Bond 25: The Lt. Columbo edition

We’ve mentioned before how, like Lt. Columbo, “little things” bother the blog.

Like the good lieutenant those little things can prevent you from sleeping soundly at night.

Well, whatever. These aren’t necessarily new, but these little things aren’t getting resolved.

Why hasn’t a distributor been selected yet? We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of SPECTRE’s world premiere. With SPECTRE, Sony Pictures’ most recent two-movie contract to release 007 films would expire.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer knew it. Sony knew it. Other studios knew it. Supposedly, there were talks started not long after SPECTRE came out.

Yet no decision was made in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported in early 2017 that MGM spent much of the year negotiating to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but no deal resulted.

By September 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said tech giants Apple and Amazon were looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights — and possibly snatch all the 007 film rights.

Yet, more than a month later, NOTHING has been announced. Major news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which normally cover Apple and Amazon closely, didn’t even mention the story. You’d think the Journal and Times would find this a juicy story worthy of their time. But no, evidently.

How secure is that announced November 2019 release date? In July, Eon Productions and MGM made separate announcements that Bond 25 would have a November 2019 U.S. release date, with a U.K. release before that.

But neither Eon nor MGM can release a movie. MGM cuts deals with other studios (on a film-by-film basis) to distribute its movies.

Many entertainment news websites take that November 2019 date as a given. But at this point, there isn’t an entity that can actually get the movie into theaters.

Most of the Bond 25 media buzz consists of whether Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve will helm Bond 25. But until a distributor is in place, the movie’s financing (i.e. who will cut the checks) isn’t settled.

With the last two Bond films, distributor Sony financed half of the production. That’s an important detail nobody seems interested in talking about.

What about that Eon might want to sell (after Bond 25) buzz? That idea was raised (sort of) in July by a Birth.Movies.Death writer and (sort of) seconded by the MI6 James Bond website, albeit with caveats. Yet, other major entertainment websites apparently have not pursued that question.

As the blog noted earlier this month, it’s all somewhat peculiar.

Advertisements

Dr. No’s 55th: A peculiar anniversary

Dr. No poster

This week, the James Bond film franchise celebrates the 55th anniversary of its first entry, Dr. No. However, it’s a bit of peculiar milestone.

Five years ago, for the 50th anniversary, it was a time of celebration. The golden anniversary of Dr. No was marked with the knowledge that a new Bond film, Skyfall, would be out soon.

For Bond fans, it was a “win-win.” They could celebrate the franchise’s past while looking forward to the near future

For the 55th, not as much.

Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in July announced a November 2019 release date for Bond 25. But, as of this writing, there isn’t an actual distributor to get the movie into theaters. Such a distributor likely would provide a significant chunk of the funding for the project.

The incumbent 007, Daniel Craig, said in August he’s coming back for a fifth outing. However, besides the lack of a distributor, there’s no director in place, either.

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on Bond 25 story, according to that July announcement.

But until a director is on the job — and directors are known for bringing in their own writers to re-work a script — things can only proceed so far. One of the reported contenders, Denis Villeneuve, confirmed to The Montreal Gazette, that he has been in talks with Craig and Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. But Villeneuve, coming off Blade Runner 2049, is in demand for other projects.

What’s more, there have been fuzzy, imprecise vibes that Eon Productions might sell off its interest in 007 after Bond 25. Nobody has actually said this will happen but people have said it might happen.

Finally, tech giants Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights or perhaps acquire the whole thing, according to a Sept. 6 story by The Hollywood Reporter. Yet, major news outlets that follow both Apple and Amazon closely (think The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) have ignored the story.

Is there anything to The Hollywood Reporter’s story or not? Who knows?

All this uncertainty overshadows Dr. No.’s anniversary. The first 007 film included Sean Connery introducing the line, “Bond, James Bond. It was a project the followed the unusual circumstances that brought Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman together.

While a modestly budgeted production, the work of production designer Ken Adam made Dr. No look more expensive than it was. And actress Ursula Andress made an impression on audiences. Director Terence Young, not the first choice of either the producers or distributor United Artists, got the series off to a rousing start.

Some Bond fans fans are sure a major announcement about Bond 25 is coming on Oct. 5, Global James Bond Day and also the anniversary of Dr. No’s premiere. Maybe they’re right. We’ll see.

In any case, the 55th anniversary of Dr. No has an uncertainty that the 50th anniversary didn’t.

Bond 25: Reading between the lines edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been much hard news since Daniel Craig said more than a month ago he’d be back for Bond 25. But some reports suggest things if you read between the lines. And so…

Still no director yet: In July, entertainment news websites identified three Bond 25 director front runners (Denis Villeneuve, Yann Demange and David Mackenzie). Variety said Demange was the top ranked contender.

All was quiet until Thursday night when Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye (who has a record of scoops being proven correct) tweeted that Craig was “keen” on Villeneuve as Bond 25 director.

How much influence Craig will have on the voice is subject to debate and conjecture. But if Bamigboye is correct this time, it certainly sounds as if the decision hasn’t been made yet.

Still no distributor yet: On July 24, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of November 2015. It was interesting given that MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation and relies on cutting deals with other studios to get its films into theaters.

Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter broke a story saying tech giants Apple and Amazon were now in the hunt for Bond 25 film rights in addition to traditional movie studios.

Not much since then. Interestingly, news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which follow both Apple and Amazon closely, haven’t weighed in yet.

So some fans are undoubtedly asking, “Why should I care?” 

Here’s the best the blog can come up with: That November 2019 release date can’t be considered solid until a distributor is in place. Also, just because a release date gets announced doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.

To be clear, there’s no reason for panic. To be honest, there’s not enough information at this point to panic about. But, viewing it from the outside, Bond 25 has some peculiar aspects. Or, as Birth.Movies.Death scribe Phil Nobile Jr. (a big Bond enthusiast) put it on Twitter in response to Bamigboye’s tweet:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

UPDATE: 7:55 p.m. New York time: It turns out Baz Bamigboye wrote about this as part of a column in the Daily Mail.

“Bond star Daniel Craig is rooting for thriller film-maker Denis Villeneuve to direct him in his final 007 movie,” Bamigboye wrote.

Villeneuve “has spoken with Craig and Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson about making what is currently known simply as Bond 25….There are several other directors on the ‘wanted’ list, but I’m hearing that Craig is most interested in Villeneuve.”

Welcome to tech ‘disruption,’ 007 fans

Daniel Craig

Technology companies like to disrupt. Newspapers (Google and Facebook have sucked up advertising) and retail (Amazon.com) are among the sectors that have been disrupted.

The cinema world of James Bond may be next.

Apple Inc. and Amazon.com are pursuing James Bond film distribution rights, The Hollywood Reporter said. And, the entertainment news website reported, it’s possible they could go beyond that to possible control of the 007 franchise.

What has gone from a relatively simple question (who will distribute Bond 25?) may instead transform 007 from a movie series into a multi-media endeavor.

The Reporter estimates the franchise is worth anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion. Apple may be looking to produce content while Amazon already does. Each can afford it.

If either took control, it’s certain that things wouldn’t remain the same. You don’t spend billions of dollars to keep things exactly the same.

Walt Disney Co. acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd., originators of Star Wars. Disney gives management at both a lot of leeway, but under Disney ownership both are ramping up film production. Marvel now is up to three films a year. Lucasfilm has resumed the regular Star Wars saga, with one-off films in between.

It remains to be seen how this turns out. It’s possible Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, cuts a distribution deal with a traditional studio such as Warner Bros.

Still, keep in mind that MGM mostly is owned by hedge funds. They’re looking to make a profit. Also, does the Broccoli-Wilson family, which controls Danjaq and Eon Productions, have its price? If offers priced in the billions get made, anything is possible.

That’s what they mean by disruption.

Apple, Amazon seek 007 rights, THR Reports

Apple logo

Tech companies Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are seeking James Bond film rights, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SAID.

They’ve joined traditional film studios, including Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures seeking a deal to distribute Bond 25, according to the entertainment news website. The Bond franchise is controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq, the parent organization for Eon Productions.

The THR story raises the possibility that Apple and Amazon could expand 007’s reach beyond theatrical films.

Here’s an excerpt:

But the emergence of Apple — which is considered such a viable competitor that Warners is now pressing MGM hard to close a deal — and Amazon shows that the digital giants consider Bond one of the last untapped brands (like a Marvel, Pixar or Lucasfilm) that could act as a game-changer in the content space. Apple’s and Amazon’s inclusion in the chase would indicate that more is on the table than film rights, including the future of the franchise if MGM will sell or license out for the right price.

 

Two former Sony Television executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, are leading Apple’s effort, the Reporter said. The move suggests “Apple is interested in cutting a larger rights deal or acquiring full ownership to exploit Bond’s largely unmined TV potential,” according to the story by Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit.

Studios have scrambled to acquire “intellectual property” that can be the basis of movies, television and other outlets as well creating merchandising opportunities. Walt Disney Co. spent billions to buy Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd., which originated Star Wars. Disney’s Marvel and Lucasfilm operations now account for much of Disney’s film output.

The Reporter says the Bond franchise could be worth anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion. Apple and Amazon both have the resources to make that kind of deal.  Each is among the largest companies in the world. Amazon recently spent more than $13 billion to acquire Whole Foods.

In July, Eon announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. But no distributor has been announced. Sony has released the last four James Bond films. MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation.