Happy 75th birthday, Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Today, Jan. 21, is the 75th birthday of Michael G. Wilson, stepson of Albert R. Broccoli.

He has been involved with the James Bond film franchise full-time since the early-1970s, excluding a brief appearance as an extra in 1964’s Goldfinger.

As a result, Wilson has been involved with the franchise longer than anyone, including his step-father, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions and its parent company, Danjaq LLC.

Cubby Broccoli invested the last 35 years (1961-1996) of his life in Bondage. Wilson’s tenure is longer.

This blog has published critical posts about Wilson over time. But we always give Wilson his due. Spending more than four decades on a full-time basis on a single movie franchise should be noted.

Happy birthday, Mr. Wilson.

 

MGM’s possible studio partners for Bond 25 Part III

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a new year but there some leftover business from the old: What studio will end up releasing Bond 25?

The blog has twice (once in April and again in September) analyzed the possibilities. So here’s an updated look.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films but as of now has no new contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for future Bond movies.

Not a lot new since September. Last year’s Ghostbusters reboot wasn’t a success for Sony and isn’t likely to become a franchise. Sony is teaming up with Marvel Studios to get new Spider-Man movies going.

Sony may be sufficiently desperate to again accept a low-profit distribution deal for Bond 25. Most recently, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. It received less money than MGM and Danjaq, the parent group for Eon Productions.

However, there’s the possibility of a wild card.

The New York Post last month reported that its “Tokyo tipsters claim” that CBS chief Les Moonves was looking to acquire Sony Pictures from its parent company, Sony Corp. The story didn’t offer much in the way of details. Certainly, no actual deal materialized.

Paramount: CBS had been looking to merge with Viacom, parent company of ParamountBut that deal unraveled in December.

CBS and Viacom had once been together but then were split apart. The companies are controlled by the Redstone family. There had been a family soap opera in 2015 and 2016 which led to, among other things, a new leadership team at Paramount.

It remains to be seen how quickly Paramount recovers from all this and whether it’s in the position to make a Bond deal with MGM.

Warner Bros.: AT&T announced in October it agreed to acquire Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros. The $85 billion deal isn’t forecast to be complete until the second half of this year.

That raises the question whether Warners can do a Bond 25 deal. The studio already is busy trying to establish its “shared universe” of movies based on DC Comics characters. Two big ones, Wonder Woman and Justice League, are coming out this year.

20th Century Fox and Universal: Neither studio has the issues confronting Sony, Paramount or Warner Bros. Either or both could make a play. But the question is whether either would be willing to take the kind of low profits Sony got for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Walt Disney Co.: This is strictly a guess but Disney doesn’t act like a company interested in doing a limited distribution deal for Bond. Disney likes to get out its checkbook and buy properties whole, such as Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. If Disney were interested in 007, it’d be more likely to buy everybody else out.

MGM (?): Sony emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a much smaller company without its own movie distribution operation.

MGM has been working toward an initial public offering of stock in a few years. However, if the pending AT&T acquisition causes a new round of media deals, MGM will face a decision.

Is the current strategy adequate? If not, does it get bigger (and re-establish distribution)? Or does it sell out and get acquired by someone else?

MGM watch: Ben-Hur remake flops in setback for 007 studio

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s remake of Ben-Hur flopped at the U.S.-Canada box office with a paltry estimated $11.4 million for the Aug. 19-21 weekend, according to Variety.

The movie finished No. 5 this weekend, according to a tweet by Exhibitors Relations, which tracks box office results. The flop occurred in a weekend that wasn’t robust for theaters. Suicide Squad, in its third weekend, was No. 1 at $20.7 million.

Ben-Hur was actually released by Paramount. After exiting bankruptcy in 2010, MGM isn’t big enough to distribute its own films. So MGM cuts deals with other studios to share production costs, with the partner studio getting movies to theaters.

Ben-Hur, based on Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel, has been made as a film three times previously. The 1959 version, starring Charlton Heston and directed by William Wyler, won 11 Academy Awards.

Here’s why this blog noting all this: MGM is the home studio for the James Bond film series, with MGM and Danjaq LLC (the parent company of Eon Productions) controlling the franchise.

In March, MGM chief Gary Barber said 007 films will come out on a “three-to-four year cycle. MGM doesn’t yet have a partner studio for Bond 25 after Sony Pictures’ most recent contract expired with SPECTRE. The next Bond film also doesn’t have a confirmed leading actor or, as far as anyone knows, a script.

When MGM was in bankruptcy, it produced a business plan saying it would get 007 films out on an every-other-year schedule. However, Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, has made clear she’s not interested in making Bond films that often.

MGM in recent months has emphasized its slate of non-Bond projects, mostly in television. The studio only releases a handful of movies each year, so any flop hurts MGM more than competitors with larger film slates.

Ben-Hur’s flop also demonstrates that MGM’s supply of bankable movie projects outside of 007 remains limited. Since 2010, MGM’s other main movie property was the now-concluded Hobbit series.

MGM’s next film is a fall release of another remake, The Magnificent Seven.

MGM expects to be public company in 3-5 years

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expects to be a publicly traded company within five years, Chief Executive Officer Gary Barber said during a May 12 investors presentation.

“We envision in the next three to five years, within that period, to be a public structure so that we can unlock the value of this great company,” Barber said.

Barber was asked why wait for as long as five years.

MGM chief Gary Barber

MGM chief Gary Barber

“We’re really in the early stages of our growth,” the CEO said. “We still have to go and achieve some of the growth areas…before we take ourselves into a public structure.”

Barber became CEO when MGM emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy. MGM came out of bankruptcy a smaller studio and it currently doesn’t have the resources to release its own films.

As a result, MGM strikes deals with other studios to release MGM films, such as the now-concluded two picture deal where Sony Pictures co-financed and released Skyfall and SPECTRE. MGM has yet to reach an accord with either Sony or other studios to release Bond 25.

MGM controls half the 007 franchise, along with Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

A 4:58 excerpt of the presentation was uploaded to MGM’s investors relations page.

Deadline estimates SPECTRE’s profitability

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Deadline: Hollywood, the entertainment news website, estimates that SPECTRE generated a profit of $98 million for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures to split 75-25.

“Sony and MGM split the production-cost funding 50/50 and then MGM takes 75% of the profit and Sony 25%, with the latter not getting a distribution fee on top of that, which is an amazing deal for MGM,” according to Deadline.

The estimates take in home video, pay television and other sources of revenue beyond theater ticket sales.

Based on the Deadline figures, MGM would get a profit of about $73.5 million and Sony about $24.5 million.

That’s less than the studios got for 2012’s Skyfall, which had a larger box office and lower budget. MGM got a profit of $175 million while Sony got $57 million, The Wall Street Journal reported last year, citing internal documents released in the hacking at Sony.

Sony’s deal to release Bond movies for MGM ends with SPECTRE and it remains to be seen whether Sony wins a new contract or another studio signs on.

THE DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD STORY by Mike Fleming Jr., also estimates that Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions, got $50 million and the Ian Fleming estate $10 million because of payments received from “first-dollar gross positions.” Or put another way, Danjaq and the Fleming estate get their cut off the top as the money begins to roll in.

The SPECTRE estimates were part of the website’s “Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.”

Deadline also said 007 actor Daniel “Craig’s deal is not very rich – $7M upfront plus about $4M on the back end.” If so, that runs counter to other reports.

The International Business Times said last year Craig stood to make $39 million from SPECTRE.

To read the entire Deadline story, CLICK HERE.

Below, is an embedded copy of the chart that runs with the Deadline story. You can click on it to see a bigger image.

UPDATE: In a SEPARATE STORY, Deadline: Hollywood estimates that Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation was more profitable for Paramount ($109.8 million) than SPECTRE was for MGM and Sony.

GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.

 

“Retcon”: For Your Eyes Only now official SPECTRE movie

Blofeld (apparently we can actually call him that now) menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

Blofeld (apparently we can actually call him that now) menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

The James Bond film series has done what’s known in comic books as a “retcon” — or retroactive change in continuity. It appears 1981’s For Your Eyes Only is now officially considered a SPECTRE-related movie.

When did this happen? Today when the official 007 site today announced A HOME VIDEO RELEASE in connection with the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s the start of the press release:

As fans prepare for the November 6th release of SPECTRE, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release an all-new line-up of special edition Blu-rays, DVDs and box-sets on September 15th.

Two never-before-seen featurettes are included with interviews from Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. “The Shadow of SPECTRE” will recount the fictional history of the global criminal syndicate and terrorist organization, “The Story So Far” will provide an overview of Daniel Craig’s first three Bond movies.

Six films featuring the SPECTRE organization (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY) and the three recent Daniel Craig titles (CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL) will each get a limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook release, their cover designs inspired by each film’s opening title sequence. (emphasis added)

Interestingly, at the time of its release, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only wasn’t considered a SPECTRE related film. Its pre-titles sequence features a wheelchair-bound villain who looked like Ernst Stavro Blofeld but wasn’t identified as such.

The script, by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, had a line where the villain notes this is the 10th anniversary of his last encounter with Bond. That would appear to be a veiled reference to 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The line was cut from the movie but appears in the Marvel Comics adaptation.

At the time, Kevin McClory still held the film rights to Thunderball and he claimed ownership of the Blofeld character.

Presumably, with Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2013 obtaining all of the 007 rights held by McClory’s estate, all of that is moot now. Voila, For Your Eyes Only’s story has been changed.

One other note: Dr. No, the first 007 film, was also SPECTRE related because Dr. No was a member of the criminal organization. However, Blofeld didn’t put in an appearance, probably explaining why it’s not listed as part of this package.