bill of You Only Live Twice/From Russia With Love also played concurrently at the 1,934-seat New Victoria cinema (Now the Apollo Victoria) for one-week. Both double-bills had new quad-crown posters available from the National Screen Service, and went on general release across the UK from Sunday March 23, 1969. Since Sean Connery's announcement that You Only Live Twice would be his last James Bond film, no official advertising for the double-bills connected his name with that of James Bond, and these posters simply stated ‘Starring Sean Connery’. It was not until his return in Diamonds Are Forever was announced in 1971, that posters once more linked him to the character.

Dr. No/You Only Live Twice London Pavilion 1969

ABOVE: Dr. No/You Only Live Twice played at the London Pavilion for two weeks from Thursday February 27, 1969.
BELOW: A alternate double-bill of You Only Live Twice/From Russia With Love played at the New Victoria for one week commencing Thursday February 27, 1969. Both double-bills then went on general release across the UK from Sunday March 23, 1969 accompanied by alternate quad-crown posters. Note that the advertisement block pictured below utilises line drawings of the From Russia With Love poster artwork not seen on any other publicity for the film. Although
Renato Fratini's original illustration of Sean Connery was later used on the cover of the booklet for the January 1980 James Bond Season screened at the National Film Theatre on London's South Bank. The original advertising campaign for From Russia With Love (1963) utilised a revised version of Fratini's artwork.

You Only Live Twice/From Russia With Love New Victoria 1969
Dr. No/You Only Live Twice (1969)

You Only Live Twice/From Russia With Love (1969)

The two double-bills were offered as a ‘Split Release’, but instead of a choice from two different films screened on the Rank distribution circuit in any one week, cinemas had the option to show You Only Live Twice with either Dr. No or From Russia With Love. Following the general release of the two double-bills across the UK, Sean Connery's five James Bond films were then withdrawn from circulation at the end of 1969.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster Shaftesbury Avenue 1969

ABOVE: Shaftesbury Avenue 1969. Advertising hoardings announce the forthcoming release of On Her Majesty's Secret Service at the ODEON Leicester Square; and The Lion In Winter (1968) which was currently showing at the ODEON Haymarket. Both films featured a soundtrack by John Barry who would win a second Academy Award for his outstanding score for The Lion In Winter; the film also marked the screen debut of a 22 year-old Timothy Dalton playing opposite Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole. The Lion In Winter played for an unbroken 78-weeks at the ODEON Haymarket from December 1968 - July 1970!

“Far Up! Far Out! Far More!”
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had its Royal Charity Premiere at the ODEON Leicester Square on Thursday December 18, 1969. New Bond George Lazenby attended the event alongside co-star Diana Rigg. Also attending were producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, director Peter Hunt, composer John Barry and Thunderball producer Kevin McClory. The premiere's after party was held at the Café Royal on Regent Street, where among the invited guests were Ian Fleming's widow Ann (1913-1981) and son Caspar (1952-1975).

On Her Majesty's Secret Service Odeon Leicester Square 1969

On Her Majesty's Secret Service then had a trade show at the London Pavilion on Friday December 19th at 10.30am, with the first public screening at the ODEON Leicester Square at 11.35am on the same day. The ODEON also hosted another late-night charity show on December 20, 1969.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service premiere

ABOVE: (left) George Lazenby arrives at the ODEON Leicester Square accompanied by actress Polly Williams. Lazenby had announced his resignation from the role of James Bond on 23rd November 1969 and the producers then refused to pay him to do any publicity for the film. In early December the actor undertook his own self-funded press tour to promote the film in the USA and arrived back in England on 18th December sporting a full beard, which he refused to shave off for the premiere. (top right) The spiral-bound On Her Majesty's Secret Service premiere brochure bore no mention of Lazenby's name on the cover. (bottom right) George Lazenby and co-star Diana Rigg at the On Her Majesty's Secret Service premiere at the ODEON Leicester Square on the evening of Thursday December 18, 1969.
BELOW: (left) Thunderball producer Kevin McClory with On Her Majesty's Secret Service co-producer Harry Saltzman (right) composer John Barry is presented to HRH The Duchess of Kent at the premiere of On Her Majesty' Secret Service. To his left are associate producer Stanley Sopel and director Peter Hunt.

Thunderball producer Kevin McClory with On Her Majesty's Secret Service co-producer Harry Saltzman | composer John Barry is presented to HRH The Duchess of Kent at the premiere of On Her Majesty' Secret Service. To his left are associate producer Stanley Sopel and director Peter Hunt.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service broke the all-time house record at the ODEON Leicester Square set by You Only Live Twice, taking £22,883 in its second week of release - a fact United Artists were only too happy to celebrate.

George Lazenby’s only Bond outing was also hugely popular across the UK and was still on release provincially nine months after its initial opening. The lack of new films meant that some cities such as Manchester were playing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service at three cinemas simultaneously in September 1970. This no doubt contributed to its overall success at the box-office during the initial release. United Artists succeeded in luring Sean Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever, and in a 1971 interview for the BBC he famously commented on the lack of success of its predecessor. The US release of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was initially hampered by the New York Times listing it as one of the 10 worst films of 1969, although many other US newspapers gave the film more positive reviews.

A disastrous US TV showing in 1976 (re-edited and screened over two nights) didn’t help matters. The myth that OHMSS was a box-office disaster perpetuated for many years resulting in it becoming the black sheep of the franchise, only being finally restored to the position it now holds through the emergence of Bond fandom in the early 1980s, and its continued championing in 007 MAGAZINE.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service box-office

After six weeks at the ODEON Leicester Square, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service then transferred to the London Pavilion on Thursday January 29, 1970 where it played for a further seven weeks until Wednesday March 18, 1970. For the first three weeks On Her Majesty's Secret Service also played concurrently at the New Victoria.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service newspaper ad

On Her Majesty's Secret Service then transferred to the Cinecenta in Panton Street (just off Leicester Square and Haymarket), for three weeks commencing Thursday March 19, 1970. For the first week it played on the 138-seat Screen 1, then moving to the 145-seat Screen 4 from Sunday March 29th. Opened in January 1969, the Cinecenta was Europe's first four-in-one cinema. After several take-overs and name changes the cinema is now called the ODEON Luxe Haymarket. On Her Majesty's Secret Service also played concurrently at the small 187-seat Cameo-Poly cinema on Regent Street (part of the Classic chain) for three weeks from Thursday March 19, 1970.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service London Pavilion 1970
ABOVE: Piccadilly Circus 1970. On Her Majesty's Secret Service plays at the London Pavilion following its initial engagement at the ODEON Leicester Square.

A handful of outer London towns including Watford and Reading played On Her Majesty's Secret Service for two weeks from Sunday February 1, 1970 where it was advertised as a special pre-release presentation. The film then had regional midnight premieres in several UK cities on Saturday February 28, 1970 - the day before its general release across the country. Although On Her Majesty's Secret Service continued to be shown across the UK throughout 1970 and early 1971, it would be another nine-months before it was seen again in London's West End. George Lazenby's only outing as 007 then played for seven days at the Classic cinema on Baker Street from Sunday January 10, 1971. The Kensington Post newspaper commented at the time that this was a rare opportunity to see the film with Bond Mark II, who wasn't as bad as the critics made him out to be. The 400-seat Classic cinema on Praed Street then screened On Her Majesty's Secret Service for seven days from Thursday April 1, 1971, after which the film became increasingly hard to see until its 1974 re-release with Live And Let Die.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service London Pavilion 1970

None of Sean Connery's James Bond films were screened in the UK whilst On Her Majesty's Secret Service was on release. Unlike Casino Royale (1967), which was more popular in London than in the suburbs, On Her Majesty's Secret Service proved more successful in the provinces, with many cinemas holding the film over for several weeks. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was later re-issued twice more on double-bills with Live And Let Die in 1974, and Diamonds Are Forever in 1976 (and provincially in 1978). Although George Lazenby had announced that he would not be playing 007 again, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service went on to become the highest grossing film of 1970 in the UK. Cinema attendance across the world was by then at an all-time low, and many box-office failures in genres that were normally hugely successful, had changed the way films were made and marketed in the next decade.


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