Variety discusses MGM, Annapurna tensions about Bond 25

Annapurna logo that won’t be seen on Bond 25, according to Variety

Variety has a story today providing an update about the financial challenges facing Annapurna Pictures. It includes a passage indicating Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, partners in a joint venture that releases movies in the U.S., have had some tensions concerning Bond 25.

Quick recap: MGM exited bankruptcy in 2010 without its own distribution operation. It cut a series of deals with other, bigger studios for distribution. Annapurna, meanwhile, started distributing films. MGM and Annapurna then formed a joint venture in fall 2017 to release each other’s movies in the U.S.

In 2018, it was announced the joint venture would handle Bond 25 in North America while Universal would perform international distribution. No details were released concerning how the studios would finance the movie. The past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE, were co-financed by MGM and Sony Pictures.

Earlier this year, the joint venture was given the name United Artists Releasing.

With that background in mind, this passage in the Variety story caught the blog’s eye: “Despite dipping into Annapurna’s deep pockets to roll out the upcoming 25th installment in the James Bond spy series…Annapurna would not be allowed” to show its logo on the next 007 film. According to Variety, an MGM executive “would bark at journalists” for including a mention of Annapurna.

What’s more, according to the story, Annapurna’s movie-releasing team now, essentially works for United Artists Releasing.

Bond 25 release pushed back 2 months

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25’s release has been pushed back almost two months to April 8, 2020, The Wrap entertainment news website said.

The change was confirmed in an announcement on the official 007 website of Eon Productions.

The Wrap’s initial story was only two paragraphs long. It provided no details nor said how it obtained the information. An updated version added some background but still had no details. The Eon announcement was only one sentence.

Bond 25’s scheduled release date had been Feb. 14, 2020.

Bond 25 had already been pushed back once. The next 007 film originally was announced as having a November 2019 release date in the United States.

The 25th James Bond film originally was to have been directed by Danny Boyle. He departed over “creative differences.” Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Bond 25 will be distributed in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures. Universal is handling international distribution.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m., New York time): Perhaps a piece of the puzzle: Universal (which is distributing Bond 25 internationally) has moved Fast & Furious 9 from April 10, 2020 (the start of Easter weekend), to May 22, 2020, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

United Artists name revived by MGM, Annapurna

United Artists logo from 1997

The United Artists name — officially 100 years old today — is being revived by the joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures, MGM said in a statement.

The joint venture will now be known as United Artists Releasing. The joint venture, formed in late 2017, performs U.S. distribution for both MGM and Annapurna.

The original United Artists studio was formed on Feb. 5, 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. UA, then headed by a management team that included Arthur Krim, was the studio that launched the James Bond film series in 1962.

United Artists Releasing is scheduled to handle U.S. distribution of Bond 25 in 2020, with Universal performing distribution in overseas markets. In effect, Bond 25 will represent a homecoming of sorts with the UA name.

Other films released by the original UA included The Magnificent Seven, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Knight and the Pink Panther and Rocky series.

MGM acquired UA from Transamerica Corp. in 1981. The United Artists brand has mostly disappeared since the late 1990s. Bond films were released under the UA name through 1997.

United Artists Releasing “intends to work not only with MGM and Annapurna but with third-party filmmakers – offering an alternative distribution option outside the studio system,” according to today’s statement.

The board of United Artists will have equal representation from MGM and Annapurna.

MGM briefly mentions Bond 25 on investor call

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, during an investor call this week, briefly referenced Bond 25, mostly about the hiring of Cary Fukunaga as director.

“We wouldn’t be more excited about the creative direction of our next installment of our treasured evergreen franchise, Bond 25,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said in prepared remarks. MGM is “thrilled to add Cary’s versatility and innovation to the next James Bond adventure.”

Fukunaga’s hiring was announced in September. He got the job after Danny Boyle departed in August in the midst of Bond 25 pre-production. Fukunaga has directed both streaming television series and feature films. Brearton also referenced Bond 25’s release date being delayed to February 2020.

Other MGM subjects weren’t discussed. The company has been run by a committee of executives since Gary Barber was fired as CEO in March. There were no comments whether he’ll be replaced or not.

Also, MGM’s partner in a U.S. film distribution joint venture, Annapurna Pictures, has been hit with financial troubles. But Annapurna’s name didn’t come up. The joint venture is scheduled to release Bond 25 in the U.S. while Universal will distribute the film internationally.

There were no questions from investors on the call.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter for the heads up.

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.

THR: Annapurna’s ills may affect Bond 25 U.S. distribution

Annapurna logo

Financial problems at Annapurna Pictures may affect the U.S. distribution of Bond 25, The Hollywood Reporter said as part of a broader look at the company.

As things currently stand, a joint venture between Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will release Bond 25 in the U.S. in February 2020 while Universal will distribute the movie in international markets.

Bond 25 is “the jewel in the crown” for the Annapurna-MGM joint venture, wrote THR’s Kim Masters. “If Annapurna falters, that film is likely to be released by Universal, which is handling overseas distribution. (MGM might also make a play to distribute domestically itself.)”

The joint venture was set up last year. It distributes movies for each partner. Movies that originate with Annapurna carry that brand. Movies generated by MGM, such as Bond 25, carry MGM’s Leo the Lion logo.

The THR story mostly is about cutbacks in film production at Annapurna, headed by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

“(T)he company’s operations now are being reviewed by an executive (with experience in business, but not in Hollywood) dispatched by Ellison’s father,” Masters wrote.

The story quotes a person with knowledge of the situation that it didn’t identify as saying this about Annapurna: “Larry respects money and wants it to be run in a more responsible way.”

Annapurna has exited some movies it commissioned, including a project about the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

“We are simply recalibrating so that our creative decisions are fully aligned with our business goals,” Annapurna said in a statement to THR.

Bond 25: An Annapurna primer

Annapurna logo

This week, various entertainment-news outlets (including Variety, The Wrap and The Hollywood Reporter among others) carried stories about turmoil at Annapurna Pictures.

The company is tied to Bond 25. So 007 fans are wondering if something may be up on that front. What follows is a primer.

What is Annapurna? It originally was a production company involved with films such as Zero Dark Thirty. It was founded by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

In 2017, Annpurna branched into distribution. Its first distributed movie was Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city. The film bombed at the box officce.

How is it tied to Bond 25? Also in 2017, Annapurna formed a distribution joint venture with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The joint venture distributes films for each of the partners. Movies generated by MGM would carry that brand. Movies generated by Annapurna would carry that brand.

In May, it was announced the MGM-Annapurna joint venture would distribute Bond 25 (an MGM-generated project) in the United States while Universal would distribute the movie internationally.

Why the concern? Annapurna abruptly has dropped a number of film projects, including a movie based about the late former Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

Annapurna “has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars of losses over the years due to some significant box office losses,” according to a Variety story (linked above) by Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly. The scribes write that Larry Ellison is exterting control to attempt to make Annapurna profitable.

Could this imperil Bond 25? No. Annapurna is one of three players (itself, MGM and Universal). The Bond 25 deal is expected to help Annpurna, because it’ll get a distribution fee, according to Variety. The entertainment site also says Universal is a likely candidate to take over U.S. distribution if necessary.