Why Bond 25 may not do much economizing

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

One question about Bond 25 is whether its budget may get trimmed. 2015’s SPECTRE was the most expensive 007 film adventure, with an estimated $245 million budget including Mexican tax credits and product placement deals.

While it’s too early to say definitively, there are signs that Bond 25 won’t exactly fly economy class.

Craig’s reported paycheck: Earlier this month, Variety reported that star Daniel Craig is set for a $25 million payday from his fifth Bond film. It was the highest amount in a survey of actor compensation by the trade publication.

If correct, that makes it harder to drastically cut the budget. For example, if you wanted to cut Bond 25’s outlay to $100 million to $150 million, Craig’s pay would mean you could only spend $75 million to $125 million for the rest of the film.

Boyle’s change of attitude: Director Danny Boyle has a reputation for making very lean, small-scale films. Some fans on internet message boards have speculated Boyle in Bond 25’s director chair could mean a less epic, leaner 007 outing.

Not so fast.

This week, Boyle spoke at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Here’s an excerpt from a story about the talk on LIPA’s website.

Danny says, at first, he wasn’t sure he was the right person for the job (for Bond 25). “I like watching big films but I don’t think I’m necessarily good at making them. Then I thought ‘no, you shouldn’t think like that’.”

Working with long-time collaborator, writer John Hodge, Danny explained why he accepted. “We have this idea about what we want to do with Bond and I felt we should have a go because of this idea. So we are trying to stay true to our principles.” (emphasis added)

It sounds, at the very least, Boyle may be more than willing to have a go at an epic-like film.

Broccoli’s ambitions: The Screen Daily website this week ran a story about how Universal became the international distributor for Bond 25. There was this passage:

“(Eon Productions boss) Barbara Broccoli wants a one billion dollar international gross,” says one industry expert, noting that international box office accounts for the bulk of Bond films’ global theatrical revenues. No 007 release has ever achieved this, and Universal knows a thing or two about getting to the hallowed milestone. Of only seven films to cross $1bn at the international box office, Universal has released three, and it has done so in the last three years: Furious 7 and Jurassic World in 2015, and Fate Of The Furious in 2017.

Only one Bond film surpassed $1 billion globally. 2012’s Skyfall had $304.4 million in the U.S. and $804.2 million internationally. SPECTRE slipped to $200 million in the U.S. and $680.6 million internationally.

To achieve that $1 billion international mark, Bond 25 would have to generate more than 45 percent more box office compared with SPECTRE. Higher ticket prices will help some. But if Broccoli really wants $1 billion, excluding the U.S. market, Bond is going to have to ramp things up.

What’s more, if Broccoli really is seeking $1 billion internationally, that generally means mounting a big-scale production. Marvel Studios filmed two Avengers movies back to back, Avengers: Infinity War, released in late April and the yet-to-titled Avengers 4, due out next year.

It’s been estimated the combined cost of the two movies may reach as much as $1 billion. Avengers: Infinity War has been a big hit (global box office of $1.9 billion so far).

Big risks, big rewards. If the expert quoted by Screen Daily is correct (and the website didn’t identify him or her), that may mean that Bond 25 may be a more high stakes game than anything 007 encountered in a novel or movie scene.

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Bond 25 questions: Full speed ahead edition

Bond 25 is full speed ahead, with a director, new screenwriter and a new distribution lineup. So, it’s time for the blog’s specialty — questions.

What was that story idea (turned into a script by John Hodge) that was so good Eon Productions dropped a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script?

Throughout the Bond 25 saga to date, this has been one of the most intriguing angles.

Eon announced 10 months ago that Purvis and Wade were back as 007 screenwriters. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a December podcast from The Hollywood Reporter that Purvis and Wade were ““busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

Not fantastic enough. Danny Boyle, now officially named as Bond 25’s director, and Hodge pitched Eon an idea. Boyle would direct if a script based on the idea were selected. (Boyle spoke about this in public, even if Eon didn’t until this week.)

Boom! Here we are.

This week’s official announcement about Boyle’s and Hodge’s participation in Bond 25 didn’t reference any plot points. The guess here is we’ll get some kind of brief synopsis when production starts in early December.

Who will compose Bond 25’s score? Some directors have a strong relationship with composers. That’s why we got Thomas Newman for Skyfall and SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

A variety of composers have worked on Boyle’s films, including David Arnold (A Life Less Ordinary), John Murphy (28 Days Later…), A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs).

Arnold, of course, is a 007 film veteran, working on five films from 1997 through 2008. Does he get a chance at a sixth?

Will Bond 25’s budget expand or contract compared with SPECTRE?  SPECTRE’s budget was an estimated $245 million (after including tax credits in Mexico and product placement deals). A car chase scene in Rome alone cost about 24 million British pounds, or $36 million at the time. Also, Eon boasted how the movie had the biggest explosion in motion picture history.

By contrast, 2012’s Skyfall had an estimated budget of $200 million. That’s still a lot of money but there was economizing. The first unit only traveled to Turkey. Sequences set in China were filmed with a second unit, with interiors filmed either at Pinewood Studios or U.K. locations doubling for China.

Presumably, Bond 25’s budget has been taken into account by the new distribution setup: A joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (007’s home studio) and Annapurna Pictures for the U.S. and Universal for international.

The previous four 007 films were distributed by Sony Pictures. For Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony contributed 50 percent of the production budget but only got back 25 percent of the profit, while MGM kept 75 percent.

Bond 25 announcements confirm director, distribution

Daniel Craig

Official announcements about Bond 25 being directed by Danny Boyle and its distribution were issued early Friday.

Versions were on the official James Bond website and official James Bond feed on Twitter.

They followed a story late Thursday by Deadline: Hollywood that Universal would distribute the movie internationally while a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures would distribute it in the United States. The story also said Boyle was confirmed as director.

The announcements also confirmed a Feb. 21 story in Deadline about how  Boyle would direct is a script by John Hodge were accepted. Boyle said as such in subsequent public appearances but that hadn’t been part of official announcements until now.

A March 8 story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who has had a number of 007 scoops confirmed in the past, said star Daniel Craig was “pulling out all the stops” to have Boyle direct the new Bond film.

The announcements reference Hodge working on Bond 25’s script. A July 24, 2017 announcement said veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were writing Bond 25.

Excerpt from the announcement issued early today:

Daniel Craig returns as 007 and Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) will direct from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting) with production set to begin on 3 December 2018. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures will release the film theatrically in the US on 8 November 2019 through its new joint venture for domestic theatrical distribution with Annapurna Pictures, and Universal Pictures will release internationally commencing with the traditional earlier release in the UK on 25 October 2019.

Here is what the Twitter version looked like:

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

Deadline says Bond 25 distribution settled

Bond 25’s distribution has been settled, Deadline: Hollywood reported. with Universal taking over the international distribution.

Universal will also handle home video distribution, the entertainment website, citing sources it didn’t identify.

U.S. distribution will be through a joint venture that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures formed last year, Deadline said.

That joint venture was announced on Oct. 31. Deadline reported in November that the joint venture was “thisclose” to securing U.S. distribution rights but no formal announcement has been made.

Deadline also said the movie will debut in the U.K. on Oct. 25, 2019, with a U.S. release on Nov. 8, 2019. The U.S. release date was announced by Eon Productions and MGM on July 24, 2017.

Bond 25 will begin production on Dec. 3 of this year, Deadline said.

UPDATE (11:55 p.m.): Deadline says the studios involved confirmed the news. Danny Boyle also  is now confirmed as director, the website said.

“We are delighted to announce that the exceptionally talented Danny Boyle will be directing Daniel Craig in his fifth outing as James Bond in the 25th installment of the franchise,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said in a statement quoted by Deadline.

“We will begin shooting Bond 25 at Pinewood Studios in December with our partners at MGM and thrilled that Universal will be our international distributor.” the duo said in the statement.

The distribution deal was put together more than 300 days after the release date was announced.

 

Is it Eon or EON?

Image from the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing

On Facebook, the blog caught a debate whether it should be Eon Productions or EON Productions.

EON would indicate an acronym. In 1983, an updated version of Steven Jay Rubin’s The James Bond Films was published. “I’ve also discovered that Eon Productions stands for Everything or Nothing Productions, an appropriate tag,” Rubin wrote in the introduction for the update.

In the late 1990s, the officially sanctioned documentary Inside Dr. No seemed to try to debunk that idea.

NARRATOR (Patrick Macnee): For many years, some speculate the (Eon) name stands for everything or nothing.

MICHAEL G. WILSON: Cubby (Broccoli) was always…when I said to him does it mean “Everything Or Nothing,” he said, “I’ve never heard of that.”

OK. Also, eon is a word defined as “an indefinite and very long period of time, often a period exaggerated for humorous or rhetorical effect.”

Except….flash forward to the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing.

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Cubby and Harry (Saltzman) formed a company called Eon, everything or nothing.

Accompanying Barbara Broccoli’s quote is image of Eon business cards, where it’s spelled Eon, rather than EON.

So, over a period of years, you had the two leaders of Eon (or EON) Productions telling different versions of the company’s origin. Meanwhile, there was an officially licensed video game titled James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.

Regardless, there are differences in English-English and American-English about how you treat acronyms. The term “public limited company” is usually abbreviated PLC in the U.S., while in the U.K., it is abbreviated as “Plc.”

Beyond that, companies love to bend the rules of English (on either side of the Atlantic Ocean). Time magazine refers to itself as TIME, even if nobody else does so. Boeing is formally The Boeing Company but The Associated Press and other news organizations simply refer to it as Boeing Co.

Going back to Eon, the company that produces James Bond films, its key figures don’t agree whether the name is an acronym or not.

On Eon’s website, the name is spelled EON. However, the company’s films, such as DR. NO, CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE are spelled with all capital letters. So that’s not very definitive, either.

Ultimate answer: It’s up to you. The available information is, at best, conflicting.

MGM paid ex-CEO $15 million in severance

Gary Barber, former MGM chief

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in reporting first-quarter financial results on May 16, disclosed it paid former CEO Gary Barber about $15 million in severance.

The home studio of the James Bond film series referenced the payment in a table labeled Adjusted EBITDA (EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization).

The table listed $15.362 million as “non-recurring costs and expenses.” A footnote explained: “Non-recurring costs and expenses primarily consist of severance expenses related to the exit of our former CEO.”

MGM gave Barber the heave-ho in March, despite last year extending his contract to run through 2022. In December, in a Hollywood Reporter podcast, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli said Barber was taking the lead on finding a distributor for Bond 25.

MGM also conducted an investor call about the first-quarter results. There was no mention about Bond 25. The only question during the call concerned how MGM is operating with a committee of executives.

The next 007 film adventure has claimed a November 2019 release date in the Unites States. However, there’s no announced distributor. Sony Pictures has released the past four Bond films.

 

THR says Broccoli & Wilson had rift with deposed MGM chief

Barbara Broccoli

The Hollywood Reporter, as part of a followup story about the firing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer chief Gary Barber, said Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions also had major differences with Barber.

“(I)nsiders say a rift had also developed between (Barber) and 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson,” according to the story by THR’s Paul Bond. ‘“There was a revolt,’ says an insider who claims the Broccoli camp ultimately refused to work with Barber.”

The THR story  was posted this morning. Variety and Deadline: Hollywood had new or updated stories Tuesday night. All three outlets described how Barber and board chairman Kevin Ulrich disagreed over strategy. Ulrich, according to the accounts, wants MGM to get bigger amid changes in media.

Variety said MGM’s board “had doubts about whether Barber had the right strategic vision and willingness to take big risks.”

Deadline said: “Ulrich saw an opportunity for MGM to remake itself into a digital powerhouse by renaming Epix with the MGM brand and making it a subscription streaming service that could line up favorably along the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney’s new service, Hulu and others that come along. The idea would be to include the upcoming James Bond film’s pay window as part of this.”

The upcoming film, of course, is Bond 25, which has an official U.S. release date of November 2019. Ulrich heads a New York investment company, Anchorage Capital Group, a major shareholder in MGM.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal weighed in with an MGM story I can’t access because it’s behind a paywall. However, one of the reporters, Ben Fritz, sent out this tweet quoting from a Broccoli-Wilson statement that’s not referenced in the story.