007 questions: Media consolidation edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Walt Disney Co. is buying the 20th Century Fox studio and most assets of 21st Century Fox. It’s a new media world.

So, here are a few questions from a 007 perspective.

What happens to MGM? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio is a runt among Hollywood studios. Disney agreeing to buy most of 21st Century Fox is the most prominent example yet of companies seeking to get even bigger in the digital age.

So what does MGM do? According to The Wall Street Journal in a February story, it spent much of 2016 trying to sell to a Chinese buyer. No sale.

MGM and Annapurna Pictures, a Hollywood newcomer, said Oct. 31 they were forming a new joint venture to release each other’s movies. Supposedly, the joint venture had the inside track to release Bond 25 in the United States. But that hasn’t been confirmed.

What happens to 007 home video distribution? Fox has an agreement to distribute James Bond films on home video through June 2020. But accords can change when the ownership of the one of the partners changes. Who knows at this point?

Does somebody make a play to control the entire 007 film franchise? When Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars), the bill was in the billions of dollars for each.

But Disney’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox is valued at $52.4 billion. That dwarfs the other deals Disney has negotiated under CEO Robert Iger, 66. Iger has agreed to stick around through 2021 to integrate the Fox assets into Disney.

When companies are throwing around that kind of money, anything is possible.

At the same time, Bond is a complicated animal. Control is divided between Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) and MGM. It’s not just opening the checkbook. Taking control of Bond means, probably, separate sets of negotiations.

Still, Bond is one of the last remaining properties not totally under control of a major studio. Will this week’s events prompt somebody to try seizing control of “the gentleman agent with a license to kill”?

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Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.

BBC Radio 2 schedules Roger Moore special

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

BBC Radio 2 has scheduled a two-hour special about Roger Moore for Boxing Day, Dec. 26.

Sir Roger Moore: Nobody Did It Better will air from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. that day, according to a BBC Radio 2 schedule of holiday programs.

The special will include interviews conducted since Moore’s death in May. Among those interviewed: Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions; his daughter, Deborah Moore; and actor Michael Caine, a friend of Moore’s.

There also will be archived interviews where “Roger himself discusses his life and his work, his family and his friendships,” according to the program description.

Moore played James Bond in seven films produced by Eon after starring as The Saint in a successful 1960s television series. He was also a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.

007: News mostly about the past

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As 2017 enters its final month, James Bond is mostly looking backward, rather than forward.

News item: There’s an expanded soundtrack now available for Die Another Day, a movie that originally came out in 2002 — 15 years ago.

News item: Roger Moore’s diary written during the filming of Live And Let Die is to get a new printing next year. The original was published in 1973 — 44 years ago. The new version will be printed in hardback. It will also feature a forward by David Hedison, a long-time friend of Moore’s who played Felix Leiter in Live And Let Die.

But wait! Isn’t there a new 007 product coming out in 2018? True. That will be the second 007 continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz. It is scheduled to be published sometime in the spring.

However, the literary Bond, in the 21st century, is almost like a distant satellite of the larger 007 entity, the film series.

Which leads us to….

Bond 25’s status: As of this writing, the film officially has a leading man (Daniel Craig), a pair of producers (Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson), a pair of writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) and a release date (Nov. 8, 2019 in the United States).

And not much else. At least not now.

Around this time a year ago, the blog asked if 2016 was 007’s lost year.

2017 has been more eventful, but not by much. While Bond 25 has a release date, nobody knows — for sure — how it will get to theaters.

The Deadline: Hollywood website reported Nov. 12 that a new joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures was close to striking a deal to distribute Bond 25 in the U.S. But there’s been no announcement. And the Deadline report said international distribution hadn’t been decided.

Since then, no news. For most franchises, the distributor isn’t a big deal. The studio involved controls that. MGM, seven years after exiting bankruptcy, is trying to become a “big boy” studio again. But MGM, which controls half the Bond franchise, isn’t there yet.

And for Bond 25, an international distributor (assuming the MGM-Annapurna deal comes to be) is probably going to kick in a large piece of the production budget.

Obviously, there are things happening behind the scenes. Purvis and Wade have had enough time to complete a first-draft script. Whether they have or not is anybody’s guess.

James Bond can look back to a glorious past with certainty. The expanded Die Another Day soundtrack and new printing of Roger Moore’s Live And Let diary are just two of many examples.

An even bigger example: The death of Roger Moore in May naturally spurred a look back at his seven 007 films. He was the first of six screen Bonds in the Eon Productions series to pass away.

The future? That’s still a little fuzzy as 2017 nears its end. We’ll see if that status changes in the year’s final month.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of perspective: General Motors Co. said Nov. 30 it expects to launch a “ride-hailing service” of self-driving cars in the United States by 2019. Self-driving cars are supposed to be the next big thing in autos. If GM is correct, that service could be in business before 007’s next screen adventure.

Marvel Studios boss teases a ‘finale’

Marvel art in 2016 celebrating the eighth anniversary of Iron Man (2008).

Marvel Studios gave Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson a peek behind the curtain, which included mention of a “finale” with 2019’s as-yet unnamed Avengers movie.

The man doing the talking was none other than Kevin Feige, who runs the Walt Disney Co.-owned operation.

While Feige refused to reveal any details about the characters and stories Marvel has yet to introduce, he did promise a definitive end to the franchise that built Marvel. Avengers 4, he said, will “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale.”

(snip)

“There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting,” Feige teased.

A number of the franchise’s key actors, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, have contracts nearing their end, Robinson writes for the magazine’s Holiday 2017 issue. Also, actors naturally like to move on to new challenges. Downey will have played Tony Stark for more than a decade in multiple inter-connected movies by the time Avengers 4 comes out in May 2019.

In a way, Marvel has at times adapted the old Eon Productions playbook, including balancing drama and humor and finding ways to economize even though the movies are expensive overall. At the same time, Marvel is definitely an example of the corporate model of movie making compared with the still family-controlled Eon.

In turn, there other studios have tried to establish “movie universes.” So far, at least, they haven’t matched Marvel’s track record.

Broccoli: Bond 25 doesn’t have much in place beyond Craig

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told RTE Entertainment that Bond 25 has its biggest piece in place, star Daniel Craig, but not much else beyond that.

“I’m very happy that he’s coming back,” Broccoli was quoted as saying. “So, to me, that’s the crucial thing. And we’re just looking on everything else.

“We don’t have too much in place, but we’ve got the main man in place, so that makes me very happy,” she said.

Broccoli didn’t comment much beyond that but added this:

“(W)e’ve got to find the director. We’re working on the script and we’ll see… Hopefully by the beginning of the year we’ll have more news on all those fronts.”

Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said in July that Bond 25 will have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019.

To read the entire RTE story, CLICK HERE. It mostly concerns how Eon’s non-Bond spy film, The Rhythm Section, is filming in Ireland.

MGM-Annapurna may distribute Bond 25 in U.S.

The recently announced joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures may distribute Bond 25 in the United States, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

“This all should be finalized this week, and rumors are flying today,” according to the story by Mike Fleming Jr. and Anita Busch.

MGM and Annapurna announced the joint venture on Oct. 31. At the time, MGM and Annapurna said Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

Deadline said distribution outside the U.S. for Bond 25 hasn’t been decided.

“There are still major decisions to be made on both international distribution and ancillary distribution, the latter of which long had been administered by Fox in a deal that is expiring,” according to the story.

Deadline said Warner Bros. Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal are still seeking  international distribution for Bond 25.

20th Century Fox currently handles home video releases of Bond films.

MGM controls half of the Bond franchise, with the other half under control of Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions.

MGM hasn’t had its own distribution operation since exiting bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four Bond films. Other MGM projects have been released by other studios.

Sony “has been informed that domestic will not go their way” for Bond 25, Deadline said.

Annapurna is a movie production company that got into distribution this year with the drama Detroit.