MGM stays mum on report about talks with Amazon

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer refused to comment Thursday about a Variety report that the studio is in talks to be acquired by Amazon.

“We are aware of speculation in the media,” Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Kay said at the end of a prepared presentation about first-quarter results. The executive didn’t reference Amazon by name.

Kay said the company only take questions about first-quarter performance. No questions about Amazon were asked.

Variety reported May 17 that Amazon and MGM were in talks where the studio would be bought for $9 billion.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 owned by hedge funds. Such funds typically look for a relatively quick turnaround and sale so they can turn a profit. MGM’s hedge fund owners have held onto the studio for longer than normal.

Pro tip: Companies involved in major moves (restructurings, deal negotiations) often refer to stories such as the Variety report as “speculation.” That is until the major moves are ready to be announced.

Regardless, this week’s investor call mentioned No Time to Die once. It was basically referenced as part of why MGM will have great second-half financial results.

Bond 25 questions: The Amazon edition

Amazon logo

A few days ago, Variety reported that Amazon was in talks to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio of James Bond. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this serious?

Yes. Variety is a serious-minded outlet among the Hollywood trade publications. MGM also is a runt among the Hollywood studios and, in the long run, needs to be part of a bigger organization.

Is this a sure thing?

No. By Variety’s account, talks are still underway. Even if Amazon and MGM strike a deal, it will be subject to regulatory review. On occasion, acquisition agreements are reached but flak from regulators cause them to be undone.

What’s the broader context?

The movie and TV industry is facing a lot of changes because of the rise of streaming and the emergence of Netflix as a major player. MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, owned mostly by hedge funds. Those hedge funds have held onto MGM for longer than such funds normally hold onto assets.

Put another way, MGM is a source of programming for a streaming service (and Amazon plays in that space in a big way). Acquiring MGM gives you access to a number of franchises and properties including Bond. Now might be a good time for MGM’s hedge fund owners to cash out.

Could this affect release plans for No Time to Die?

I suspect not. Even if a deal were announced an hour after this post were published, getting regulatory approval may take months. That’s usually the case with big acquisitions. As things stand now, No Time to Die is scheduled to come out on Sept. 30 in the U.K.

But, in the meantime, if you’re an Amazon Prime member in the U.S., you can watch Call Me Bwana (Eon’s second film, made between Dr. No and From Russia With Love) or Operation Kid Brother, Neil Connery’s spy film made, more or less, because he was Sean Connery’s brother.

Amazon in talks to acquire MGM, Variety says

MGM logo

Amazon is in negotiations to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for about $9 billion, Variety reported.

MGM has been owned by a group of hedge funds since the studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. MGM reportedly has been for sale for months. According to Variety, talks have taken on new urgency. Here’s an excerpt from the Variety story:

Amazon’s interest in acquiring the studio has taken on a new tenor beyond the usual rumor mill. The deal is said to be being orchestrated by Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Amazon Studios and Prime Video, directly with MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich, whose Anchorage Capital is a major MGM shareholder.

MGM and Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, control the Bond franchise. MGM is one of the last of the independent studio operations available for aquisition.

Bond would be one of the major properties that would interest a buyer. MGM also controls the likes of The Pink Panther and Rocky/Creed franchises. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981

Amazon runs the Amazon Prime streaming service. The company, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has been expanding its entertainment properties.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film is scheduled to be released this fall. United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna, is to distribute the movie in the U.S. Universal will handle international distribution.

2021’s two most important 007 anniversaries

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

People love anniversaries and James Bond fans are no exception. Typically, anniversaries of films are noted. But, in 2021, anniversaries of two events are more important.

On June 29, 1961, United Artists put out a press release that the company had reached an agreement with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to finance and release a series of films based on Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. A copy of the release can be seen in the documentary Inside Dr. No.

The tale has been told many times. Saltzman had obtained a six-month option on most of Fleming’s books. But time was running out and Saltzman met up with Broccoli, who had better studio connections. An uneasy partnership was formed and their first 007 film debuted a year later.

Thus, we’re approaching the 60th anniversary of the event that made the Bond film series possible.

In 1981, UA was sold by Transamerica Corp. to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Transamerica had acquired UA in 1967 but grew weary of the unpredictable movie business.

Now, we’re approaching the 40th anniversary of the tie-up between MGM and Bond. The relationship has often been dysfunctional. MGM’s ownership has changed at various times. The studio at one point was seized by a French bank and it underwent bankruptcy in 2010. Reportedly, MGM is again up for sale and one possible buyer is Amazon.

The one constant over those four decades is that Bond has remained one of MGM’s major assets. Every time MGM runs into financial trouble, Bond fans fret about what will happen to the gentleman agent. For those fans, the journey might seem like the Israelites wandering the wilderness for 40 years.

The two anniversaries also remain relevant to today. The Broccoli-Wilson clan that succeeded the Broccoli-Saltzman duo retains creative control. Any deal to buy MGM has to take that into account.

Happy anniversaries.

Amazon has held preliminary talks to buy MGM, Forbes says

Amazon logo

Amazon has held “exploratory talks” about acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, Forbes said as part of a broader story about MGM.

The Forbes story had few additional details about Amazon’s interest. Amazon and MGM declined to comment to Forbes.

Instead, Forbes went into detail about how it will be difficult for MGM to get the kind of price ($10 billion) it wants. A key excerpt of interest to Bond film fans:

The problem is that MGM’s collection of great movies is dated and losing value by the minute. Barbara Broccoli and her half brother Michael G. Wilson, who maintain an iron grip over the Bond franchise — a deal initially hammered out decades ago by Broccoli’s father, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli — have the final say over casting decisions, dialog and promotional materials related to 007 — adding complexity to any deal talks. 

In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said that Amazon and Apple Inc. were seeking the Bond film rights. Nothing ever came of that. Forbes, in its story, says Apple “remains a speculative wild-card” in terms of buying MGM.

In general, movies have been turned upside down by Netflix’s streaming service. Walt Disney Co. and AT&T’s Warner Bros. are orienting themselves toward streaming and de-emphasizing their traditional theater-released movie model.

Netflix, AT&T’s HBO Max, and Disney’s Disney Plus all feature in-house content. (MGM films before 1986, such as Ben Hur, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Mutiny on the Bounty, are part of the Warner Bros. film library that’s included with HBO Max.)

MGM doesn’t have a streaming service. But both Amazon and Apple have such services.

MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds led by Anchorage Capital. They took over following an MGM bankruptcy in 2010.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of MGM’s dysfunctional relationship with the Bond franchise. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981 after insurance conglomerate Transamerica Corp. decided to get out of the movie business.

MGM has the 25th Bond film, No Time to Die, on hold until October, the latest in a series of release dates. The movie has been pushed back since April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New book about GoldenEye coming out

Cover to The World of GoldenEye

A new book about GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film is due out soon.

The author is Nicolas Suszczyk. He has been a guest writer for the blog, at least until he developed bigger and better 007-writing gigs. (CLICK HERE for his most recent article for the blog from 2018.)

In any case, he has written The World of GoldenEye. It’s due out as a Kindle book. A print edition also will be available.

Here’s a description from the book’s Amazon page:

GoldenEye was much more than the debut of Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond. It was the film that saved the series after facing six years of an uncertain future, and the title is now a popular legend among gamers thanks to the huge success of the Nintendo 64 video game adaptation. In the eve of its 25th anniversary in 2020, this book offers a comprehensive analysis on one of the best Bond films ever released and the impact in popular culture that brought a new generation of Bond fans, in a craze that was very reminiscent to the waves of Bond mania from the 1960s. The creative process behind the film, the emergence of a relatively unknown international cast, and the influence of the Cold War in the story are just some of the themes this comprehensive analysis of the 1995 film will address to prove GoldenEye is, many times, an overlooked classic.

Robert Sellers coming out with a Broccoli-Saltzman book

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Robert Sellers, the author of The Battle for Bond, a book about the behind-the-scenes conflict concerning Thunderball, is coming out with a new book about Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the co-founders of Eon Productions.

There is a listing on the U.K. site of Amazon for When Harry Met Cubby: The Story of the James Bond Producers.

According to the listing, the book will be out in September. Here’s part of the description:

Both men were of such contrasting personalities that relations between them often span out of control, to such an extent that they not only fell out with their star, Sean Connery, but ultimately with each other. Loved and hated in equal measure, respected and feared by their contemporaries, few movie people have loomed as large over the industry as Broccoli and Saltzman, yet tragically they would meet very different ends.

During the 1960s heydey of the Bond film series, Broccoli and Saltzman took the industry by storm as 007 became a phenomenon.

In the ensuing decades, a narrative took hold of Saltzman being the more volatile of the two. Some fans (via social media) claim that Saltzman wasn’t really a producer.

On the other hand, other accounts indicate that Saltzman had a major impact on Bond film stories. Richard Maibaum had been a Broccoli man (going back to the producer’s partnership with Irving Allen). Saltzman brought in others (such as Len Deighton, Paul Dehn and John Hopkins) to revise Maibaum’s work.

Regardless, the blog’s guess is the new Sellers book will bring new insights to an old partnership that finally ruptured in the mid-1970s.

Unanswered 007 questions as 2018 draws to a close

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

2018 is about to end. So here are some questions that have gone unanswered — and likely will remain so — as the year concludes.

Whatever happened to the notion that the Broccoli-Wilson family might sell out its interest in the Bond franchise after Bond 25? 

In July 2017, Phil Nobile Jr., then a writer for Movies. Birth. Death., had a story with this passage:

“I  have read thoughts from someone I believe to be close wth the production that the Broccolis are looking to do one more Bond then sell the franchise off, a la George Lucas/Star Wars/Disney.”

In reaction, the James Bond MI website wrote the following on Twitter:

would love to say there’s nothing to this but we can’t.”

Since then? Nada. Neither was a definitive “this is going to happen.” And neither has followed up that the blog is aware of. For that matter, neither have British tabloids (who’ll write stories at the drop of a hat when British bookies adjust their odds on future Bonds). Neither have major entertainment news outlets.

Was there never anything to it? Is there something to it, but we won’t know until 2020, when Bond 25 is scheduled to come out?

Who knows? But it’s one of the most intriguing questions during long hiatus between SPECTRE and Bond 25.

Whatever happened to the idea that Apple and Amazon were “racing” to lock up 007 film rights?

That’s was what The Hollywood Reporter reported in a story labeled “exclusive” in September 2017. The story was so exclusive that THR rivals Deadline: Hollywood and Variety never got around to matching it. Neither did The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal, both of which follow Apple and Amazon closely. And THR itself never appeared to have done a follow-up.

Were Apple and Amazon really making a concerted effort but came up short? Or was the story so much hot air? Eventually, in 2018, it was announced that Bond 25 would be released in the U.S. by an MGM-Annapurna joint venture, with international distribution by Universal.

Does Eon-Danjaq still have its heart in doing Bond films? 

The hiatus between 2015’s SPECTRE and Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the Eon-produced series.

Moreover, it’s the first such hiatus that occurred simply because the principals (Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and star Daniel Craig) simply didn’t feel like making one for a while. A long while. There have been no legal fights (the 1989-95 hiatus) or studio bankruptcies (1989-95 *and* 2008-2012) in the mix.

Some fans will shout, “Of course they do!” Maybe yes, maybe no. We’ll see.

Forever and a Day U.K. cover formally unveiled

Ian Fleming Publications formally unveiled the U.K. cover for Forever and a Day, Anthony Horowitz’s second James Bond continuation novel.

The cover, not surprisingly, utilizes the same image that showed up a few days ago on the U.K. Amazon website’s listing for the book. However, IFP also showed the back cover as well. The back shows a gun. With the back and front covers combined, it makes it appear as if a boat was fired from the gun.

IFP’s formal announcement included a 22-second video that jazzed things up a bit.

The novel, a prequel to Casino Royale, the first Bond novel, goes on sale in the U.K. on May 31. Vintage UK, the publisher, will also have a new paperback edition of Casino Royale, with an introduction by Horowitz.

You can view IFP’s video below. Forever and a Day won’t reach the United States until November.

Oddity: novelization of never-made U.N.C.L.E. script

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

This blog stumbled on something on Amazon on Thursday night — an apparently unauthorized novelization of THE MALTHUSIAN AFFAIR, a script for a never-made attempted revival of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Producers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts commissioned Sam Rolfe, developer of the original 1964-68 television series, to do a script for a made-for-TV movie.

In Rolfe’s 1970s story, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are still active in U.N.C.L.E. There’s a new chief, Victor Waverly. U.N.C.L.E. has also moved to a new skyscraper headquarters in New York.

The script features the “Madman,” what seems to be a robot, who tears into HQs and creates havoc. This is the starting point for an elaborate adventure. (For additional details, CLICK HERE.)

The Amazon page for the novelization includes a sample, including the Madman’s attack. One reason this appears to be an unauthorized novelization is that the author is listed as “p d.”

According to the Amazon page for the book, it sells for $10.