Bond 25 questions: Release date edition

Daniel Craig

An announcement by Universal and a line in a Variety story have stirred the pot, getting fans concerned — or at least wondering — about Bond 25’s release date.

The announcement was made by Universal that it planned to release a Danny Boyle-directed comedy/musical in September 2019. That’s two months before Bond 25’s current release date of November 2019.

The line in the Variety story: ” MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on Nov. 8, 2019, but it’s unlikely to do so.”

So, let the questions begin.

How likely is Bond 25 to be delayed? Variety didn’t specify. In fact, it didn’t indicate whether that line was based on hard reporting or a simple assertion.

Meanwhile (while I was writing this very post), the MI6 James Bond website put out this tweet about the Variety story:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

That sounds like an endorsement of what Variety said. But Variety wasn’t the model of transparency with its readers. And there’s ways to be more transparent while not identifying specific sources.

Is there something else? Fans have mostly overlooked how Bond 25 doesn’t have a distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t had a distribution operation since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal ended with SPECTRE.

MGM took a step last year to getting back into distribution by forming a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture had just about wrapped up U.S. distribution for Bond 25. But no announcement ever came. The Hollywood Reporter said April 4 that the distribution deal had been held up as MGM seeks to sell itself.

Under the most recent MGM-Sony deal, the two studios split the production costs while MGM kept 75 percent of the profits.

Unless MGM either sells itself or grows itself into a bigger entity, getting a distributor deal is vital to financing Bond 25.

Put another way, until you finance the movie, you can’t make the movie. There’s been an element of uncertainty surrounding Bond 25 all along. The November 2019 release date may have been built on a foundation of sand since it was first announced.

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Bond 25: The distributor edition (aka TOLDJA)

Bond 25: Still in search of a distributor

Remember all the posts this blog had when it kept asking why there wasn’t a distributor yet for Bond 25? And how some readers felt it was overkill?

Except, apparently, it wasn’t. The Hollywood Reporter on April 4 reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t yet selected either a U.S. or international distributor. According to the entertainment news outlet, MGM may be setting itself up for a sale and its 007 film rights are a big part of the marketing.

MGM and Eon Productions said back on July 24, 2017, that Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019. The blog asked that day, “Who’s going to distribute Bond 25? The blog either asked the question again or discussed the issue on Aug. 29, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

As a 007 fan wrote to the blog on Twitter: “I think you need to chill about the distributor. It’s going to happen don’t you think.”

Separately, some fans participating on 007 message boards felt it was all lined up, it was merely a well-kept secret. After all, the thinking went, there’s no way they’d announce a release date without a distributor lined up.

Except, apparently, MGM and Eon did just that. Perhaps it was to call dibs on the November 2019 date. It doesn’t really matter. The announcement went out without having secured a way for the movie to make it to theaters. That was the case then. It’s still the case now apparently.

Almost a year ago, The New York Times reported how five studios were trying to cut a deal with MGM to distribute Bond 25.  Since then, the parent company of one of the contenders, 20th Century Fox, agreed to sell that studio to Walt Disney Co.

Another, Annapurna Pictures, formed a joint venture with MGM to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. However, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November, in a story labeled “EXCLUSIVE,” that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to getting the Bond 25 U.S. distribution deal. Some outlets have subsequently written as if it were a done deal.

Except, apparently, it wasn’t.

Neither the Times nor Deadline ever felt a need to revisit their previous stories. It wasn’t until this week when The Hollywood Reporter finally got around to it. It would seem if something is “thisclose” to happening but it hasn’t occurred months later, it might be time to make new inquiries.

MGM may sell, Bond 25 distribution still up in air, THR says

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may be getting ready for a sale while the distribution of Bond 25 — both in the U.S. and internationally — is still unresolved, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The two issues are related, according to the entertainment news outlet.

MGM is holding off on making a Bond 25 distribution deal “because it is using the Bond rights as a carrot for whoever wants to buy the studio,” THR reported, citing “a knowledgable source.”

MGM controls half of the Bond franchise, going back to when it acquired United Artists in 1981. The other half is controlled by Eon Productions and its parent company, Danjaq.

One possible MGM buyer is Sony Corp., THR said. The company’s Sony Pictures (and its Columbia Pictures brand) have distributed the last four Bond films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. Under its most recent two-film deal, Sony contributed half of the production costs but only took home 25 percent of the profit.

“Sony is said to be interested in buying the studio and has the cash on hand to pounce,” THR said. The entertainment news outlet says MGM’s price tag may exceed $6 billion, including the 007 rights.

MGM exited bankruptcy in 2010 and had no distribution operation. The studio last year formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s films in the U.S. However, Bond 25 was not part of the deal. The first MGM film distributed by the joint venture was the recent Death Wish remake.

In November, Deadline: Hollywood reported the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to securing the U.S. distribution for Bond 25. Since then, various stories have been published assuming it was a done deal. But, as this blog has pointed out, there never was an actual announcement.

The THR story, meanwhile, has an almost throwaway line in the final paragraph that director Danny Boyle’s deal for Bond 25 has been completed.

“One thing is for certain, with the Bond 25 release date looming and director Danny Boyle’s deal done, according to a source, MGM will have to make some kind of move soon,” THR said.

Boyle said last month he will direct the movie if a script being written by his collaborator John Hodge is accepted. MGM declined to comment to THR.

Bond 25 questions: MGM edition

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had a little, but not much, to say about Bond 25 after releasing fourth-quarter financial results. Naturally, that leaves the blog with more questions.

Was there anything significant in what MGM had to say about Bond 25? In a backhanded way, the studio reaffirmed that November 2019 release date.

Two different executives referenced “the return of James Bond in 2019” in their prepared remarks.

Why is that significant? MGM is the studio that fired its chief executive (Gary Barber) just last week only months after it extended his contract. Whatever the effects of Barber’s firing, MGM said indirectly in won’t affect its plans for Bond 25.

Anything else? Yeah. this is the same production that spent the better part of a year developing a script by 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Except it apparently put that story aside to see what John Hodge, writing up a new script based on an idea he had and director Danny Boyle had, can come up with.

So, whatever is going on behind the scenes, it would seem Bond 25 won’t get pushed back, at least if the studio can help it.

How stable is MGM? The post-Gary Barber management went out of its way to say things are great, just great.

We’ll see. However, during a call with investors, Barber’s name was only mentioned once and only to say executives wouldn’t answer questions about his abrupt departure.

Why Bond fans should care: MGM controls half of the 007 film franchise.

Why has no distribution deal been announced? Nobody outside of MGM knows for sure, but here’s a guess.

In April 2017, The New York Times reported five studios were seeking the Bond 25 distribution deal.

One of them, Annapurna Pictures, formed a joint venture with MGM. The joint venture will release each other’s movies in the U.S. market.

Now, Bond 25 was not part of the deal. However, on Thursday’s investors call, MGM executives talked up the joint venture as being great, just great for MGM in the long run. It will have more control over its movies and it will make more money in the long run.

Now, if it’s that good a deal, it makes no sense for Bond 25 not to be part of it. And Deadline: Hollywood reported last year, the joint venture was extremely close to distributing Bond 25 in the U.S. But a formal announcement never came.

Even if MGM-Annapurna has the U.S. deal, that still leaves international distribution. For whatever reason, that’s been a long slog with no conclusion yet.

Any other thoughts? Just one. To quote a line from a previous post, “Agent 007 is tethered to a studio where nothing seems to stay stable for long.”

MGM says little about Bond 25 or CEO’s departure

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer didn’t a lot to say today about either Bond 25 or the abrupt departure of CEO Gary Barber.

MGM has a strong film slate in 2018 and will have “the return of James Bond in 2019,” Chief Operating Officer Christopher Brearton said in introductory remarks during an investor call Wednesday. The company earlier reported fourth-quarter and year-end 2017 earnings.

Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Kay said almost the the same thing as Brearton. He said MGM films in 2019 would be “headlined by the return of James Bond. We are working with out partners at Eon Productions on what we believe will be another highly successful installment of this evergreen franchise.”

Later, during a brief question and answer session, executives were asked about the progress of negotiations for a Bond 25 distributor.

“We don’t have any formal update on this right now,” Brearton said. “We will be updating you when we have further progress in that regard.”

For now, Bond 25 doesn’t have announced distributors. MGM last year formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. market. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of that deal. And even if the joint venture handles Bond 25 U.S. distribution, there’s the question of who will distribute the film in international markets.

MGM had even less to say about Barber’s exit. “We will not be addressing questions about Gary’s departure,” Brearton said.

With Barber gone, MGM is being supervised by an “office of the CEO” that reports to the board of directors. Brearton talked up how remaining executives “are all energized and focused.”

Brearton, an entertainment lawyer, joined MGM last month. Barber became the top MGM executive in 2010 and led the company out of bankruptcy. MGM in October extended his contract through 2022. The extension occurred just months before Barber was fired.

New Bond 25 observations after Variety’s story

Daniel Craig in a 2000s publicity still

UPDATE (Feb. 21): Post updated to note that Variety removed mention of Annapurna Pictures from its story.

Variety is reporting that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are keen to have Danny Boyle direct Bond 25.

A few observations:

Eon’s auteur director phase may continue: Beginning with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon has been enamored with “auteur” directors: Marc Forster (Quantum) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

Employing the services of Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire, would continue that streak.

Over the past decade, Eon has sought more prestige for the long running Bond film series. It hired writer Peter Morgan in the early stages of pre-production of Skyfall.

Morgan had an enviable resume, including writing Frost/Nixon. But, in a 2010 interview, he seemed ambivalent about writing for Bond. ““I’m not sure it’s possible to do it.” He cited the lack of ” social reality” in Bond films Morgan exited the project but apparently he had the idea of Judi Dench’s M being killed.

Bond 25 may still be unsettled: According to Variety, when it was first posted, Boyle surfaced as a candidate after Annapurna Pictures emerged as a piece of the movie’s distribution puzzle.

In late October, MGM and Annapurna announced they were forming a joint venture to release each other’s movies. However, Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

In November, Deadline: Hollywood reported that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to securing the U.S. distribution rights to Bond 25. But MGM hasn’t confirmed that and hasn’t commented publicly at all about Bond 25 distribution.

In this week’s Variety story, there was this passage:

“Sources tell Variety that ‘White Boy Rick’ director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but after Annapurna won the distribution rights, there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

Later, Variety removed any mention of Annapurna from the story. That passage was changed to read: “Sources tell Variety that “White Boy Rick” director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

The story then had this passage at the end: “UPDATED: Domestic distribution rights are currently held by MGM.”

Bond 25 financing is still a big question: With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony Pictures was the distributor and supplied half of the production budget. However, Sony only got 25 percent of the profits while MGM got 75 percent.

It would appear that things have changed with Bond 25. But how so remains unknown.

Is MGM more like a “big boy” studio now and actually financing Bond 25 on its own? Is MGM splitting the budget with Annapurna (assuming Annapurna becomes involved)? Will yet another studio take on the international distribution (and perhaps a portion of the production budget)?

Nobody knows. Until the financing is nailed down, Bond 25 still has a long way to go.

Broccoli, Wilson among Variety500

Barbara Broccoli

Sorry, something that slipped by a few months ago.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions were part of the Variety500, which the trade publication bills as “an index of the 500 most influential business leaders shaping the global $2 trillion entertainment industry.”

People in the index were “selected by the Variety editorial board, which conducted extensive research for its selections.” According to a separate announcement on Sept. 26, the list of 500 members is not ranked.

In September, Variety revamped its website. Variety500 was added as part of the redesign. The list is to be updated annually.

Michael G. Wilson

Each member has a short bio, along with links to Variety stories about them. To see Broccoli’s entry, CLICK HERE. To see Wilson’s entry, CLICK HERE.

Also in the Variety500:

— Gary Barber, CEO of MGM Studios. MGM is 007’s home studio and controls half of the franchise. Barber which led the studio out of a 2010 bankruptcy.

Megan Ellison, principal of Annapurna Pictures. Annapurna has expanded from producing films to adding a distribution operations with last year’s Detroit, a drama about the 1967 riots in that city.

In October, MGM and Annapurna announced they were forming a joint venture to release each other’s films.

For now, that deal doesn’t include Bond 25. But the distributor for the next 007 film hasn’t been announced. So it remains to be seen whether the Annapurna-MGM venture may release the movie in the U.S., as reported by Deadline: Hollywood in November.