Sony passed on chance to buy MGM, WSJ says

Sony Pictures at one time passed on a chance to outright buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of James Bond, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Journal doesn’t specify exactly when this occurred. But, based on the story by Ben Fritz, it was before MGM reorganized during a 2010 bankruptcy. Here’s the key excerpt:

Sony Pictures executives discussed buying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose James Bond movies Sony had distributed for years. Instead MGM reorganized itself into an independent venture. Other potential acquisitions targets for Sony included DreamWorks Animation and pay-cable network Starz, according to employees. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. ended up buying the network.

“There was a cautious business philosophy where we did not want to take big swings,” said a former Sony Pictures executive.

The story concerns both Sony Pictures and Paramount described as “Hollywood’s two worst-performing movie studios” by the Journal.

Paramount missed its own opportunity. It initially released movies produced by Marvel Studios. But Walt Disney Co. moved in and bought Marvel.

Sony has released the past four James Bond films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal expired with SPECTRE. Under that contract, Sony co-financed the films but only got 25 percent of the profits.

The Journal recently reported that MGM’s attempts to sell itself to a Chinese buyer fell apart last year.

Regardless, MGM has no distribution agreement for Bond 25. The studio and Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) control the Bond franchise.

Helicopter bought by Eon may not be for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Eon Productions’ recent purchase of a helicopter may not be for Bond 25, according to the Twitter feed of the MI6 James Bond website.

The helicopter is to be used for a non-Bond “historical war film” that Eon is co-producing, the website said on Twitter. The movie is to be filmed late this year, the website said.

Eon’s purchase of the helicopter from a museum, first reported last month, spurred fan interest whether it might be for Bond 25.

There has been little official news about the next installment of the 007 film series.

MGM said nothing about the project on a call with investors last week to discuss 2016 financial results. Daily News writer Baz Bamigboye reported last week that screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were being brought back to work on Bond 25’s story but there was no official comment from Eon.

Bamigboye had a number of scoops proven correct about Skyfall and SPECTRE, the last two Bond films.

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UPDATE (March 13): The MI6 James Bond website now has a FULL STORY on the subject.

 

Longest-lived among 007 film creators

Lewis Gilbert b. 1920

Lewis Gilbert, director of three James Bond movies, celebrated his 97th birthday on March 6.

Among 007 film creators (and we’re talking behind the camera) who worked on multiple Bond films, he may be the one who enjoyed the longest life. Oswald Morris, who was co-director of photography for The Man With the Golden Gun (for interior scenes only) lived to be 98.

What follows is a partial list:

Lewis Gilbert (director, three films): 97 and counting.

Ken Adam (production designer, seven films): 95

Guy Hamilton (director, four films, including Goldfinger): 93

Syd Cain (art director, production designer, multiple films): 93

Albert R. Broccoli (co-founder Eon Productions): 87

Johanna Harwood (co-screenwriter, Dr. No, adaptation, From Russia With Love): 86 or 87 and counting

Peter Murton (production designer, The Man With the Golden Gun, had worked as art director under Adam on Thunderball): 85

John Glen: (director, five films): 84 and counting.

Richard Maibaum (screenwriter or co-screenwriter, 13 films): 83

Terence Young (director, three films): 79

Christopher Wood (screenwriter or co-screenwriter, two films): 79

Harry Saltzman (co-founder Eon Productions): 78

John Barry (composer, 11 films): 77

Peter Hunt (editor, director of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, editor five films): 77

Michael G. Wilson (screenwriter and producer multiple films): 75 and counting

Roald Dahl (screenwriter, You Only Live Twice): 74

Ted Moore: (director of photography or co-DOP, six films): 72

Ian Fleming (James Bond creator): 56

Meanwhile, outside of the Eon-produced series (and all one-timers):

Douglas Slocombe (director of photography, Never Say Never Again): 103

Charles Bennett (co-scripted 1954 Casino Royale on CBS): 95

Lorenzo Semple Jr. (writer, Never Say Never Again): 91

About those MGM sales talks and Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post reported that an unknown Chinese buyer is negotiating to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.

The Post’s sister paper, The Wall Street Journal, followed up by saying MGM had been in talks with a Chinese buyer but the negotiations broke off last year.

How all this applies to Bond 25?

This may explain why MGM never reached a Bond 25 distribution deal

Back in March 2016, MGM said it was in no hurry to negotiate a new Bond movie distribution deal. If the Post and Journal are accurate (that MGM at least *had* talks with a would-be Chinese purchaser), the reason is obvious.

MGM CEO Gary Barber had bigger things on his mind. James Bond may be MGM’s biggest asset, but whether to sell the company or not is bigger (from the perspective of an MGM CEO) than that.

Such talks may have slowed the pace of Bond 25 development

Until there’s a studio that can distribute Bond 25, a new 007 production can’t reach theaters.

Following its 2010 bankruptcy, MGM no longer had a distribution operation. Since then, it has negotiated co-financing and distribution deals with other studios. Maybe that would have changed if a Chinese concern acquired MGM. If the Journal is correct, we’ll never know.

Regardless, MGM negotiating to sell to the Chinese probably would have sent any talks with other U.S.-based studios to distribute Bond 25 to the back burner.

Where do we go from here?

Your guess is as good as this blog’s. However, this is a reminder that Bond is tethered to a weak studio.

MGM bought United Artists in 1981. UA, years earlier, got control of half of the Bond franchise when Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, sold out because of financial troubles.

The MGM soap opera changes in some regards (executives come, executives go) but not in others.  MGM’s glory days are long gone.

 

MGM sale to Chinese not happening, WSJ says

MGM logo

A sale of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, to a Chinese buyer isn’t happening, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Talks broke down between MGM and several Chinese companies late last year, an apparent casualty of China’s move to stanch capital outflows that has stalled the country’s shopping spree in Hollywood, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported.

“An MGM sale would have been among the biggest-ticket and highest-profile such acquisitions, but its failure to materialize is evidence of a twist ending that few in Hollywood expected,” according to the story by three Journal reporters.

Earlier, the New York Post reported that MGM was in talks with a Chinese buyer it didn’t identify. Both the Journal and Post are owned by News Corp., controlled by Rupert Muchoch.

Uncertainty at MGM would have an adverse effect on the 007 film franchise. MGM has been involved with Bond since it acquired United Artists in 1981. UA, in 1975, acquired half of the franchise after Eon Productions co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out because of financial troubles.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company, unable to release its own films. MGM cuts deals with other studios to co-finance and release those movies, including the Bond series.

An MGM spokeswoman told the Journal that the studio wasn’t for sale.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal story about the broader issues facing Hollywood and China:

The economic-policy changes in China come amid mounting protectionist rhetoric in the U.S. from the administration of President Donald Trump.

“We’ve heard from both [private-equity] firms and investment banks that China investment activity around [Hollywood] assets started to wane just prior to the election and is almost nonexistent now,” said Chris Fenton, a trustee of the U.S.-Asia Institute, which organizes congressional delegations to China, and president of DMG Entertainment, a media company headquartered in Beverly Hills and Beijing.

“No China entity wants to be the first to test” the heated rhetoric on the U.S. side and the capital controls on the Chinese side, he added.

The last four Bond films have actually been released by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

 

MGM in negotiations with Chinese buyer, NY Post reports

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio of the 007 film franchise, is in sales talks with a Chinese buyer, the New York Post reported.

“The name of the China-based entity involved in the talks, perhaps newly formed to make the deal, could not immediately be learned,” the Post’s Claire Atkinson wrote.

MGM acquired United Artists in 1981, giving it a half stake in the Bond franchise. UA had earlier purchased the holdings of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions and its parent firm, Danjaq.

The studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company. It doesn’t have a distribution operation and negotiates deals with other studios to release its films. The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures.

MGM’s most recent two-picture contract with Sony expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Studio chief Gary Barber said in March 2016 there was “no rush” to negotiate a new Bond distribution accord with Sony or another studio.

In 2016, MGM said it intended to sell stock to the public in three to five years.

Craig’s 007 tenure now second-longest, fan website says

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond is now second-longest, according to a fan website, Dalton Was Best.

The site’s websmaster, Adrian Stirrup, made the calculations for a Jan. 1 post. Stirrup said they were based on the date each Bond actor was announced publicly.

In the Jan. 1 post, Stirrup wrote that Craig would take over the No. 2 spot from Pierce Brosnan as of Feb. 20. The webmaster followed that up with a post on Twitter today, saying Craig now has 4,147 days in the role, compared with Brosnan’s 4,146.

The public announcement for Craig being cast as 007 was Oct. 14, 2005.

No. 1 is Roger Moore at 5,118 days. Sean Connery, the original film Bond, has 3,049 days with two stints in the role combined. Based on Jan. 1 post, the calculation is only for Connery’s time making six movies in the Eon Productions series. The actor did a seventh non-Eon Bond film, Never Say Never Again.

You can view today’s follow up tweet by Stirrup below.

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