Business of Bond: MGM goes studio shopping

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What studio will release the next 007 film?

Even as SPECTRE rolls out, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is gearing up its search for the next James Bond distribution deal, according to stories in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. That deal runs out with SPECTRE.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story by Ben Fritz:

Several studios are planning to pursue those (distribution) rights, according to people familiar with the matter, even though there is surprisingly little profit in releasing Bond films.

The Journal dug up a Sony document that saw the light of day because of last year’s computer hacking at the studio.

With Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, “Sony made just $57 million” on the the 2012 007 film, “a small sum for a movie with such a huge box-office performance,” according to the newspaper.

MGM made about $175 million while the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, made about $109 million, the Journal reported, quoting the same document. MGM and Danjaq, Eon’s holding company, declined to comment to the Journal.

Sony’s take might be even less for SPECTRE, according to the newspaper.

In the same leaked document, a Sony executive projected that if “Spectre” were to cost $250 million to produce and repeat the same box office as “Skyfall,” Sony’s profit would be $38 million.

The budget for “Spectre” is just under $250 million, said a person close to the movie, compared with $209 million for “Skyfall.”

MGM and the Wilson-Broccoli clan co-own the Bond franchise. MGM got its share after it acquired United Artists in the early 1980s. UA, in turn, acquired its stake in Bond when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold it in 1975 because of financial problems.

Despite the relatively small return, other studios are expected to seek to displace Sony as MGM’s 007 distributor.

“Here’s what we hear,” Deadline’s Anity Busch and Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “007 rights gatekeepers (MGM CEO Gary) Barber, and Wilson and Broccoli, will wait until Spectre plays around the world and accumulates an ungodly global gross that will only strengthen their leverage. And then, early next year, they will make the best deal. If that means bidding farewell to Sony, so be it.”

The Deadline Hollywood story does some handicapping about the prospects for different studios striking a deal with MGM. Busch and Fleming, in particular, play up Warner Bros. as a 007 distribution contender.

The duo write “a source sighted” MGM’s Barber and Warners chief “Kevin Tsujihara at the Montage Hotel recently…According to our source, the chatter seemed more intense than a meet and greet. It looked like they were throwing around numbers. Not surprisingly, Warner Bros has been oft mentioned as the most aggressive in this hunt.”

To read the entire Wall Street Journal story, CLICK HERE. To read the Deadline: Hollywood story, CLICK HERE.

SPECTRE projected to have a big U.S. opening

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, is projected to have a big opening weekend in the U.S.,  according to entertainment news websites.

The new 007 film may generate box office of $80 million for the Nov. 6-8 weekend, VARIETY SAID IN A STORY today. That’s also in line with an estimate of “$80 million-plus” in an OCT. 15 STORY ON THEWRAP WEBSITE. That would not be as big as its predecessor, Skyfall, but would still be one of the largest U.S. opening weekends for a film in 2015,

Both stories are based on “tracking numbers” used to estimate a movie’s box office performance and are subject to change in the days prior to the actual debut.

In 2012, Skyfall’s opening U.S. weekend box office was $88.4 million, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO. Three years ago, Skyfall had virtually no competition. (The only other movies opening that weekend were in “limited” release and not available across the country.)

The 23rd Bond Skyfall also got a promotional boost during the 2012 Summer Olympics, which included a Bond-themed presentation with Daniel Craig in character as 007 during the opening ceremonies. Also generating interest was as the 50th anniversary of the 007 film series.

This time around, there’s a film based on the Peanuts comic strip opening across the U.S. the same weekend as SPECTRE. The Peanuts Movie that’s projected to have an opening of $40 million “or more,” according to Variety. “The competition could cut into ‘Spectre’s’ opening haul,” Variety’s Brent Lang wrote.

An $80 million opening weekend would place SPECTRE at No. 7 (or perhaps we should say No. 007) in the U.S. this year, according to THIS BOX OFFICE MOJO CHART.

UPDATE: In response to an e-mail, the average North American movie ticket price in 2015 (as of June 15) was $8.12 compared with $7.96 in 2012, ACCORDING TO THIS CHART.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part VI: Diamonds Are Forever

Another moment of 007 clothing splendor

Jimmy Dean, Sean Connery and Shane Rimmer in Diamonds Are Forever

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sean Connery returned one last time as James Bond to Eon Productions’ 007 series in Diamonds Are Forever, the first Bond film of the 1970s.

Feeling they went a bit too far with the dramatic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Guy Hamilton’s 1971 film returned to the tone set in Goldfinger. Bond’s revenge of his murdered wife Tracy was left to a short scene in the pre-credits sequence..

Once again, there’s no SPECTRE here. The organization isn’t mentioned, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld taking the lead as the villain. Still, we can see the famous octopus logo on his ring and one of his vehicles, the Bathosub.

Far of the volcano lairs and the mountain top headquarters, Blofeld is now stationed on an oil rig off Baja California and atop the Whyte House Hotel, impersonating the Howard Hughes-like millionaire Willard Whyte.

His plan, that inspired the Austin Powers movies (and, yes, Die Another Day), is to randomly detonate missiles with his laser satellite utilizing diamonds stolen to a number of smugglers killed by his henchmen couple, Wint and Kidd.

The Blofeld we see here, played by Charles Gray, is far from the man who caused the death of 007’s wife.

After Bond drowns him (actually, one of his doubles) in boiling mud during the film’s teaser sequence, he seems to forget he’s after the responsible of Tracy’s death.

Following a diamond smuggling link integrated by Tiffany Case, the exhuberant leading lady played by Jill St John, and avoiding a number of creative ways to die by Wint and Kidd, James Bond finds himself face to face with Number One.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q is aghast at Bond’s pink tie.

What follows until the film’s end credits is a number of double entendrés, philosophical quotes (Cubby Broccoli complained about quoting François de La Rochefoucauld) and funny situations where you see 007 very light against the man who took his wife away. The tone was set by Tom Mankiewicz, who rewrote Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. (CLICK HERE for an article that includes details of an early Mankiewicz draft for Diamonds.)

Much like the Telly Savalas version, Blofeld also goes to action… dressed as a woman! He has some authority, but far from threatening it sounds funny as he argues with his laser expert Professor Dr. Metz (Joseph Furst) about giving up or not as the Americans led an attack on his lair.

In the literary Bond timeline, there’s a so-called “SPECTRE trilogy” (Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, in that order). For multiple reasons, the effect of that trilogy was wasted up on their screen adaptations, by having 007 not properly setting the score with the villain, as in the gritty last pages of Ian Fleming’s 1964 book.

The legal conflicts between Eon and Thunderball producer Kevin McClory prevented the official series from using SPECTRE in subsequent films, until now. Here we are days away of the U.S. release of the 24th James Bond adventure, using the organization name as the title.

Blofeld would make a return in the 1983 Bond production by McClory and Jack Schwartzman, Never Say Never Again, played by a charming Max von Sydow.

Half of the world hasn’t seen SPECTRE yet, so for many of us there’s still the doubt about who is really Franz Oberhauser, leader of the rebooted SPECTRE we’ll see fighting Bond soon.

Christopher Waltz, who plays Oberhauser in the fiction, categorically denied Ernst Stavro Blofeld is behind his character. Is it possible that, this time, Blofeld is it overshadowed by the organization he created without even the single mention of his name is heard?

With SPECTRE, 007 ‘Silly Season’ kicks into high gear

Bond spat out an obscenity after reading the articles.

Bond spat out an obscenity after reading the articles.

A new James Bond movie is out. So, naturally, it’s time for all sorts of articles to cite Agent 007, while he’s fresh in the public’s mind, to draw attention to themselves.

For example, there’s THIS REUTERS STORY with a headline proclaiming the fictional agent is Britain’s “greatest intelligence asset.”

It begins thusly:

In the 62 years since James Bond first appeared in print, there’s no doubt he has helped boost the reputations of his real-life counterparts in British intelligence.

Later, Reuters (a one-time employer of 007 author Ian Fleming) says, “Bond and his fellow fictional British operatives, however, allow UK intelligence to project an image” that goes beyond reality. “It might have only the most tangential relationship to what really happens, but it still has real-world impact.”

That’s all well and good except THIS BUZZFEED STORY says British Intelligence isn’t exactly embracing the Bond image these days.

The story concerns a recruiting drive.

The launch of the campaign coincides with the release of the latest James Bond movie, Spectre. MI6 bosses are well aware that the film will lead to a flurry of interest in working for the agency.

But the organisation is at pains to make clear that Bond – a gun-toting, Martini-drinking, womanising loner – is not a true reflection of the modern-day intelligence officer. “James Bond would probably not be successful in joining SIS, if he were to apply,” an intelligence source said.

The Wrap entertainment news website summarized the BuzzFeed story with the headline “JAMES BOND COULDN’T GET A JOB AT MI6, AGENCY SAYS.”

Meanwhile, this is also an opportunity to write about how the cinema world of James Bond doesn’t match up with the real one.

For example, some articles point out IT’D REALLY BE HARD FOR BOND TO GET AUTO INSURANCE because he trashes a lot of vehicles.

Elsewhere, we’re told BOND’S PICKUP LINES WITH WOMEN DON’T WORK IN REAL LIFE.

“Dating expert Hayley Quinn set out to find out just how far James Bond’s pickup lines would take a man in real life, so she enlisted the help of fellow blogger Ollie Pearce to test them out in the streets of London,” according to the story.

SPECTRE gunbarrel emerges (not posting here)

SPECTRE LOGO

That didn’t take long.

A copy of SPECTRE’s gunbarrel is out on the Internet, about 24 hours after the premiere of the 24th James Bond film.

We’re not posting it here because 1) We don’t want to be seen as endorsing film piracy and 2) It could well be taken down quickly.

For that matter, we’re not going to even describe it. Just consider this as an advisory. That is all.

UPDATE: There are at least three versions out there, probably more.

SPECTRE: the fans speak out

With Monday’s premiere of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, a number of James Bond fan sites took to social media to provide their initial reactions.

So, without further ado, here’s a sampling starting with James Bond Memes.

The James Bond Dossier weighed in with this:

The lads at James Bond Radio channeled a Daniel Craig interview:

Chronicles of SPECTRE Part V: OHMSS

OHMSS poster

OHMSS poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

The new James Bond film SPECTRE has given the fans many nods to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service throughout the promotions, either by the bars of John Barry’s instrumental theme on the trailer and by the snow scenes. Some people even suggested that the 2015 film could be a remake of the 1969 Bond adventure.

One of the most faithful adaptations of an Ian Fleming novel, the sixth 007 film made by Eon Productions is distinctive in many ways: it was the first film to feature a new Bond actor, George Lazenby, and it establishes some kind of continuity with the previous adventures, by having the secret agent looking up at some personal effects from his old missions on one scene.

It also showed, for the first time, a more emotional Bond. “This one is different. This one has heart”, the trailer narration claimed.

Just like in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, the enemy is once again SPECTRE and its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

After his reveal in the 1967 film, the organization per se is overshadowed by its Number One figure. Previously played by Anthony Dawson and Donald Pleasance, Blofeld is now portrayed by the charismatic Telly Savalas, who would be later known as TV’s popular detective Kojak.

Unlike the 1963 novel by Fleming, where Bond considers resigning from the Service tired of following Blofeld’s lead, in this 1969 adaptation 007 is completely obsessed to find his nemesis and to kill any trace of SPECTRE, even resigning (he finally doesn’t, thanks to Moneypenny) when M relieves him from the mentioned assignment.

SPECTRE’s Number One, this time, is calling himself Balthazar, Count de Beauchamp. His intentions seem quite less lethal in comparison to his previous demands: to get his title validated by the College of Arms and amnesty for his crimes.

Blofeld turned himself from a criminal mastermind to a snobbist blue-blooded aristocrat. Yet, nobody should be fooled by his image: if his demands are not met, he’ll unleash the virus omega providing total infertility to the world’s livestock. How? By hypnotizing the (young, female) patients of his clinic atop Piz Gloria in Switzerland and, once on their homes via radio transmission, order them to unleash the virus, as “part of the cure.”

Blofeld is certainly not less lethal this time, as he can fistfight 007 himself towards the film’s climax and engage on a shootout with him. He also has a taste for beautiful women, as he tries to seduce the imprisoned Tracy, Bond’s girlfriend and future wife.

In a way, he is more of an equal to Bond and not an authority figure. It could be assumed that, from From Russia with Love to You Only Live Twice, Blofeld was M’s M’s evil counterpart: seated on his throne and giving orders. In OHMSS, Number One has turned into Bond’s counterpart.

As for the SPECTRE organization per se, not much of it remains. Blofeld still has a bunch of troops capable of firing machine guns while skiing at high speed as well as a female agent Irma Bunt.

This time, tough, she’s not a young sexy lady in the scale of Fiona or Helga, but an old and authoritarian woman in the style of Rosa Klebb. Even when in the novels we learn Bunt has married Blofeld, not even a glance of a romantic interaction between the two is given in the 1969 film.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has Blofeld as the main villain, his leadership overshadowing the SPECTRE organization. His character will always be remembered for one thing: he had James Bond’s wife, Tracy (Diana Rigg), killed minutes after the wedding, leaving the secret agent for the tears.

Many years before Casino Royale showed us Daniel Craig’s Bond crying over the female lead’s dead body, it was George Lazenby in his short time as 007 who brought drama to the very last second of the film, bringing up a Bond who hasn’t fully triumphed this time.

Next up, in 1971, James Bond takes revenge on Ernst Stavro Blofeld: a different Blofeld, in terms of personality, looks and ambitions.