Will creators be remembered for 2014 comic book movies?

John Romita Sr.'s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

John Romita Sr.’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

There’s a spoiler concerning Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the post below.

April 4 is the start of the comic book movie season with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The presence of SHIELD, Marvel’s spy organization, merits inclusion of the subject here. The film’s arrival raises the question how much recognition those who created the original source material will receive.

Movies made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios have settled into a pattern. The comic book creators aren’t included in the screenplay credit. But, for the most part, they show up in the long “crawl” of the end titles. Those who did the original comic story get a “based on the comic book by” credit and later there’s a “special thanks” credit for those who worked on stories the film’s writers used in crafting their story.

Example: the first Captain America film in 2011 had a credit for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who wrote and drew the original 1941 comic book. The “special thanks” credit included Kirby and Stan Lee, among others, who did various stories that helped form the final movie.

Meanwhile, movies where Marvel licensed characters haven’t even done that much. The X-Men movies and the 2003 Daredevil movie released by 20th Century Fox never mentioned the comic book creators, for example.

For that matter, DC Comics-based movies only reference comic book creators where Warner Bros. is contractually obligated to do so. So you’ll see Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s names on a Superman film as well as Bob Kane on a Batman film. But you won’t see Bill Finger, Mark Waid, John Broome, Gil Kane or others who did comic book stories that the movies used. Jerry Robinson got a consultant credit on 2008′s The Dark Knight that didn’t say he actually created The Joker.

Which brings us to Amazing Spider-Man 2, which Sony Corp. will release early next month, having licensed Spider-Man from Marvel. The Spider-Man movies released since 2002 do include Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the original creative team on Marvel’s most successful character.

Gerry Conway, who wrote Spider-Man stories in the 1970s, has taken to HIS TWITTER FEED to let folks know one of his stories — arguably his most important Spidey tale — figures into the 2014 movie.

I see in Entertainment Weekly that Spider-Man 2 is, in fact, based partly on my Amazing Spider-Man 121. Waiting for invite to premiere.

The Los Angeles Times noticed and a post on its Hero Complex blog. Conway’s original story included the death of a major character and there have been hints that will replicated with the 2014 movie.

In any event, many millions of dollars are riding on all this as Disney/Marvel, Sony and Fox all come out with superhero movies this year, with more scheduled for 2015 and 2016. None of those films would be possible without the comic book creators who, for the most part, aren’t with us. The likes of Kirby, Simon, Kane, Finger and others have died. Creators, such as Lee (91) and Ditko (86), are at an advanced age.

Only Stan Lee, with his gift of self promotion, is remembered by much of the population. Outside of comics fans, not many are aware the likes of Kirby, Finger, Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s brother), Don Heck, Dave Cockrum, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, etc., etc., etc., created the characters that are the foundations of the movies.

It’d be nice if that changed in 2014. But don’t count on it.

UPDATE (April 3): Gerry Conway says on Twitter he has been invited to the premier of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

What if the early 007 films had Marvel-style teasers?

drnoposter

Thor: The Dark World was the No. 1 movie at the U.S. box office this weekend with an estimated $86.1 million in ticket sales. It also continues the Marvel movie tradition, begun with 2008′s Iron Man, of having a teaser in the end titles for future film adventures.

By now, such teasers occur not only in the films made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. They’ve also become part of movies made by other studios, such as X-Men at 20th Century Fox and Spider-Man made at Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures.

So what would have been like if the early James Bond movies had such teasers? It was a different time back then, of course. Still, it might have gone something like this.

DR. NO

After the end titles roll, the screen goes black. We CUT TO:

INT.-DAY-BLOFELD’S OFFICE
BLOFELD, whose face, we can not see, is at his desk, petting his cat. The telephone RINGS and he answers.

BLOFELD
What’s that? Dr. No is dead? How?
(a beat)
Well, that makes me quite displeased. We should take note of this Mr. Bond.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

After the end titles roll, the screen goes black. We CUT TO:

INT.-DAY-M’S OFFICE
M is at his desk, smoking his pipe. His telephone RINGS and he answers.

M
Hello. What’s that? Unauthorized leakages? Involving gold? But why should it involve my deprtment?
(a beat)
Oh, I see. I’ll get our best man on it at once. He’s due back quite soon.

GOLDFINGER

INT.-DAY-BLOFELD’S OFFICE
Blofeld, whose face we still cannot see, is at his desk, petting his cat. The telephone rings and he answers.

BLOFELD
Yes, Number 2? Ah….splendid. Yes, please proceed. This will be the largest operation SPECTRE has ever undertaken. I am depending on you to make sure it becomes a reality.

Earlier posts:

MAY 2012: THE AVENGERS: THE POWER OF PLANNING

APRIL 2013: THE FAMILY MODEL (EON) VS. THE CORPORATE MODEL (MARVEL)

Sony watch: Company rejects shareholder’s demand

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UPDATE (Aug. 6): Third Point’s Daniel Loeb in an interview with Variety said his relations with Sony are just fine:

In an exclusive interview, Loeb, whose Third Point owns an estimated 7% of Sony, struck a much more conciliatory tone toward the Japanese electronics giant than he’s demonstrated in recent weeks. He praised Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai’s letter to him, calling it “thoughtfully written and detailed in its discussion of profitability and transparency. There was a lot there for shareholders to hang their hats on.”

In response, Nikki Finkke, the editor-in-chief of the Deadline entertainment Web site, wasn’t buying it IN A COMMENTARY. Here’s a partial quote:

So now Third Point hedge fund CEO Daniel Loeb claims today he’s backing off Sony. But only after the putz created chaos and confusion inside a stable and successful studio…Now Loeb will simply retreat to his $45 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West and dream home in East Hampton and not give Hollywood another thought until the next time he feels the urge to kvetch.

ORIGINAL POST (Aug. 5): Sony Corp.’s board rejected a proposal from a major shareholder to sell a piece of its entertainment business, which includes Sony Pictures, the studio that has released the last three James Bond movies.

Sony issued A STATEMENT that reads in part:

Sony Corporation today sent a letter to Third Point LLC following a unanimous vote of Sony’s Board of Directors. The letter outlines that the Board and management team strongly believe that continuing to own 100% of the Company’s entertainment businesses is fundamental to Sony’s success, and that a rights or public offering is not consistent with the Company’s strategy for achieving sustained growth in profitability and shareholder value.

Third Point, led by investor Daniel Loeb, wanted Sony to sell a piece of the entertainment business in an initial public offering. Third Point recently criticized management of the entertainment business for a couple of box-office duds. One prominent Hollywood actor-producer-director, George Clooney, spoke up in Sony’s defense in AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

For now, there’s no real effect on the Bond movies. Sony is slated to release its fourth 007 movie, the untitled Bond 24, in the fall of 2015. Third Point and Loeb presumably will remain a source of tension the management of Sony Pictures. The studio’s big properties in the coming years are Bond 24 and three scheduled Spider-Man movies in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Skyfall, last year’s Bond movie, sold about $1.1 billion in tickets worldwide. The New York Times reported in May that Skyfall didn’t generate that much profit for the company because Sony was third in line for the proceeds behind Eon Productions/Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Sony watch: investor criticizes movie unit

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A major Sony Corp. investor has stepped up criticism of the company’s movie unit, Sony Pictures, which releases James Bond films.

The hedge fund, in its SECOND-QUARTER LETTER TO ITS INVESTORS, said Sony Pictures, part of Sony’s entertainment business, this summer had “released 2013’s versions of Waterworld and Ishtar back-to-back” with After Earth and White House Down. “From a creative point of view, we are concerned about Entertainment’s 2014 and 2015 slate, which lacks lucrative `tent pole’ franchises. Anecdotally, we understand that its development pipeline is bleak, despite overspending on numerous projects.”

Sony schedule includes Spider-Man movies for 2014, 2016 and 2018 and Bond 24 for 2015. With the Bond films, Sony splits the take with Eon Productions/Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Sony has released the last three 007 films, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

Third Point wants Sony to sell a piece of the U.S. entertainment business to the public. The company is considering the proposal.

In the latest letter to investors, Third Point said the entertainment unit “remains poorly managed, with a famously bloated corporate structure, generous perk packages, high salaries for underperforming senior executives, and marketing budgets that do not seem to be in line with any sense of return on capital invested.”

You can view Variety’s take on what all this means BY CLICKING HERE. You can CLICK HERE for Deadline Hollywood’s story.

UPDATE: You can also CLICK HERE for a story in the Los Angeles Times.

Sony watch: investor raises stake in 007 distributor

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A major investor in Sony Corp., parent company of Sony Pictures, which released the last three 007 movies, has boosted its stake in the company.

Third Point LLC, controlled by billionaire Daniel Loeb, now holds 9.4 percent of Sony shares, according to a BLOOMBERG.COM STORY. That’s up from 6.5 percent previously.

Third Point wants Sony to sell 20 percent of its entertainment businesses, including Sony Pictures. The unit, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has released Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall from 2006 through 2012. Sony will also release the as-yet-unscheduled Bond 24.

Sony Pictures has been under pressure because it’s not as profitable as other studios, according to a MAY STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES despite its interest in 007, Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black movies.

Sony considers proposal to sell piece of entertainment unit

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Sony Corp.’s board is considering a proposal from a major shareholder to sell as much as 20 percent of its entertainment business, which includes the Sony movie studio, according to various reports, including BLOOMBERG.COM, THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The Columbia Pictures unit of Sony has released the last three James Bond movies from 2006 through 2012 and is contracted to distribute the next film, Bond 24, whenever it comes out.

The proposal to sell a piece of the entertainment business was made last week by investor Daniel Loeb and his Third Point LLC, which holds a 6.5 percent stake in Sony. An excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter story citing Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai:

“Firstly, I would like to clarify that the Third Point proposal is to sell off 15-20 percent of the entertainment division, not to spin it off as a separate entity,” said Hirai. “ We take this as an important proposal from one of our shareholders, and we will consider it thoroughly. We will discuss this fully at the board level and present our answer.”

The New York Times ran a MAY 19 REPORT about Sony Studios that said it wasn’t as profitable as other studios. The story cited Skyfall as an example. The Wilson-Broccoli family (referred to as the “James Bond rights holders”) got its cut and then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony split the remainder 75-25, according to the story.

To view a Bloomberg Television video about Sony, CLICK HERE.

Sony watch: studio facing challenges

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UPDATE (May 21): The Nikkei news service in Japan has reported that Sony Corp. is considering a spinoff of its entertainment business. Nikkei has an English Web site but to access THE STORY you have to be a subscriber. If you CLICK HERE, you can view a Los Angeles Times story that summarizes the Nikkei piece.

According to a BLOOMBERG.COM STORY, Sony shares climbed to their highest levels in more than two years after the Nikkei report.

ORIGINAL POST: The New York Times, IN THE LEAD STORY IN ITS MAY 19 BUSINESS SECTION has a detailed story about challenging times at Sony Pictures, the entertainment arm of Sony Corp.

One problem: it’s not as profitable as other studios, even with Agent 007 in its portfolio. According to reporters Brook Barnes and Michael Cieply, Sony’s operating margin was 6.5 percent and “figures at Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount and 20th Century Fox were all higher.”

Here’s an excerpt with part of the explanation:

SONY’S $4.4 billion in ticket sales last year was impressive, but shareholders care about profit margins.

The movie studio’s bottom line didn’t look better for several reasons. For one thing, about 75 percent of the “Skyfall” revenue went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after James Bond rights holders took their cut. Revenue from some DVD titles — “Zero Dark Thirty,” for instance — will come in the next fiscal year. But more important, “Men in Black 3” cost an arm and a leg, and when you’re making this many movies some are bound to miss: Sony’s hits were offset by the major flops “Total Recall” and Mr. (Adam) Sandler’s “That’s My Boy.”

Thus, in the case of Skyfall, which Sony distributed, the studio was third in line after the Broccoli-Wilson family and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Another challenge is investor Daniel Loeb, whose Third Point LLC, acquired a 6.5 percent stake and wants Sony Corp. to sell of 20 percent of its entertainment business and focus on its consumer electronics unit. Loeb, according to the Times, “specifically complained” about profitability of the entertainment unit. Sony said the entertainment business wasn’t up for sale.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures has distributed the last three 007 films (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) and is contracted to do so again for Bond 24 whenever it’s made.

For the complete NYT story, CLICK HERE. For more, you can CLICK HERE for a May 16 Bloomberg.com story headlined “Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Brakeup.” You can also CLICK HERE for a May 14 story by the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Skyfall: the billion-dollar Bond

The billion-dollar Bond

The billion-dollar Bond

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, is projected to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales today, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEB SITE.

Skyfall will sell an estimated $4.6 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, bringing its total in the region to $289.6 million. The 007 film has sold an estimated $710.6 million in other markets, according to the Web site which tracks movie ticket sales. The full estimated worldwide ticket sale figure as of today is $1,000,200,000, Box Office Mojo said. The actual U.S. weekend figure will be reported tomorrow. It’s possible if the actual weekend sales are revised lower that Skyfall would momentarily fall short of $1 billion.

Hitting the $1 billion mark puts Skyfall in the conversation for all-time 007 box-office champion even when adjusting for inflation. Thunderball has been No. 1 on the inflation-adjusted list, with amounts varying based on who is doing the calculations. Earlier this year, AFP-Relaxnews put Thunderball’s inflation-adjusted figure at $1.04 billion. Skyfall has yet to open in China, which will add to the movie’s take.

In the U.S., Skyfall is finishing 2012 as the No. 4 film, behind Marvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. Skyfall also looks likely to beat The Dark Knight Rises, at $1.08 billion, in worldwide ticket sales. Marvel’s The Avengers is No. 1 worldwide for 2012 at $1.5 billion.

UPDATE: A story in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER has some quotes from MGM and Sony executives about Skyfall reaching the $1 billion milestone.

007 vanquishes the vampires; Skyfall No. 1 at U.S. box office

"Vampires? What vampires?"

“Vampires? What vampires?”

James Bond vanquished the vampires as Skyfall retook the No. 1 U.S. box office title this weekend, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The 23rd 007 film generated an estimated $11 million in ticket sales for the Dec. 7-9 weekend, ahead of Rise of the Guardians at $10.5 million and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 at $9.2 million, according to the Web site of the trade publication. Final figures will be reported Dec. 10.

Skyfall held the No. 1 spot the weekend of Nov. 9-11, when it opened. It has stayed at No. 2 behind the last film in the Twilight series about young vampires ever since. Twilight’s gap, though, had narrowed. Last weekend, Twilight’s lead was less than $1 million at $17.4 million to $16.6 million for Skyfall.

On a daily basis, Skyfall first regained the lead on Dec. 1, yielded it on Dec. 2-3 and then grabbed it back starting on Dec. 4, according to charts on the Box Office Mojo Web site.

Skyfall’s U.S.-Canada ticket sales had reached $253.7 million and $876.7 million worldwide as of Dec. 7, according to Box Office Mojo.

UPDATE: Box Office Mojo has updated Skyfall’s estimated cumulative ticket sales through Dec. 9 to $261.6 million in the U.S. and Canada and $918.2 million worldwide.

UPDATE II: Box Office Mojo has the final actual ticket sales figures for this past weekend. You can CLICK HERE to see. They were 1) Skyfall at $10.8 million 2) Rise of the Guardians, !0.4 million and 3) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 at $9.2 million.

MGM may bend on Bond 24′s schedule

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signaled this week it may bend on the schedule for Bond 24, with the movie coming out in 2015, rather than 2014.

The studio held a conference call this week after releasing financial results. (You can listen to it, at least for now, by accessing a link at THE INVESTORS RELATION PART OF MGM’S WEB SITE.) Studio Chief Gary Barber was asked if Bond 24 would be out in 2014. MGM, as part of its 2010 bankruptcy, said it planned to get the 007 films back on an every-other-year schedule. Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures unit (which co-financed Skyfall and will do the same for Bond 24) has said it expects Bond 24 to be out in two years.

“We’re always hopeful on that,” the studio boss said. At the same time, he said, “We’ll put our best foot forward” on a script for the next 007 film. “If not in ’14, certainly in ’15,” he said of when Bond 24 will come out.

Earlier, in prepared remarks at the start of the call, Barber confirmed that John Logan, co-scripter of Skyfall, is working on the storyline for Bond 24 and Bond 25. He also said MGM expects Skyfall’s worldwide ticket ticket sales to exceed $800 million. They totaled $550 million earlier this week.

This is the first public show of flexibility by the studio, which controls half the Bond franchise with the Broccoli-Wilson family. Barbara Broccoli told the Los Angeles Times IN A STORY YOU CAN VIEW BY CLICKING HERE she was in no hurry. An excerpt:

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.” (emphasis added)

(snip)
Part of the reason why Broccoli and Wilson would wait before moving on to another Bond movie is because they’ve yet to settle on a future direction. “We like Daniel [Craig], obviously, and we like the way he portrays the Bond character,” Wilson said. “Our challenge is to find situations that will feel different and fresh and new and put Daniel and that character into those situations. It’s daunting.”

Neither Broccoli nor Wilson reference Logan working on the scripts for Bond 24 and Bond 25.

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