MGM pays ex-CEO a lot of money to go away

Gary Barber, former MGM chief, has reason to smile.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has bought shares and options from former CEO Gary Barber essentially to make him go away, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Barber received $260 million for 274,392 shares the former chief owned plus options for almost another 3.9 million shares, according to the entertainment news website.

That was on top of about $15 million in severance compensation that Barber received after being fired in March.

Deadline said in return Barber agreed “not to engage” with MGM for three years. Reuters reported last month that Barber was looking into making a bid for MGM. This new deal would preclude that.

What does this mean for Bond 25? Not much. The main effect is Barber goes away, albeit with a lot more money in his bank account.

Had Barber actually mounted a takeover bid, it had the potential to be a sideshow as MGM and Eon Productions are in the midst of getting Bond 25 off the ground. Sideshow averted.

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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.

 

Bond 25 questions: Release date edition

Daniel Craig

An announcement by Universal and a line in a Variety story have stirred the pot, getting fans concerned — or at least wondering — about Bond 25’s release date.

The announcement was made by Universal that it planned to release a Danny Boyle-directed comedy/musical in September 2019. That’s two months before Bond 25’s current release date of November 2019.

The line in the Variety story: ” MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on Nov. 8, 2019, but it’s unlikely to do so.”

So, let the questions begin.

How likely is Bond 25 to be delayed? Variety didn’t specify. In fact, it didn’t indicate whether that line was based on hard reporting or a simple assertion.

Meanwhile (while I was writing this very post), the MI6 James Bond website put out this tweet about the Variety story:

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

That sounds like an endorsement of what Variety said. But Variety wasn’t the model of transparency with its readers. And there’s ways to be more transparent while not identifying specific sources.

Is there something else? Fans have mostly overlooked how Bond 25 doesn’t have a distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t had a distribution operation since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal ended with SPECTRE.

MGM took a step last year to getting back into distribution by forming a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture had just about wrapped up U.S. distribution for Bond 25. But no announcement ever came. The Hollywood Reporter said April 4 that the distribution deal had been held up as MGM seeks to sell itself.

Under the most recent MGM-Sony deal, the two studios split the production costs while MGM kept 75 percent of the profits.

Unless MGM either sells itself or grows itself into a bigger entity, getting a distributor deal is vital to financing Bond 25.

Put another way, until you finance the movie, you can’t make the movie. There’s been an element of uncertainty surrounding Bond 25 all along. The November 2019 release date may have been built on a foundation of sand since it was first announced.

Bond 25: The distributor edition (aka TOLDJA)

Bond 25: Still in search of a distributor

Remember all the posts this blog had when it kept asking why there wasn’t a distributor yet for Bond 25? And how some readers felt it was overkill?

Except, apparently, it wasn’t. The Hollywood Reporter on April 4 reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t yet selected either a U.S. or international distributor. According to the entertainment news outlet, MGM may be setting itself up for a sale and its 007 film rights are a big part of the marketing.

MGM and Eon Productions said back on July 24, 2017, that Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019. The blog asked that day, “Who’s going to distribute Bond 25? The blog either asked the question again or discussed the issue on Aug. 29, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

As a 007 fan wrote to the blog on Twitter: “I think you need to chill about the distributor. It’s going to happen don’t you think.”

Separately, some fans participating on 007 message boards felt it was all lined up, it was merely a well-kept secret. After all, the thinking went, there’s no way they’d announce a release date without a distributor lined up.

Except, apparently, MGM and Eon did just that. Perhaps it was to call dibs on the November 2019 date. It doesn’t really matter. The announcement went out without having secured a way for the movie to make it to theaters. That was the case then. It’s still the case now apparently.

Almost a year ago, The New York Times reported how five studios were trying to cut a deal with MGM to distribute Bond 25.  Since then, the parent company of one of the contenders, 20th Century Fox, agreed to sell that studio to Walt Disney Co.

Another, Annapurna Pictures, formed a joint venture with MGM to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. However, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November, in a story labeled “EXCLUSIVE,” that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to getting the Bond 25 U.S. distribution deal. Some outlets have subsequently written as if it were a done deal.

Except, apparently, it wasn’t.

Neither the Times nor Deadline ever felt a need to revisit their previous stories. It wasn’t until this week when The Hollywood Reporter finally got around to it. It would seem if something is “thisclose” to happening but it hasn’t occurred months later, it might be time to make new inquiries.

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.

 

MGM CEO Barber leaving the studio

Gary Barber, former MGM chief

Gary Barber, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio for the James Bond film franchise, is departing the studio after eight years at the helm, according to numerous news accounts.

Deadline: Hollywood, in an update of its initial story, said late Monday that Barber “was asked to leave” by the company’s board of directors.

The executive was requested to depart “over disagreements on strategy about the future direction of the company,” according to the entertainment news website. “In no uncertain terms, Barber was asked to leave the company, a move that sent has employees reeling.” Barber declined to comment to Deadline about why he was leaving.

The move came after MGM in October extended Barber’s contract through 2022. Barber’s exit apparently was swift. He was still listed as CEO on the company’s website early Tuesday morning.

Barber’s exit potentially could affect Bond 25. MGM hasn’t announced how the movie will be distributed.

MGM formed a joint venture last year with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies. Deadline in November reported the joint venture was close to getting the U.S. distributorship for the film. If the deal was completed it was never publicly disclosed. It’s possible another studio may distribute Bond 25 in international markets.

Bond 25 also hasn’t nailed down a director. Danny Boyle said last week he plans to direct the film if a script being written by John Hodge is approved.

Barber took command of MGM when the studio was in bankruptcy in 2010. He steered a slimmed down version of MGM, which has improved its finances since then.

His departure is the latest twist in an often dysfunctional relationship between MGM and Eon Productions and its parent firm, Danjaq. MGM acquired United Artists in 1981, which included half control of the Bond franchise. Relations have at time been tense between the two sides.

Barber’s tenure appeared to be an exception. In his public remarks, Barber frequently referred to Danjaq as partners.

UPDATE (1:05 p.m. eastern time): MGM has removed Barber from the part of its website featuring executives.

Bond 25: THR says Boyle may direct a movie this summer

Danny Boyle

The Hollywood Reporter, in a story about director Danny Boyle, sounded a skeptical note about his availability to director Bond 25.

The entertainment news website reported that Boyle and “Love Actually screenwriter Richard Curtis have teamed up for an untitled comedy just set up at Universal.”

According to that story, “Universal is eying a shoot for as early as summer if casting can come together.”

Why is this of interest to this blog? Well, without saying so directly, THR seems to be trying to knock down stories last month from Variety and Deadline: Hollywood that Boyle is under active consideration to direct Bond 25.

Major entertainment sites, including THR, Variety, Deadline and TheWrap, often break news before it’s announced. But they are loathe to acknowledge when their competitors have a scoop unless they have to do so.

Deadline referenced Variety (which had the story first). But Deadline added that Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge had devised a Bond 25 story and that Boyle would only direct the 007 film if that story were selected. In effect, Deadline only mentioned Variety when Deadline could top the earlier story. Amusingly, Variety and Deadline share the same owner.

So, here’s the take that The Hollywood Reporter took:

Rumors swirled in February that Boyle was a candidate to direct the new James Bond movie, but that project remains in flux thanks to a stalled director search. Insiders say that this music-inspired comedy will be Boyle’s next movie. If Bond producer Eon Productions does want Boyle, it will have to wait and potentially even shift the release date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Said rumors, of course, were the Variety and Deadline stories. THR finally waded (indirectly) into Bond 25 with this new story.

Regardless, it’s a new twist. It gives Bond fans something to chew over.

UPDATE (March 3): Deadline: Hollywood also had a story about this on March 1.  But it also had this passage: “Boyle is currently balancing this project with the James Bond script he is working on with John Hodge, which Deadline lifted the lid on ten days ago.” (Link in sentence in the original Deadline story.)