007 questions: Media consolidation edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Walt Disney Co. is buying the 20th Century Fox studio and most assets of 21st Century Fox. It’s a new media world.

So, here are a few questions from a 007 perspective.

What happens to MGM? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio is a runt among Hollywood studios. Disney agreeing to buy most of 21st Century Fox is the most prominent example yet of companies seeking to get even bigger in the digital age.

So what does MGM do? According to The Wall Street Journal in a February story, it spent much of 2016 trying to sell to a Chinese buyer. No sale.

MGM and Annapurna Pictures, a Hollywood newcomer, said Oct. 31 they were forming a new joint venture to release each other’s movies. Supposedly, the joint venture had the inside track to release Bond 25 in the United States. But that hasn’t been confirmed.

What happens to 007 home video distribution? Fox has an agreement to distribute James Bond films on home video through June 2020. But accords can change when the ownership of the one of the partners changes. Who knows at this point?

Does somebody make a play to control the entire 007 film franchise? When Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars), the bill was in the billions of dollars for each.

But Disney’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox is valued at $52.4 billion. That dwarfs the other deals Disney has negotiated under CEO Robert Iger, 66. Iger has agreed to stick around through 2021 to integrate the Fox assets into Disney.

When companies are throwing around that kind of money, anything is possible.

At the same time, Bond is a complicated animal. Control is divided between Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) and MGM. It’s not just opening the checkbook. Taking control of Bond means, probably, separate sets of negotiations.

Still, Bond is one of the last remaining properties not totally under control of a major studio. Will this week’s events prompt somebody to try seizing control of “the gentleman agent with a license to kill”?

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Get ready for a new era with Disney-Fox deal

Walt Disney Co. logo

UPDATE (7:10 a.m., Dec. 14): Walt Disney Co. announced this morning it was acquiring the 20th Century Fox studio and other Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock.

Among the bullet points in the press release: “Popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic to join Disney’s portfolio.

Disney also said CEO Robert Iger, 66, who has postponed retirement once already, will remain in the post through 2021. It was under Iger that Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars), deals dwarfed by this latest one.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 13): Walt Disney Co. reportedly is about to buy 20th Century Fox and other major assets from 21st Century Fox. (Both CNBC and The New York Times have said the deal may be announced Thursday.)

Many entertainment and fan websites have concentrated on how major Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, now controlled by Fox, would come under Disney and its Marvel Studios unit.

The business media (such as this CNBC story) has focused on how the deal would bolster Disney with its plans to start a streaming service to challenge Netflix.

However, such a deal would cut the number of major studios releasing movies. 20th Century-Fox probably would become another brand for Disney and be involved in fewer movies overall. As the Daily Beast put it last month, “A Disney-Fox Merger Is Bad for Everyone But Disney.” Also, such a transaction may spur additional deal making and consolidation.

Fox currently handles home video distribution for James Bond films, with its current deal lasting through June 2020. It’s uncertain how or when a Disney acquisition of Fox assets would affect that. Disney may have its hands full dealing with Marvel characters and streaming issues that the 007 home video situation may have to wait.

Meanwhile, if a Disney-Fox hookup spurs more consolidation, it’s possible the Bond franchise may be affected. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, is a relative runt.

MGM is just now — seven years after exiting bankruptcy — taking steps to distributing its own movies again by forming a distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Could MGM get gobbled up at some point?

In any case, the anticipated Disney-Fox deal means things won’t be the same.

Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.

BBC Radio 2 schedules Roger Moore special

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

BBC Radio 2 has scheduled a two-hour special about Roger Moore for Boxing Day, Dec. 26.

Sir Roger Moore: Nobody Did It Better will air from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. that day, according to a BBC Radio 2 schedule of holiday programs.

The special will include interviews conducted since Moore’s death in May. Among those interviewed: Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions; his daughter, Deborah Moore; and actor Michael Caine, a friend of Moore’s.

There also will be archived interviews where “Roger himself discusses his life and his work, his family and his friendships,” according to the program description.

Moore played James Bond in seven films produced by Eon after starring as The Saint in a successful 1960s television series. He was also a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.

007 Magazine out with issue, calendars in December


007 Magazine is bringing out an issue and two 2018 Bond-themed calendars this month.

The issue concerns exhibitor pressbooks released in the United States to promote the first decade of James Bond films. Such pressbooks were mostly “supplied to cinema managers” but at times to the press, according to the Graham Rye publication. The format eventually fell out of favor in studio promotions.

The issue is 76 pages. 007 Magazine has been taking pre-orders and will be shipping out the issue in December. The price is 19.99 British pounds, $30.99 or 26.99 euros.

The two calendars feature the You Only Live Twice 50th anniversary and Bond Girls of the 1960s.  The price for each is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 or 11.99 euros.

Earlier this year, 007 Magazine also came out with a 126-page issue about Twice’s 50th anniversary. It’s still in stock. The price is 24.99 British pounds, $34.99 or 29.99 euros.

MI6 Confidential looks at Twice’s 50th anniversary

You Only Live Twice promotional art

MI6 Confidential’s newest issue takes a look at You Only Live Twice on its 50th anniversary.

Issue 43 of the publication includes an interview with Karin Dor. The actress died in November and played SPECTRE killer Helga Brandt in the 1967 movie.

There is also a feature about sound man Norman Wanstall and his final 007 film work.

The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros. For more information about ordering and a list of features, CLICK HERE.

Bond 25 talk heats up

Bond 25 may not have an announced director or distributor, but talk about the next 007 film has geared up early this month.

Dec. 2: The Archivo 007 fan website says in a post that Christopher Nolan is “more than likely” to direct Bond 25.

The website said it got the information from two different sources, one from the Untied States and one from the U.K. “They tell us that Nolan will be the director and that he is already working on the film,” according to an English translation of the Spanish website.

–On the message board of the MI6 James Bond website, Archivo 007 was asked about the sources. “One is a film critic with ‘contacts’. The other works in the industry,” Archivo 007 responded. “Sorry, I can’t say much more.”

Dec. 3: Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail reporter who has had a number of 007 scoops proven correct since 2011, is asked on Twitter if there’s anything to Nolan and Bond 25.

“He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Bamigboye said on Twitter.

Dec. 5: The Express newspaper in the U.K. does a story based on the original Archivo 007 post. Archivo 007 isn’t referenced by name.

–A separate tweet said the word around Pinewood Studios is the Bond 25 operation will get to work in a few months.

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–The MI6 James Bond website ran two stories, one about the Express and Nolan, the other about the Pinewood tidbit.

“MI6 understands that shooting on Bond 25 is still expected to start around December 2018,” the website said in the latter story.

–Bamigboye, on Twitter again, is asked about his earlier tweet and why he spoke to Nolan. “I was interviewing him,” Bamigboye said in a Tweet.