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EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE

 
 


 In the second part of an exclusive article KEVIN HARPER takes a fascinating look at the
release schedules of the James Bond films in London's West End (and beyond) from 1985 to date.

Goodby Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square

In the days before the multiplex cinema and the ability to watch the James Bond series in your own home, each new 007 adventure usually opened in London before transferring to the provinces and a wider general release. From 1962 to 1983 (with a few exceptions) each new film in the series had premiered at either the London Pavilion cinema on Piccadilly Circus, or the Odeon Leicester Square. The London Pavilion had been operated by film distributor United Artists as their flagship venue since 1934, and eventually closed as a cinema in April 1981. Although the Odeon Leicester Square subsequently played each film in the series after Octopussy in 1983, it was not always the venue chosen for the world premiere of the film. Several films in the series first opened in the USA, and more recent films have premiered at The Royal Albert Hall before transferring to the Odeon Leicester Square for their main London engagement. Only Die Another Day (2002) did not initially play at the Odeon Leicester Square, instead spending six weeks at the Odeon Marble Arch following its premiere at the Royal Albert Hall as the 2002 Royal Film Performance. The film later played at the Odeon Mezzanine (part of the Odeon Leicester Square complex) for eight weeks from January to March 2003.

Thunderball London Pavilion 1966/Octopussy Odeon Leicester Square 1983

ABOVE: (left) Thunderball at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus in March 1966 and (right) Octopussy at the Odeon Leicester Square in June 1983. For 21 years these cinemas had been the only two London venues where the James Bond films had premiered, and where they all played on their original West End release and later as double-bills.

The 1980s brought wider release patterns and the production of more 35mm prints, so it was usually possible to see a new film in the provinces at the same time as its London engagement. Since the advent of digital cinema the need for prints of any kind was removed and the identical image can now be seen at multiple venues simultaneously. The days of a spliced, faded, jerky print was gone, and all films now took on a uniform look which is then replicated for their home cinema release. But before we reach the era of the pixel, let us take a journey back to the time when Roger Moore's swansong as 007 conquered the box office, and when it was still only a two-year wait to see the next film in the series.

“Has James Bond Finally Met His Match?”
In September 1984 the last official double-bill of Octopussy/For Your Eyes Only was playing at the Plaza 2 cinema, Piccadilly Circus - a few hundred yards away from the London Pavilion, where all of the earlier Bond films had played at some point in the past two decades up until its closure in April 1981. Both films had been very successful at the UK box-office when first released; but the double-bill struggled to fill cinemas when originally reissued in early 1984, with the Odeon Southampton recording just 373 admissions for the one week it played on the smaller of their two screens. Octopussy had originally played at the Odeon Southampton for 12-weeks in the summer of 1983, and For Your Eyes Only for 14-weeks in 1981.

Warner Home Video advertisements June 1982 - September 1984

The 1980s had seen the boom in videotape rental in the UK, and in June 1982 From Russia With Love and Goldfinger were the first two James Bond films issued on VHS and Betamax by Warner Home Video. By September 1984 all films up to and including Octopussy were available to rent from your local video store and played in the comfort of your own home. Although the videos were panned & scanned editions of the films and inferior in quality to actual broadcast television, copies were so widely available and at modest cost, the home video market finally began to make a significant dent in cinema box-office takings in the ensuing decade. With Roger Moore firmly established as James Bond, many viewers were now seeing the Sean Connery films for the first time and re-evaluating his tenure as 007. Television screenings of the James Bond films on ITV became more frequent, and in October 1984 when Octopussy premiered on The Movie Channel (a cable subscription service operated by Rediffusion) this was the first network to broadcast an official Bond film other than ITV who had held the UK rights since 1975. With multiple screenings across the month at different times, this is still the model operated by satellite channels to this day. Octopussy did not have its terrestrial TV premiere on the ITV network until January 1988.

British Film Year 1985

UK cinema attendance had fallen dramatically in the early 1980s and dropped to an all-time low in 1984 with just 54-million admissions for the year. Although this was the time of the summer blockbuster, when one film dominated the cinematic landscape across the country for a few months, the James Bond films found it harder to compete with US releases. Although hugely successful, the release of Octopussy in 1983 fell way short of the huge box-office takings of Return of the Jedi, the then final instalment in the Star Wars series. In order to compete with the home entertainment market, 1985 was designated ‘British Film Year’ by the British Film Institute, and the celebration featured a year-long series of special screenings and investment in multiplex cinemas, which gave a much-needed boost to an ailing industry. Distributors made a concerted effort to convince audiences that cinema was still the best place to see a film, and attendance did rise to 72 million in 1985 steadily increasing year-on-year ever since, and by 2019 had reached 176-million admissions in the UK. By the mid-1980s many venues had been split into smaller screens making the choice more varied, but several West End cinemas still had one screen and a large auditorium. The Odeon Leicester Square retained its 1,683-seats divided between the Royal Circle, Rear Circle and Stalls until 1990.

A View To A Kill Odeon Leicester Square 1985

The James Bond films had become broader and more comedic in their attempt to appeal to the changing tastes of cinema audiences, which were now largely driven by the excesses of American blockbusters. Roger Moore's final outing as 007 was no exception and became the first James Bond film to be largely filmed in the United States (although earlier entries in the series since Goldfinger had been partly filmed in the USA) and with a predominantly American cast. The co-operation afforded EON Productions by the San Francisco Mayor's office gave them unprecedented access to roads and buildings in the city for the filming of A View To A Kill in 1984. The filmmakers showed their gratitude by holding the World Premiere of the film at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco on May 22, 1985.

A View To A Kill San Fransisco premiere invite

A View To A Kill San Fransisco premiere 1985

(left) Mayor Dianne Feinstein with Roger Moore at the World Premiere of A View To A Kill held at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco on May 22, 1985. (right) Moore signs autographs for the waiting fans as EON Productions Director of Marketing Jerry Juroe tries to move him on.

ABOVE: (top left) A View To A Kill world premiere invitation (top right) The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco May 22, 1985 (bottom left) Mayor Dianne Feinstein with Roger Moore at the World Premiere of A View To A Kill (bottom right) Moore signs autographs for the waiting fans as EON Productions' Director of Marketing Jerry Juroe tries to move him on.

Following the US opening, A View To A Kill then received its Royal Charity Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on Wednesday June 12, 1985 in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales. The event was attended by Roger Moore, co-stars Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones and Patrick Macnee. Producer Albert R. Broccoli was accompanied by his wife Dana. Also attending were director John Glen, composer John Barry and members of the pop group Duran Duran, whose appearance garnered as much media attention as that of the Princess. Their title song remains the only James Bond theme to have reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100; it also made it to number two for three weeks in the UK Singles Chart at the time of the films' release in 1985. Along with Adele's 2012 hit “Skyfall”, “A View To A Kill” would be the highest charting James Bond title song in the UK until Sam Smith's “Writing's On The Wall” reached the number one position during the release of Spectre in 2015.

A View To A Kill London premiere Odeon Leicester Square

ABOVE: (top left) HRH Princess Diana meets Grace Jones and Patrick Macnee and (top right) Roger Moore whose final James Bond film this would be. (bottom left) A magazine advertisement announcing the release of A View To A Kill (bottom right) The Odeon Leicester Square hosted the Royal Charity Premiere of A View To A Kill on the evening of Wednesday June 12, 1985.

A View To A Kill continued to play at the Odeon Leicester Square until August 22, 1985 and then transferred to the Odeon Marble Arch where it replaced Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The Odeon Marble Arch at that time had the largest cinema screen in the country (75 feet wide x 30 feet high) and A View To A Kill continued to play there until October 31, 1985.

A View To A Kill Plaza Piccadilly 1985

With many cinemas now converted to multi-screen venues, A View To A Kill also later played for 18-weeks at the Plaza cinema, Piccadilly Circus from Friday September 27, 1985. For the first two-weeks A View To A Kill played at the Plaza 1, followed by three-weeks at the 183-seat Plaza 4, and a further thirteen-weeks at the 163-seat Plaza 3. The general release of Roger Moore's last James Bond film began in major cities on June 14, and coastal resorts from July 5, with a London-wide release from July 19, 1985. The general release of A View To A Kill was timed to coincide with the school summer holidays and its box-office success was boosted by unusually poor weather that year, forcing many people off the beaches and into the cinema.

Despite the success of A View To A Kill at the box-office, many thought that aged 58 its star was far too old to continue playing James Bond, and the films were becoming increasingly comedic and far-fetched because of it. This was an opinion shared by Roger Moore, who formally announced his retirement from the role of James Bond on December 3, 1985.

Pierce Brosnan Screen Test

“A new 007?”
With the departure of Roger Moore after a 12-year tenure, the search was on to find a new James Bond. On June 27, 1986 the British press reported that Pierce Brosnan would be officially announced as the next James Bond following screen tests and a meeting he had with producer Albert R. Broccoli earlier in the week. The actor took part in a screen test (left), discussed the role and had a series of special photographs taken at Pinewood Studios with Broccoli and director John Glen. Pierce Brosnan's availability following the cancellation of his US TV-series Remington Steele meant that he could start filming The Living Daylights in the Autumn of 1986. With renewed interest in the actor, production company MTM Enterprises reversed their decision to cancel the show, and Brosnan was obliged to fulfil the final year of his seven-year contract and work on the fifth season of Remington Steele. Bond Producer Albert R. Broccoli was therefore forced to continue testing more actors in a bid to find the new 007. Eventually it was announced on August 7, 1986 that Timothy Dalton (who had been considered twice before for the role) would play James Bond in The Living Daylights.

“The new James Bond... living on the edge”
A few weeks before The Living Daylights received its first public screening and whilst still in the editing stage, low-grade videotapes purporting to be the new James Bond film were circulating in the UK. These tapes were compiled from unedited footage stolen during production and missing key action sequences, major special effects and all the music. Worried that the tapes would damage the films box-office takings, EON Productions and distributor United Artists produced warning posters which began to appear in the London Underground and across the country in the weeks leading up to the world premiere.

The Living Daylights Royal World Charity Premiere Odeon Leicester Square 1987

Timothy Dalton's debut as James Bond was first screened in London for the press on the morning of Monday June 29, 1987 at the Leicester Square Theatre. As the reviewers and critics watched the film, 100-yards away the Odeon Leicester Square was being prepared for that evening's Royal World Charity Premiere. Leicester Square itself was renamed ‘James Bond Square’ for the day, and huge crowds gathered outside the Odeon to watch contractors erect the huge exterior hoarding featuring the colourful poster artwork centred around the iconic gunbarrel. The Aston Martin V8 Volante from the film was also on display in the square throughout the day, and director John Glen chatted with fans as the preparations for that evening's premiere began. Press reviews were generally very enthusiastic and highlighted the return to a ‘classic’ Bond film, with little of the humour and excess associated with the series in the latter years. From the moment Timothy Dalton walked through Leicester Square accompanied by co-star Maryam d'Abo he was James Bond, and the large crowds enthusiastically applauded and cheered as he made his way to the premiere.

The Living Daylights Odeon Leicester Square 1987

The Royal World Charity Premiere was once again held in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales, and also attended by Producer Albert R. Broccoli accompanied by his wife Dana, co-producer (and co-screenwriter) Michael G. Wilson, actors Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, Caroline Bliss, Art Malik and Andreas Wisniewski, composer John Barry (whose last Bond score this would be), and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders who sang ‘Where Has Everybody Gone?’, and ‘If There Was A Man’ in the film. Also attending the premiere was James Bond continuation author John Gardner, whose sixth 007 novel NO DEALS MR. BOND had been published a month earlier.

The Living Daylights Odeon Leicester Square

The James Bond series celebrated its 25th Anniversary in style, and The Living Daylights opened to the public at the Odeon Leicester Square and Odeon Marble Arch (below) on June 30, 1987 where it played for 14-weeks, and across the country throughout July playing at Odeon and Cannon cinemas.

The Living Daylights Odeon Marble Arch

After eleven weeks at the Odeon Leicester Square, The Living Daylights transferred to the Plaza 1, off Piccadilly Circus from Friday September 11, 1987 where it played for a further four-weeks. On October 9, 1987, The Living Daylights also opened at the Empire 2, Leicester Square where it played for seven-weeks; before transferring to the smaller 80-seat Empire 3 for a further eleven-weeks, finishing its West End run on Thursday February 11, 1988. The Empire was another larger cinema which had been converted into a multi-screen venue in 1985 and incorporated part of the old Ritz cinema into its new configuration. Timothy Dalton's debut as 007 became the most successful film released in the UK in 1987 taking £5.5 million at the box-office.

The Living Daylights (1987) Empire Leicester Square/Cannon Ionic


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