New York Times: MGM may be worth 20% of what it was in 2004

The New York Times ran a story about how movie studios are worth a lot less to their conglomerate owners than they used to be. One of the prime examples was MGM, the studio that controls half the James Bond franchise. An excerpt about the current bidding for MGM:

Time Warner, Lionsgate Entertainment and smaller private companies showed interest, but signaled offers of less than $2 billion — and perhaps as low as half that — for a company that was bought in 2004 for about $5 billion. So, if bids were in the $1 billion range, that’d be 20 percent of what the studio went for six years when billionaire Kirk Kerkorian sold it to a group that included Comcast and Sony.

The Times’ story, written by Michael Ciepley and Brooks Barnes has this omnious note:

Two people involved with the bidding, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of restrictions on the discussion of the process, said they believed virtually all of the final bids would require a bankruptcy filing that would allow any new owner to proceed without the old obligations.

In this case, the story notes provides these details about the old obligations:

MGM pays about $300 million a year in interest on a $3.7 billion loan and faces $1 billion in payments in June 2011. The rest of the loan is due the next year. MGM also has a $250 million line of credit that matures in April.

One again, the reason 007 fans care is MGM is Eon Productions’ partner in the Bond franchise. All of this is why 007’s future remains precarious at the moment.

To read the entire New York Times story, JUST CLICK HERE.

Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler in conversation

In conversations with fellow Bond fans, especially those of the literary 007, we have observed that most of us have an appreciation for the “Philip Marlowe” stories of American mystery writer Raymond Chandler. As did Chandler and Ian Fleming for each other — Chandler was one of the first Americans to praise Fleming’s Casino Royale; Fleming mentioned in his novels that Bond (and his boss, ‘M’), were regular readers of the hard-boiled novelist.

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

The Five Dials website (organ of the Hamish Hamilton publishing company,) has provided us a true boon: a transcription of a taped conversation between the creators of these two immortal characters. Working from old, crackling audio tapes, the transcriber frequently became so lost in the conversation that she had to repeatedly play bits over to get all the details correct. She also mentioned that Chandler’s state of inebriation during the chat made things more difficult, as well.

It’s an interesting conversation, as you’ll soon read. Fleming is quite deferential to the American master, and talks at some length at how difficult it is to come up with a good villain. He also has less-than-kind things to say about his own creation:

I never intended my leading character, James Bond, to be a hero. I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department who would get into bizarre and fantastic situations and more or less shoot his way out of them, or get out of them one way or another. But of course he’s always referred to as my hero. I don’t see him as a hero myself. On the whole I think he’s a rather unattractive man . . .

The entire interview, IN CONVERSATION: Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler is in a PDF format, so you’ll need Adobe Reader to read it. It’s on page 30 of the Five Dials webzine.

1958: Time writes about Ian Fleming and Dr. No

Here’s another trip back in time courtesty of Time magazine’s Web site. It’s 1958. Dwight Eisenhower is president. A car called the Edsel isn’t doing that well at dealerships. And Time decies to write about a new thriller that is about to hit U.S. bookstores and its author.

The article begins thusly:

In literary London, where the vogue in controversy runs to turtlenecked highbrows and Angry Young Men, the latest brouhaha is whirling around an unlikely book by an unlikelier author: a mystery shocker called Dr. No, by an uppercrust Tory named Ian Fleming. The book marks the sixth appearance of James Bond, 007 by code number, a deadpan British secret-service agent with high tastes and low instincts. With the help of an estimated 1,250,000 British readers, Bond has boosted Creator Fleming high on the bestseller lists and into the gunsights of outraged critics. They blast him as a kind of Mickey Spillane in gentleman’s clothing, his books as “a cunning mixture of sex, sadism and money snobbery” and “a bad symptom of the present state of civilization in this country.”

Time noted that Fleming had his defenders:

His critics find his shockers all the more unspeakable because he is so much a member of The Establishment. Yet Fleming is no Spillane. His closest U.S. opposite number, Raymond (The Big Sleep) Chandler calls him “masterly.” And Novelist Elizabeth Bowen says: “Here’s magnificent writing.”

Not all readers will agree that Dr. No, which Macmillan will publish in the U.S. in July, is magnificent writing, but pages of it, at least, qualify for Ezra Pound’s classic comment on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that is readable.”

Time also gave Fleming the last word:

Says Fleming equably: “I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare stakes. I began writing these books because my mental hands were empty and as an antibody to my hysterical alarm at getting married at the age of 43.” As for the harsher critics, “they have so many chips on their shoulders they should go into the timber business. I do however apologize for once making Bond order asparagus with bearnaise, instead of mousseline sauce. A writer should acknowledge his shortcomings.”

To read the entire article, just CLICK HERE.