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“A James Bond Festival”
In the days when Bond could only be seen in cinemas there were a multitude of prints of each film in circulation of varying quality. Many of the 35mm prints had been shipped around the country and became damaged through continued use. This meant that the Bond films could look completely different depending on where you saw them. The version of The Spy Who Loved Me shown in Aberdeen could be faded, spliced and even missing frames when it finally ended up in Bristol. In the days when films were a commodity it was unusual for new prints to be struck unless they were classics or prestigious art films screened at the National Film Theatre.

A James Bond Festival - London Pavilion 1980
A James Bond Festival - London Pavilion 1980

Six new prints were struck however, for a season of back-to-back Connery/Moore James Bond films shown at the London Pavilion from October 30 - November 12, 1980. Advertised as ‘A James Bond Festival’, no special poster was created but the advertising hoardings outside the cinema adapted the 1965 back-to-back artwork and stuck Roger Moore’s head on Sean Connery’s body. The six films alternated for the two-week engagement - Dr. No was shown with Moonraker on Sunday, Monday & Tuesday; Diamonds Are Forever was paired with The Man With The Golden Gun on Wednesday & Thursday, with From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me screening on Friday & Saturday.

The festival was then replaced by a two-week screening of Terror Train - a 1980 Canadian-American slasher film which marked the directorial debut of Roger Spottiswoode, who would later helm Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. The James Bond Festival resumed for another week commencing Thursday November 27, 1980 and then another break when the London Pavilion screened other United Artists distributed films in December 1980 and January 1981, including a double-bill of A Fistful of Dollars/Rollerball. The James Bond Festival returned to the London Pavilion for two more weeks on Thursday January 22, 1981.

The prints used for this festival were struck from the original negatives and looked far better than any others screened since the films initial release, although by now the venue itself was looking decidedly shabby. The Odeon Leicester Square is often called ‘the home of James Bond’, but it is the London Pavilion that had screened all ten 007 films at some point during the last decade (Dr. No did not screen at the Odeon; and Thunderball was only shown there for the press on December 27, 1965).

A James Bond Festival - London Pavilion 1980

Moonraker/The Spy Who Loved Me double-bill

For Your Eyes Only newspaper advertisement

“No one comes close to James Bond 007”
The London Pavilion closed as a cinema on April 26, 1981 although its outside hoarding was used to advertise For Your Eyes Only, which would open at the Odeon Leicester Square in the Summer, where it played until early September. Before the release of Roger Moore’s fifth outing as 007, a brief re-release of Moonraker/The Spy Who Loved Me opened at the Dominion, Tottenham Court Road where it played for the first two weeks of April 1981. For Your Eyes Only screened for the press on the morning of Tuesday June 23 at the Odeon Leicester Square, and then had its Royal Charity Premiere on the evening of Wednesday June 24, 1981 in the presence of Prince Charles and fiancé Lady Diana Spencer. Also attending were stars Roger Moore, Topol, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Julian Glover and main title singer Sheena Easton.

For Your Eyes Only Odeon Leicester Square 1981

ABOVE: (top left) The London Pavilion in 1981 advertises the release of For Your Eyes Only at the Odeon Leicester Square (top right) The morning of Wednesday June 24, 1981 - contractors work on the Odeon Leicester Square display ahead of that evening's premiere (bottom left) Roger Moore and Julian Glover with For Your Eyes Only main title singer/performer Sheena Easton (bottom right) The bronze Lotus Esprit featured in the film outside the Odeon Leicester Square on premiere night.

Cassandra Harris also attended the For Your Eyes Only premiere with her husband Pierce Brosnan. It was Topol who suggested to producer Albert R. Broccoli that he should also invite his former partner Harry Saltzman and the pair were reunited for the first time in several years. Harry Saltzman attended with his children Hilary and Christopher. The For Your Eyes Only premiere was one of Saltzman's first public appearances following the death of his wife Jacqueline in 1980. Following the release of Dr. No in 1962, producers Broccoli and Saltzman founded a company responsible for the copyright and trademarks to the characters, elements, and other material related to James Bond on screen. The company was called Danjaq, a combination of Broccoli and Saltzman's respective wives' names Dana and Jacqueline. Their sister company EON Productions was responsible for the actual production of the films. In 1975 Harry Saltzman's personal financial difficulties forced him to sell his 50% share of Danjaq to United Artists.

ABOVE: (left) Harry Saltzman (with children Hilary and Christopher) attended the For Your Eyes Only premiere after an invitation from his former partner Albert R. Broccoli. The pair were reunited for the first time in many years. (right) Cassandra Harris also attended accompanied by her husband Pierce Brosnan.
BELOW: (left) For You Eyes Only played for 11-weeks at London's Odeon Leicester Square from 24 June - 5 September 1981 ending it's West End run with a 7-week engagement at the Plaza Piccadilly Circus (right) from Sunday December 27, 1981 - Saturday February 13, 1982.

For Your Eyes Only Odeon Leicester Square/Plaza Piccadilly

For Your Eyes Only was seen by the public from Thursday June 25th and set an all-time opening-day record for any film at any cinema in the UK with a gross of £14,998, continuing to play at the Odeon Leicester Square for 11-weeks following its Royal Premiere, and also at the Odeon Marble Arch for 12-weeks from Sunday August 23, 1981. Roger Moore's fourth James Bond film then had a 15-week run at the Classic cinema in Oxford Street from Sunday September 6, 1981, and a 5-week engagement at the Ritz in Leicester Square from Sunday November 29th. For Your Eyes Only finished its West End run with a 7-week engagement at the Plaza Piccadilly Circus, playing in the 181-seat screen 4.

For Your Eyes Only/Moonraker double-bill

Octopussy London Pavilion

For Your Eyes Only/Moonraker newspaper advertisement

For Your Eyes Only was then later re-issued on a double-bill with Moonraker at the Classic, Haymarket and Oxford Street cinemas for five weeks commencing July 2, 1982. The UK video rights to the James Bond films were acquired by Warner Home Video and their first releases in June 1982 were From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. The VHS and Betamax releases of all titles up to and including For Your Eyes Only were leased by video stores and available to rent by June 1984. It would be another five years before all the films up to and including A View To A Kill were available to own as sell-through titles. By December 1982 all James Bond films up to and including Moonraker had also now been shown on UK television.

1983 marked the 21st anniversary of James Bond in the cinema and Octopussy was advertised on the outside hoarding of the London Pavilion prior to its June premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square.

Octopussy Press show invite-premiere brochure and ticket
Octopussy Premiere Odeon Liecester Square

“James Bond's All Time High”
The 13th film in the official series was screened for the press on the morning of Monday June 6, 1983 at the Plaza cinema, Piccadilly Circus. Octopussy then had its Royal World Charity Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square later that evening. The premiere was attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, stars Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan (with his wife Berte), Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, producer Albert R. Broccoli and director John Glen.

Octopussy Premiere Odeon Leicester Square

After nine days at the Odeon Leicester Square the film had broken the house record taking £113,704. After the first five weeks playing exclusively at the Odeon Leicester Square Octopussy had taken £426,773, which was then an all-time record for any film that played there. Octopussy moved to the Empire 2, Leicester Square from August 17, 1983, and then opened at the Odeon Marble Arch the following day where it played in a 70mm version on the largest cinema screen in the country. Both cinemas retained Octopussy until December 8, 1983.

Octopussy box-office Odeon Liecester Square

“Double Double-O-Seven”
Although billed in the press as ‘The Battle of the Bonds’, Sean Connery’s comeback as 007 in Never Say Never Again didn’t really amount to a battle at the cinema as the films were never really in direct competition in the UK. Octopussy screened across the country from June to December 1983; whilst Never Say Never Again didn’t play in London until December 14, 1983 (it had opened in the USA on October 7, 1983). However, the presence of a rival James Bond film clearly concerned EON Productions and UIP (the then distributors of the Bond films in the UK).

Octopussy & Never Say Never Again press blocks

A week before the opening of Never Say Never Again a triple-bill of Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only and Thunderball opened at the 1,330-seat Empire 1 cinema, Leicester Square, which then had a huge screen (60 feet wide by 25 feet high). The print of Thunderball was struck from the original negative in 1979 and was a clear signal to the makers of the rival film that although Roger Moore was the ‘official’ James Bond, it was Sean Connery in the same series that made the Never Say Never Again story first! Only one print of Thunderball was in circulation at that time, so at the Odeon Marble Arch Diamonds Are Forever was substituted in its place. A hand-lettered text only quad-crown poster was created for the Marble Arch screening. The three films screened for two weeks from Friday December 9, 1983 at the Empire 1; and one extra day the the Odeon Marble Arch. Octopussy then screened at the Odeon Marble Arch on its own on Christmas Eve and then played briefly on a double-bill with For Your Eyes Only at the Cinecenta 5, Panton Street for the last week of December, and later at the Classic 1, Oxford Street in January 1984. Following its two-week run in London, the print of Thunderball was returned to the Rank Film Depot in Birmingham, and sometime in 1984 was thrown out with many old and damaged prints when the depot ceased operation.

Triple Bill 1983

Never Say Never Again was first shown in London on the morning of Sunday November 13, 1983 at the Warner West End cinema, Leicester Square. The special screening, at the invitation of distributors Columbia-EMI-Warner, was essentially for crew members prior to the films UK release. The print screened included the uncut version of the scene where Bond, with Domino, ride a horse over the parapet of the fortress where 007 has been kept prisoner by Largo. The RSPCA took exception to the scene on the grounds of alleged animal cruelty, as the horse is clearly seen hitting the water from a great height, and persuaded the British Board of Film Censors to cut the film before its release in the UK. All subsequent UK prints feature a re-edited version of this scene removing the horse hitting the water and using an alternate angle of the horse swimming away safely. Also, in the scene where Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) knocks Bond off the Q motorbike and instructs him to throw his Walther P5 to the ground, the sound effect on the preview print made the gun sound like it was a child’s hollow plastic toy hitting the ground; in all subsequent prints the sound effect was changed to make it sound like a heavy metal firearm had been tossed on to the concrete floor.

Sean Connery interviewed by Ian Johnstone at the NFT 1983

Sean Connery was honoured with a Guardian Lecture at the National Film Theatre on London's South Bank on the evening of Tuesday December 13, 1983, where he was interviewed on stage by film critic Ian Johnstone. The NFT had devoted the first two weeks of December to a retrospective of Connery's most important films, starting with a double-bill of Dr. No/From Russia With Love.

NFT booklet December 1983

Never Say Never Again (1983)
Never Say Never Again London premiere - Warner West End
Never Say Never Again London press advertisement

Never Say Never Again then had its Royal Charity Premiere at the Warner West End cinema on the evening of Wednesday December 14, 1983 in the presence of Prince Andrew. Sean Connery attended along with his second wife Micheline and his brother Neil. Director Irvin Kershner also attended with Kevin McClory, Barbara Carrera and Rowan Atkinson. Never Say Never Again then played at seven other selected cinemas in London from Thursday December 15th, and then all over London and the rest of the UK from Friday December 16, 1983. Never Say Never Again did not have the staying power of earlier James Bond films, and had more or less finished its provincial theatrical engagements shortly before its Warner Home Video rental release in June 1984.

Although ultimately not as successful as Octopussy, the distributors were quick to announce the initial box-office take after the first week of release in 237 theatres. As the Warner West End cinema was then a five-screen complex, Never Say Never Again had its Royal Charity Premiere on Screen 1; replacing Richard Attenborough's Gandhi for that one night only, with the cinema closed to the public for the whole day. Never Say Never Again played at Screen 2 for six weeks from Thursday December 15, 1983; moving to screen 4 for another six weeks from Friday January 27, 1984. Never Say Never Again then moved to screen 5 for a further 28 weeks from Friday March 9, 1984, ffinishing its West End engagement on Thursday September 20, 1984, after a staggering 9 months!

Although Never Say Never Again had its UK television premiere on Christmas Day 1986 on the ITV network, it was later screened on BBC1 on January 1, 1996, and again on December 26th of the same year.

Octopussy/For Your Eyes Only Double-Bill Quad crown poster

London Pavilion 1985 advertising A View To A Kill

ABOVE: (left) The final UK double-bill Quad Crown poster (right) Although the London Pavilion had closed as a cinema in 1981, its exterior hoarding was used to advertise the next James Bond film, A View To A Kill, which had its Royal Charity premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on June 12, 1985.

“James Bond will return”
From the heights of ‘Bondmania’ two decades earlier when around 12,000 prints of Thunderball were in circulation across the world, the last remaining one suitable for cinema exhibition was junked in 1984. There was one last release of Octopussy and For Your Eyes Only which a had three-week run in London at the 378-seat Plaza 2, Piccadilly Circus from Friday August 24, 1984. The double-bill had already briefly played at the Classic 1, Oxford Street and and Cinecenta, Panton Street in the last week of December 1983. This final pairing had a very limited release in provincial cinemas in early 1984 and did not prove as successful as earlier revivals as both films were already available to rent on video.

UK cinema admissions had been steadily declining from the late 1950s to an all-time low of just 54-million in 1984, and with most films already available to rent on video (and bootleg copies of the film obtainable if you knew the right/wrong people), the golden age of cinema-going was coming to an end. Although each subsequent James Bond film has had a Royal Charity Premiere in London and initial release across the country, it is the home cinema market which now accounts for much of the series’ continued success.

From the early 1980s, video became more popular and affordable and TV screenings of the films increased in their frequency. Hardcore Bond fans could own flawless (by the standards of the day) copies on laserdisc – with making-of documentaries and rare behind-the-scenes material. The advent of DVD and subsequently Blu-ray, means that fans can now enjoy their favourites in a quality that far exceeds how the films looked on their original release in cinemas. Free from scratches, tears, missing frames and the well-remembered end of the reel snowstorm… but that was part of the fun, wasn’t it?

James Bond will return...

...in part two of this exclusive article

Goodby Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square
You Only Live Twice at the London Pavilion 1967

©007 MAGAZINE 2020
Part one first published February 25, 2016