Still more Bond 25 questions after NYT story

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig: Working together on another Bond movie soon?

Nothing like a story by The New York Times to generate more questions about the future of the film 007.

What’s Barbara Broccoli thinking? Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the Eon Productions boss, had by all accounts a good relationship with Sony executive Amy Pascal. The Broccoli-Pascal relationship was noteworthy in a still male-dominated movie business.

Pascal is gone, losing her job as a result of the Sony hacks in 2014 (though having a producer deal at Sony).

One of the bidders to release Bond 25, according to The Times is Annapurna. It’s an “upstart” (The Times’ words) movie concern that is about to release its first film Detroit, a drama about the 1967 riots in that city.

Annapurna head Megan Ellison, 31, is a tech heiress who has been active in producing dramatic films. Could she forge a bond with Barbara Broccoli, who turns 57 in June, similar to the one Amy Pascal had?

Why is MGM and Eon Productions only seeking a one-film deal? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 a smaller company. It has been rebuilding gradually.

MGM spent much of 2016 negotiating with a Chinese buyer (still unidentified) but those talks didn’t pan out. MGM also has talked about selling stock to the public at some point.

MGM may yet see major changes. Keeping a distribution deal to Bond 25 only provides MGM executives flexibility for the future.

Why isn’t Walt Disney Co. interested in 007, according to the NYT story? Disney tends to think big. It spent billions to acquire both Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars) and is reaping the rewards as both crank out big hits.

Being the Bond film distributor means a lot of cost without a lot of profit. Sony, in its most recent deal, co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM and Eon got more money than Sony did.

Bond fans may object, but for Disney releasing Bond movies would probably be more trouble than its worth. Disney would only get involved with 007 if it could buy everybody out and control it all, the way it did with Marvel and Star Wars.

 

Sony says it won’t sell movie business

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Sony Corp.’s chief executive officer said Friday that the Japanese electronics company is not selling its movie and entertainment business, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times’ story is mostly about how Michael Lynton is stepping down as head of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Lynton is departing effective Feb. 2. Kazuo Hirai, the Sony Corp. CEO, will take a more active role at the entertainment unit, according to The Times, including keeping an office at Sony Pictures offices in Culver City, California.

Here’s an excerpt from The Times’ story:

Mr. Hirai also emphasized that the studio was not for sale — a persistent topic of Hollywood speculation — calling movies, television and music “essential parts of Sony.”

Here’s why James Bond fans should care: Sony has released the last four James Bond films. Its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE. The company has said it wants to continue its 007 relationship with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

For now, MGM has no distribution deal for Bond 25. Under terms of its most recent Bond deal, Sony’s profits were low compared with MGM and Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

The departing Lynton was embarrassed by the 2014 Sony hacks. But he survived, unlike studio executive Amy Pascal. Pascal, in turn, had a close relationship with Barbara Broccoli, the Eon boss. Pascal ended up with a producer’s deal at Sony.

Pascal was a producer of last year’s Ghostbusters movies, which Sony hoped would become a franchise. That’s now considered unlikely after generating worldwide box office of about $229 million.

Sony executive says no talks on new 007 deal yet

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A Sony Pictures executive, in an interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, said the studio hasn’t started talks with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer concerning whether Sony will distribute future James Bond films.

Tom Rothman, who heads Sony’s movie group, didn’t say much more than that. Sony has released the past four 007 films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale and running through 2015’s SPECTRE. Sony’s most recent two-picture contract expired with SPECTRE.

Here’s the exchange in the interview:

 

Where do discussions stand on the next James Bond film?

I’m not going to comment on that, other than to say that we remain very interested in continuing that excellent and important relationship. And I think we have certain advantages as the incumbent. No discussions have started yet.

MGM emerged a smaller company after exiting bankruptcy in 2010. It has no distribution organization and cuts deals with other studios to release its movies. Under the Bond deal, MGM and Sony co-financed the movies but Sony’s cut of the profits was small.

Rothman assumed the Sony job after Amy Pascal — the Sony executive who negotiated the Bond film deal — departed the studio although she has a producer’s deal at Sony.

In March, MGM CEO Gary Barber said on an investor call, “There’s no rush” to negotiate a new 007 deal with Sony or another studio. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.” Based on Rothman’s comments, that hasn’t changed.

Rothman, in The Hollywood Reporter interview, also commented on Sony’s relationship with Marvel Studios concerning future stand-alone Spider-Man movies.

“Sony has the ultimate authority,” the executive told the entertainment website. “But we have deferred the creative lead to Marvel, because they know what they’re doing.”

Sony released five Spider-Man films from 2002 through 2014. Under the agreement with Marvel, Spider-Man is now part of Marvel’s film universe. The character made his Marvel Studios debut with last month’s Captain America: Civil War.

Bond 25: What’s being talked about, what isn’t

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

In sports, there’s the season and the “off-season,” where some players retire, others change teams, etc. For fans of the James Bond films, this “off-season” is a little off kilter.

What’s mostly being talked about is who the next 007 is going to be — even though the incumbent (Daniel Craig) hasn’t actually said if he’s done with the role or not.

Last week, Tom Hiddleston was the center of attention after the actor said he’d like the role if he got the chance. This week, Irish actor Aidan Turner is in the spotlight after THE SUN RAN A STORY that Turner “has jetted to LA where he is holding talks about becoming the next James Bond.”

The story is a bit lacking in detail. Evidently, he’s far from a sure thing because Turner “will have fierce competition from Brit stars including Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy.”

There’s also a quote from an unidentified source: “Aidan has held preliminary talks with Bond producers and being in LA will give him a further chance to discuss the role.” The preliminary talks reference is interesting but it sounds like the source doesn’t know whether or not Turner will actually have talks with Bond people in LA or not. He just has “a further chance” to talk about it. Regardless, other media outlets picked up on the Sun’s story.

Meanwhile, something people aren’t talking much about is what studio will actually release Bond 25 whenever it does come out.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half the Bond franchise, is too small to release movies. The contract of Sony Pictures, which has released the last four Bond films, expires once SPECTRE is out of theaters (it’s still on 16 U.S. screens this week). It was thought a new deal — with either Sony or somebody else — would be struck early in 2016.

It is still early, but the year’s first quarter is nearing an end.

Sony’s most recent two-picture deal was a bad one for the studio — it financed half of Skyfall and SPECTRE, but only got a quarter of the profits. The Sony executive who struck that deal, Amy Pascal, is gone. Other studios are interested but would they agree to the kind of terms Sony provided?

Hard to say, but for now it’s not a subject getting that much attention.

Reading between the lines of THR’s story on MGM and Sony

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

The Hollywood Reporter has A STORY BY GREGG KILDAY examining whether Sony Pictures will no longer release 007 films after SPECTRE. But the story has some other interesting data as well.

Sony has released all four Bond films of the Daniel Craig era, but its current two-film deal expires with SPECTRE. Here’s a look at some of the other side issues raised in the story.

SPECTRE’s budget: Kilday quotes sources he doesn’t identify as insisting “that the final net budget now stands in the neighborhood of $250 million.”

It’s known, thanks to the Sony hacks, that SPECTRE spending was on track to reach around $350 million. The Hollywood Reporter story suggests that production placement and similar deals (such as the subsidies Mexico paid out to the production) helped bring in about $100 million to offset a substantial portion of those costs.

Mind games between studios: There’s also an anecdote in the story about some mind games between Sony and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that controls half of the Bond franchise along with the Broccoli-Wilson family.

According to the story, MGM told Sony in June 2013 if it wanted its name in a press release announcing the release date of the then-untitled movie, Sony had “to opt in immediately.” At the time, there was no firm budget but Sony was being pressed to commit anyway, THR says. (Not mentioned in the story: there wasn’t even a first-draft script. That wasn’t submitted by initial writer John Logan until March 2014.)

The release was issued in JULY 2013.It had this joint quote from Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal: “It’s a privilege to work on the Bond films. EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL and we, along with our partners at MGM, can’t wait to share this new chapter with audiences all over the world.”

Subsequently, Logan was replaced writing the movie and Pascal was fired after bad publicity from the Sony hacks.

To read the entire Hollywood Reporter story, CLICK HERE.

Recap of ironic SPECTRE statements

SPECTRE LOGO

As SPECTRE is ready to wrap up principal photography, here’s a look back at some statements laden with irony and hidden meaning that weren’t evident at the time.

“John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL and we, along with our partners at MGM, can’t wait to share this new chapter with audiences all over the world.” Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal in a JULY 2013 PRESS RELEASE.

At the time, there was no script. A treatment arrived in the fall of 2013. Logan didn’t deliver a first draft until March 2014. Because of the hacking of Sony Pictures, it’s now known that studio executives were less than thrilled with what Logan (who always said he was working closely with Mendes) delivered. Logan would later be replaced by veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

A side note: bad publicity from the hacks caused Sony to fire Pascal (something she has publicly acknowledged).

“At the end of the day, it came down to the story…It was a story I wanted to tell.” This was Sam Mendes speaking on Dec. 4, 2014 to ENTERTAINMENT NOW.

At the time Mendes said that, rewrites to fix the last third of the story were being done right up to the Dec. 4 media event that the director hosted. Again, that’s only known because of the hacking at Sony Pictures.

“More pressure.” Mendes again on Dec. 4, on how SPECTRE would have a bigger budget than Skyfall and how it would affect him. With the Sony hacks, it’s known the budget had gone past $300 million, making the 24th James Bond film one of the most expensive of all time.

Amy Pascal’s soft landing

Steve Ditko's cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Steve Ditko’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Last week, Sony Pictures announced Amy Pascal was stepping down as a studio executive but would get a producing deal. It didn’t take long for her next project to surface: helping produce a new Spider-Man movie as part of a JOINT MARVEL/DISNEY-SONY PROJECT.

Here’s an excerpt from the press on Marvel’s website released issued late Feb. 9:

(Culver City, California, and Burbank, California February 09, 2015) – Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

Pascal drew criticism after hacking of Sony documents revealed how she criticized actors and made racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama. The hacks also included business dealings, including how Sony and Marvel were negotiating about jointly making future Spider-Man movies.

The hacks also included a draft of the script for SPECTRE, the James Bond movie currently in production, and how it stands to be one of the most expensive movies of all time. One email also showed that Pascal preferred Idris Elba as the next James Bond after Daniel Craig.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, according to A STORY IN VARIETY, Marvel’s Kevin Feige may end up doing most of the heavy lifting in this partnership. The story has more details how the deal came together.