MGM is leading media acquisition target, CNBC says

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, is the leading acquisition target among media companies as the industry consolidates, CNBC reported.

MGM “has held preliminary talks” with companies including Apple and Netflix “to gauge their interest,” the financial news network said in an online story. CNBC cited two people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple held preliminary talks with MGM.

Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, and MGM control the Bond film franchise. MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds, which acquired MGM out of a 2010 bankruptcy.

MGM may now be worth $10 billion, CNBC said. Besides Bond, it produces television shows for cable networks and streaming services and owns the Epix premium channel.

Netflix has prompted studios including Walt Disney Co. to start their own streaming services. Apple also has established a streaming service and reportedly is looking to add programming.

THR describes challenges at MGM, Bond’s home studio

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer faces various challenges that may lead to James Bond’s home studio being sold, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The entertainment news outlet paints a picture of a studio in flux, including possible suitors and executive changes. Among the highlights:

–MGM needs No Time to Die, the upcoming James Bond film to generate $1 billion in global box office. Only 2012’s Skyfall has reached that mark among Bond films.

–Various companies might be interested in acquiring MGM, including Comcast (parent company of Universal, which is handling international distribution for No Time to Die), Viacom (parent company of Paramount) and tech company Apple Inc, which has expanded into streaming television.

“Apple’s fledgling streaming service is far behind Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and the coming-soon HBO Max and Peacock,” THR said. Apple is sitting on $250 billion in cash and could easily afford an acquisition.

–MGM management is shifting. It was previously known that Jonathan Glickman was departing as head of MGM’s film division. THR reported that former Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal has joined MGM’s board of directors. Pascal had a close relationship with Barbara Broccoli of Eon Productions when Sony distributed four Bond films from 2006-2015.

–MGM wrote down the value of its Epix premium TV channel by $480 million. MGM bought out its partners for about $1 billion. Translation: MGM paid a lot more for Epix than it was worth. Epix is supposed to be a way for MGM to be consistently profitable.

–MGM is “highly leveraged” (i.e. it has a lot of debt).

MGM became the home studio of Bond when it acquired United Artists in 1981. UA had owned half of the franchise since it bought out Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman in 1975.

Ever since, the MGM-Bond relationship has been a soap opera. Danjaq, Eon’s parent company, filed a lawsuit against MGM, which contributed to the 1989-1995 hiatus. MGM underwent a 2010 bankruptcy, which caused Bond production to grind to a halt for a time.

MGM never replaced CEO Gary Barber after the studio’s board forced out the executive in 2018 MGM currently is managed by an “office of the CEO.”

Apple holds preliminary talks with MGM, Journal reports

Apple logo

Apple Inc. has held preliminary talks about acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the James Bond film series, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Most of the story is behind a paywall. However, CET has a summary that can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

Apple wants is considering “ways to broaden the appeal” of its Apple TV app and $4.99 a month Apple TV + streaming service, the Journal said. In addition to MGM, Apple also had preliminary meetings with the Pac 12 college athletic conference concerning possible programming, the Journal said.

In streaming, Apple is up against various competitors, including Netflix, Disney + and HBO Max. Financial analysts have speculated that Apple needs more programming compared to those competitors.

MGM controls the Bond film franchise, along with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions. The company also has a large film library, much of it from the old United Artists, which MGM acquired in 1981. MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds.

MGM has been rebuilding since a bankruptcy in 2010. It has gotten back into film distribution with the formation of the United Artists Releasing joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. MGM also is trying to build other “franchises” such as Creed and the animated Addams Family.

In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said that Apple and Amazon were looking to get involved with the Bond franchise. At the time, distribution for Bond 25 (now titled No Time to Die) was unsettled. What eventually emerged was United Artists Releasing handling U.S. distribution for No Time to Die, with Universal performing distribution internationally.

The big development since then is the emergence of the streaming competition as studios move to counter Netflix. Walt Disney Co. has been aggressively marketing Disney +, including original programs from its Star Wars and Marvel franchises.

Apple seen as buyer to stock new streaming service (MGM?)

Apple logo

Apple Inc., which is preparing to launch a streaming television service, is seen as looking to buy entertainment companies to get a library of titles for viewing. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, comes up on the list of possibilities.

Earlier this month, Apple said its Apple TV + will go live Nov. 1 and cost $4.99 a month, $2 less than rival Disney +. The problem is Apple doesn’t have the library of titles that Disney has, which includes projects made under the Disney, Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios brands. Marvel, in particular, is making new series for Disney + to go along with its various movie titles. AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., also is getting into streaming television.

Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance had separate stories on Sept. 13 raising the question whether Apple may buy entertainment properties to boost its supply of programming.

Here’s an excerpt from the Bloomberg story (which was picked up by The Washington Post):

Much has been made of Apple TV+ undercutting competitors, but the price was set low to make up for the fact that, unlike rival services, it won’t contain a backlog of content out of the gate. (snip)

Apple’s lack of a library argues for the company to buy a production studio. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (which also owns the Starz premium channel), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (known as MGM), Sony Pictures and indie studio A24 are all prospects.

Yahoo Finance interviewed Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

“It’s a content arms race,” Ives told Yahoo. “Right now, Apple has built a house, they’ve priced it accordingly. They need to fill it with content and we think that’s going to be the next trick up the sleeve for (Apple CEO Tim) Cook in terms of bigger M&A.” That’s mergers and acquisitions for those who don’t converse in business talk.

Ives’s pecking order for potential purchases was as follows: A24 Studio, Lionsgate, Viacom/CBS, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Netflix “and then a potential gaming publisher (that could be incorporated into Apple’s streaming service or a separate gaming subscription service) as a wild card.”

Sony distributed the four most recent Bond films. It’s not involved with No Time to Die, which will be distributed by United Artists Releasing (joint venture between MGM and Annapurna) in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

MGM has long been one of the weakest studios, having survived various restructurings and a bankruptcy. MGM controls half of the Bond film franchise along with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions. MGM also owns a large film library, which includes the old United Artists library containing such titles (in addition to Bond films) as West Side Story, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, the Rocky series and the Pink Panther series.

Apple certainly has plenty of cash. Interesting times in show biz.

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.

Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.

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.