In some ways, the Marvel Studios operation of Walt Disney Co. is like a machine. It has a movie coming out early next month in the U.S. (Iron Man 3), has another slated for November (a sequel to 2011’s Thor), has another filming for 2014 (a sequel to 2011’s Captain America) and has the script written for a 2015 sequel to a big hit last year (Marvel’s The Avengers). Marvel is one of the more successful examples of what we’ll call the corporate model.
Last year, was also a triumph for what we’ll call the family model, Eon Productions, owner of half of the James Bond franchise and run by the family of the late Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Skyfall was by far the biggest financial success (not adjusted for inflation) for the 007 film series ($1.11 billion in worldwide ticket sales) and, by some estimates, even adjusted for inflation.
Yet, for the moment, it’s not known when the next Bond film adventure, Bond 24, will come out. 2014? 2015? Maybe even 2016? Some executives at Sony last year said 2014, while Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli said not so fast. The latest word from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the other co-owner of the franchise was sometime in the next three years. Not exactly precision scheduling.
OK, just to get this out of the way. If you’re not inclined to like movies based on comic book characters on principle, or you were a DC Comics guy as a kid rather than Marvel fan, the success of the Marvel movies will not impress you. For that matter, if you’re not a James Bond fan (not exactly the target demographic of this blog), Skyfall’s success won’t mean much either.
Once upon a time (1962-1965, to be precise), Bond adventures came out like clockwork on an every-year schedule. But that was a much-simpler time. Still, since 1989, the 007 films have been produced with more erratic timing: a six-year gap, followed by three films on an every-other-year schedule. followed by a three-year gap, four years, two years, four years. Not all of that was Eon’s fault (MGM’s financial troubles have contributed), but it hasn’t been something to set your calendars by.
In the early 1990s, there was talk of getting the 007 series back on an yearly schedule but that never developed. With 1995’s GoldenEye, the future of the series was riding on the movie and Eon concentrated its efforts on that film. In later years, Michael G. Wilson, the other Eon co-boss who’s now in his 70s, has spoken of the personal strain of making Bond movies. While Eon has its own organization, it’s still largely driven by the half-siblings, Broccoli and Wilson.
Once upon a time, Marvel was a more family-like company (Smilin’ Stan, King Kirby, Sturdy Steve, Jazzy Johnny, Gene the Dean and all that) but that disappeared a long time ago — and went away entirely once Marvel was acquired by Disney. Kevin Feige, one of the lead bosses at Disney’s Marvel Studios operation, talks about this or that but rarely (if ever) about how hard being a producer is. He has a movie assembly line to keep going and, so far, has been doing it.
The 2012 box office results showed when done well, both models can be successful: The Avengers was No. 1 worldwide while Skyfall was No. 4 in the U.S. But the models are different. The corporate model prefers predictability, especially with schedules. But for fans of the family model, the lesser predictability is a strength, not a weakness. Vive
le la difference.
Filed under: James Bond Films Tagged: | Albert R. Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli, Bond 24, Eon Productions, Family model vs. corporate model, James Bond Films, Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios, Marvel's The Avengers, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Michael G. Wilson, Skyfall, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Co.