A pedantic observation about No Time to Die

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1, 2020

While glancing at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s website, I noticed the copyright notice for No Time to Die. It read:

© 2020 Danjaq, LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In recent years, Bond films have had copyright notices citing Danjaq and United Artists Corporation (an MGM owned brand and the name of the original studio that released Bond films). Examples include Die Another Day and The World Is Not Enough.

The first four films of the Daniel Craig era were released by Sony under its Columbia brand. So, for example, the copyright notice for Casino Royale listed Danjaq, United Artists and Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. The same thing happened with Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Sony wasn’t involved with No Time to Die so naturally it’s not part of the new copyright notice. Why was United Artists dropped? Perhaps because the UA name was revived for United Artists Releasing, MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, which will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S.

U.S. FTC to probe Amazon’s purchase of MGM, WSJ says

MGM logo

For blog subscribers: This had the correct headline.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission plans to investigate Amazon’s planned $8.45 billion acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Amazon has said it plans to acquire MGM, which controls half of the James Bond film franchise as well as thousands of other film titles and TV properties.

The FTC and U.S. Justice Department split U.S. regulatory review for large deals, the Journal said.

“During recent interagency negotiations, the FTC secured the right to review the Amazon-MGM deal, the people familiar with the matter said,” according to the Journal.

Amazon’s deal to acquire MGM may provide financial security for the Bond franchise — if approved by regulators. The Bond series has been subject to financial insecurity since MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981.

U.S. FTC to probe Amazon’s purchase of MGM, WSJ says

MGM logo

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission plans to investigate Amazon’s planned $8.45 billion acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Amazon has said it plans to acquire MGM, which controls half of the James Bond film franchise as well as thousands of other film titles and TV properties.

The FTC and U.S. Justice Department split U.S. regulatory review for large deals, the Journal said.

“During recent interagency negotiations, the FTC secured the right to review the Amazon-MGM deal, the people familiar with the matter said,” according to the Journal.

Amazon’s deal to acquire MGM may provide financial security for the Bond franchise — if approved by regulators. The Bond series has been subject to financial insecurity since MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981.

Broccoli celebrates birthday amid interesting 007 times

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli today celebrates her 61st birthday. Some birthdays are more memorable than others. As the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions unit, Broccoli’s birthday comes amid a lot of developments.

In recent years, Broccoli — the daughter of Danjaq/Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli — has emerged as the dominant management voice of the James Bond film franchise. And with this year’s birthday, there’s a lot happening on the Bond front.

Amazon has agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. That means, relatively soon, Broccoli and her colleagues will be dealing with a new studio regime — again. This has occurred quite a bit since 1981 when MGM first acquired United Artists.

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film made by Eon, has been on hold, partly because of creative disagreements (director Danny Boyle’s departure from the project), partly because of a global pandemic.

Bond fans around the globe are hoping No Time to Die finally comes out this fall. Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, have said they want Bond to continue as a big-screen experience, not as a streaming one.

In other words, Barbara Broccoli has a lot on her plate amid her latest birthday.

Broccoli has spent 39 years on a full-time basis in service of the Bond franchise. Even before that, as a teenager, she wrote captions for publicity stills for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

So happy birthday, Ms. Broccoli. The blog hopes it’s a good one.

An old Hollywood hand opines on Bond amid Amazon deal

Peter Bart’s Twitter avatar (@MrPeterBart)

h/t to David Leigh and Phil Nobile Jr. who brought this to my attention. The post below is my responsibility alone.

Peter Bart is an old Hollywood hand. He has worked both sides of the fence, serving as a studio executive and an entertainment industry trade journalist (he was a long-time editor of Variety). Currently, he writes columns for the Deadline: Hollywood site.

This week, he opted to weigh in on Amazon’s announced deal to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. He told an anecdote or two, drawing on his studio executive experience.

 I was personally introduced to the Bond bonanza in 1983 when a cadre of business affairs executives invaded my office with packets of documents. “When you sign the top document, you’ll be greenlighting the next Bond movie,” instructed the first executive. “The film is titled Octopussy.”

“Is the script as bad as the title?” I asked.

“Probably,” came the reply. “But you’re signing as president of United Artists and we need your signature, not your opinion. A Bond deal is a special deal.”

I promptly signed. I’d heard the legend of how Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, heirs to the Bond dynasty, had constructed a web of contracts that tightly controlled every creative and marketing element of their franchise, and also kept half of the action. I had no stake in intruding in this cozy arrangement.

That’s all very interesting but, as of 1983, Barbara Broccoli had a junior role in the franchise. Her father, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions, still controlled operations. Barbara Broccoli graduated college and went to work on Octopussy in 1982. She got an on-screen credit but it was part of the end titles.

Bart also took a shot at Octopussy star Roger Moore “who, at 55, came across more as a stylish maître d’ than as a master spy.” Bart also wrote that Octopussy “performed torpidly at the worldwide box office,”

The movie finished 1983 with a global box office of $187.5 million. While behind 1981’s For Your Eyes Only ($195.3 million), it was ahead of Never Say Never Again, a competing Bond film starring Sean Connery ($160 million). Those were big numbers four decades ago.

The article by Bart, who turns 89 in July, reflects a broader unease among entertainment types with Amazon and its outgoing CEO, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos is planning to spend more time with his rocket company.) Hollywood is being rocked by streaming services (such as Amazon Prime) and is still adjusting to the new reality.

Bart also offered this observation about No Time to Die, the upcoming 25th film in the Eon-produced series:

A $300 million theatrical release, the latest Bond represents a tangle of rights agreements dating back 60 years that reflect the legalistic compromises of the past rather than the slick streamer dealmaking of the present…Some ticket buyers may also see its plot as a creaky reminder of white-bread misogyny.

007 after Amazon: The more things change…

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Amazon’s agreement to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week got a lot of attention. But it’s only now sinking in that, from a James Bond perspective, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Wall Street Journal today published a story about Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions company and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson.

For decades, the Bond franchise has had unusual management. Danjaq/Eon mostly has creative control while the owners of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have the power the purse and finances the films. The latter is not insignificant. But with other franchises, a studio and its owners have total control.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story.

One executive compared the pair’s decision-making power on Bond to George Lucas’s control over the “Star Wars” universe before he sold Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney—which has mined its characters and story lines for new movies, TV shows and theme-park attractions. Those who have worked with Mr. Wilson and Ms. Broccoli said not to expect a similar evolution: They have rebuffed past offers to explore spinoffs or hand Bond over to a larger entity.

Assuming Amazon secures regulatory approval for its $8.45 billion purchase (including assumption of debt) of MGM, things should stabilize financially. MGM has been a series of financial soap operas for decades, including a 2010 bankruptcy.

But creatively? Perhaps not so much. James Bond films coming out more often? I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on that. Barbara Broccoli has a plate full of non-Bond projects, including plays and small-scale “Indie” style movies.

It still comes down to this: Danjaq/Eon doesn’t finance its films. It needs a studio to supply the funds. The studio/studio owner involved needs Danjaq/Eon to produce a Bond movie. One side cannot move without the other.

From the standpoint of James Bond films, you might not expect a lot of changes soon. Enjoy No Time to Die (hopefully it makes its current fall 2021 release date). Bond 26 may not come out very soon after that.

Amazon agrees to acquire MGM for $8.45B

Amazon logo

Amazon said today it agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for $8.45 billion.

“Amazon will help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films, and provide customers with greater access to these existing works,” the tech company/e-commerce giant said in a statement.

MGM’s financial state has been in flux for decades, including a 2010 bankruptcy. Since that bankruptcy, MGM has been controlled by a group of hedge funds.

If the deal is completed — and it’s subject to regulatory approval — MGM may stabilize under Amazon ownership.

Amazon didn’t estimate how long regulatory approval will take. It’s possible such review won’t be completed by Sept. 30, when No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, is scheduled to be released in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

As things stand now, No Time to Die will be released by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures, in the U.S. and by Universal internationally..

For Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions, the deal means adjusting to yet another MGM ownership. The Bond franchise has been linked to the studio since MGM acquired United Artists, 007’s original studio, in 1981.

Bond 25 questions: The Amazon edition Part II

Amazon logo

The momentum for an acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Amazon seems to be accelerating. Or is it? Naturally, the blog has questions.

Have things gotten more serious?

The Wall Street Journal, in a May 24 story, says MGM’s board was briefed on Sunday about negotiations. The financial newspaper also said a deal could occur as early as this week.

On the other hand, the Journal also said there are “no guarantees” the talks will yield a deal. That sounds like talks are indeed serious but not locked down yet.

If Amazon buys MGM, how might it affect James Bond?

Amazon is a financially successful company. That may mean more stability at MGM, Bond’s home studio. MGM bought United Artists (Bond’s original studio) 40 years ago and it has been one bit of drama after. That included a 2010 bankruptcy.

The Journal story made it sound like the basic Bond dynamic won’t change. MGM and Danjaq/Eon (the Broccoli-Wilson family) . MGM and Danjaq/Eon share the franchise but Danjaq/Eon controls the direction.

Of course, never underestimate the power of the purse. Danjaq/Eon relies on MGM to finance Bond films. Amazon buying MGM would mean a new set of executives exercising that power.

Should I worry about this?

You should avoid worrying about things you can’t control. Amazon is a streaming power and is on the lookout for “content” it can control directly. Netflix is doing the same thing with its original movies and TV shows. AT&T decided it wasn’t cut out to be a media power and has agreed to combine WarnerMedia with Discovery.

In other words, it’s like what was once said about Willard Whyte. People are playing monopoly with real buildings — or studios or television channels or whatever.

Anything else we should expect?

Expect a lot more jokes about how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos looks like a James Bond villain. YouTuber Calvin Dyson did so in a May 19 video. The Gizmodo website, in summarizing the Journal story, went for the gag in the headline. (“Jeff Bezos, a Real-Life Bond Villain, May Own James Bond Very Soon”)

Bond 25 questions: MGM’s silence edition

MGM’s revamped logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer held an investor call the other day. But the home studio to James Bond had almost nothing to say about its prized property.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What was the context of what MGM did have to say about No Time to Die?

Essentially listing it among various films either awaiting release or in production. Others included Respect, a “biopic” with Jennifer Hudson portraying Aretha Franklin and a sequel to a recent animated Addams Family movie.

MGM executives said its film slate, coupled with its TV business would mean good financial results in the second half of 2021 and going into 2022.

Is that all?

Pretty much.

What is up with that?

Strictly a guess: MGM is trying to project an image of a strong operation where everything is under control. In the past year there have been reports that MGM is seeking a buyer and that the studio explored licensing No Time to Die to streaming services before deciding not to proceed.

Some of the reports indicate that leaders of Danjaq/Eon weren’t initially informed of such discussions and weren’t happy.

From the perspective of a Bond fan, how useful are these investor calls?

Mixed at best. Occasionally, investors ask MGM executives about Bond film projects and if there are any ways MGM can get more out of the franchise. At times, that generates additional comments. But much of the time, MGM executives stick to talking points.

If there was any surprise about this week’s investor call, it’s MGM didn’t even do that. Just a quick mention that No Time to Die is in pipeline — something all Bond fans knew already.

Is there additional context to keep in mind?

No Time to Die’s costs are approaching $300 million. (The studio reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest costs for each month No Time to Die doesn’t come out.) MGM had been counting on a big theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic.

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.