007 after Amazon: The more things change…

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Amazon’s agreement to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week got a lot of attention. But it’s only now sinking in that, from a James Bond perspective, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Wall Street Journal today published a story about Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions company and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson.

For decades, the Bond franchise has had unusual management. Danjaq/Eon mostly has creative control while the owners of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have the power the purse and finances the films. The latter is not insignificant. But with other franchises, a studio and its owners have total control.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story.

One executive compared the pair’s decision-making power on Bond to George Lucas’s control over the “Star Wars” universe before he sold Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney—which has mined its characters and story lines for new movies, TV shows and theme-park attractions. Those who have worked with Mr. Wilson and Ms. Broccoli said not to expect a similar evolution: They have rebuffed past offers to explore spinoffs or hand Bond over to a larger entity.

Assuming Amazon secures regulatory approval for its $8.45 billion purchase (including assumption of debt) of MGM, things should stabilize financially. MGM has been a series of financial soap operas for decades, including a 2010 bankruptcy.

But creatively? Perhaps not so much. James Bond films coming out more often? I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on that. Barbara Broccoli has a plate full of non-Bond projects, including plays and small-scale “Indie” style movies.

It still comes down to this: Danjaq/Eon doesn’t finance its films. It needs a studio to supply the funds. The studio/studio owner involved needs Danjaq/Eon to produce a Bond movie. One side cannot move without the other.

From the standpoint of James Bond films, you might not expect a lot of changes soon. Enjoy No Time to Die (hopefully it makes its current fall 2021 release date). Bond 26 may not come out very soon after that.

4 Responses

  1. I would love to see an Amazon produced Bond series and an expanded Bond universe and the end of the film series. There is a constant cycle of bringing things back down to earth, the inevitable return to the excess, and it’s usually the same ideas. Why not keep things on a smaller scale and invent scenarios that don’t conform to a feature film format ? Imagine an entire series like that section in Skyfall when Bond tracks down and kills Patrice in Shanghai. That would be awesome.

  2. I really hope you’re right and the Broccolis retain control. It would be a shame if Bond was totally consumed by a predator like Amazon. Whatever their faults, the Broccolis have been good guardians of the Bond series over the last few decades and have ensured its continued survival and relevance. Sticking to a feature film every two to three years makes Bond a big event and retains its prestige. If Amazon was churning out spin-off films and TV shows all the time, it would dilute it completely.

    I wonder what this takeover means for the future of Bond screenings on TV and physical media releases? I enjoy it when the movies show up on regular TV as it’s a shared event and you get to watch something you didn’t plan to. It also helps to keep the series popular and in the public consciousness. If Amazon gets their way we’ll only be able to see them if we subscribe to their streaming service, which would be a great shame. Maybe I should take the opportunity to invest in a full set of Blu-rays before they disappear too. Or will the Broccolis be able to protect these things? Who knows. We shall see.

  3. Very interesting.

    I suspect there may be an impasse at some point.

    If Barbara Broccoli is too distracted by other projects to make a film when Amazon wants one, things could get prickly. Amazon may not be satisfied with just two or three films in a decade and may start straining at the leash for more. At which point, Barbara may tire of the disunity.

    She – and Greg Wilson, who will surely have taken over from his father at that point – would be faced with a dilemma: continue as a production company that is wholly reliant on a studio for financing while making mainly Bond, or receive around three billion dollars which will enable them to finance themselves and make whatever they want.

    Considering Amazon over-paid for MGM as a show of might, they are certainly capable of making an offer that few would find easy to refuse.

  4. Jason, physical media isn’t going to be around much longer. Jerry Beck states that Warner Brothers was phasing out all physical media in favor of streaming. Other major studios are bound to follow.

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