CNBC says Disney ‘closing in’ on deal to buy most of Fox

Walt Disney Co. logo

CNBC reported today that Walt Disney Co. is “closing in” on a deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

The financial news network said a deal may be announced as early next week. CNBC cited people it didn’t identiy

CNBC originally reported Nov. 6 that the two sides had conducted negotiations. At that time, CNBC described the talks as on again, off again and that negotiations weren’t currently underway.

Now, CNBC said, “The deal contemplates the sale of Fox’s Nat Geo, Star, regional sports networks, movie studios and stakes in Sky and Hulu, among other properties. What would remain at Fox includes its news and business news divisions, broadcast network and Fox sports.”

Such a transaction has the potential to shake up entertainment properties. Disney owns Marvel. But Fox controls key Marvel properties such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Also, Fox performs home video distribution for James Bond films.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, NBC and CNBC, has also been in talks with 21st Century Fox. However, “the talks with Disney have progressed more significantly,” according to today’s CNBC report.

Wally Wood’s influence on Daredevil extends to 21st century

Excerpt from Wally Wood's definitive 1965 Daredevil story, In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner

Excerpt from Wally Wood’s definitive 1965 Daredevil story, In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner

One of the most acclaimed comic book adaptations on television has been the Netflix series Daredevil.

The show, which has run 26 episodes over two seasons, is violent. If it were a movie, some episodes would definitely receive an R rating.

But one person who doesn’t get mentioned much in connection with the series is comic book artist Wally Wood (1927-1981).

Wood worked as an artist on seven issues of the original comic book and did uncredited story work. He did not work on the first issue, which was done by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. However, Wood designed Daredevil’s distinctive red costume (which debuted in issue 7), which has mostly continued on to this day.

But Wood’s primary contribution goes beyond that. In a 1965 story, Wood’s Daredevil tackles a much more powerful foe, Namor, the Sub-Mariner (created in 1939 by none other than Bill Everett), the half-human ruler of Atlantis. Namor had super strength and wings on his ankles.

Marvel (via The Fantastic Four title by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) revived the Namor character in the early 1960s and established that he wanted to conquer the surface world.

Wood’s take on Daredevil was how the hero (who was blind, but had whose other senses were heightened following an accident) never, ever gave up. In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner was issue 7, the first issue with Wood’s red costume.

Wally Wood's cover to Daredevil No. 7 in 1965

Wally Wood’s cover to Daredevil No. 7 in 1965

Over the course of the 1965 comic book story, Daredevil absorbed a beating at the hands of Namor. But DD always kept coming back for more until he finally fell exhaustion. But DD was more heroic in defeat than Namor was in victory.

The Netflix Daredevil series relies on those who followed Wood, especially artist-writer Frank Miller, who worked on the title in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Oddly, Wood is not included among the writers and artists who receive a “special thanks” credit in the end titles of the Netfilx series

Those who do receive recognition (among them Miller, artists Gene Colan, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr.) do deserve the credit they receive. But it’s strange that Marvel’s television arm doesn’t note Wood’s contribution. The Facebook page Wally Wood’s Daredevil has called for Marvel to recognize Wood.

Regardless, aging comic book fans who remember Wood’s short, but influential, run on the title are aware of his contributions to Daredevil that have extended into the 21st century.

Thoughts about MGM’s potential Bond 25 studio partners

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Before much can happen with Bond 25, somebody has to be able to release it to theaters.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, can’t. After it exited bankruptcy it emerged with no distribution arm. MGM cuts deals with other studios for co-financing movies and to release them.

So, in the absence of any actual Bond 25 news, here are some thoughts about some of MGM’s potential partners.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures, via its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four Bond films. Its most recent two-film contract expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

That contract, for Skyfall and SPECTRE, wasn’t a good one for Sony — half of the financing (and risk) but only 25 percent of the profits.

Amy Pascal, who negotiated that deal for Sony, is gone. But Bond is dependable, even if the profits are relatively small (Sony’s profit was $57 million for Skyfall, which generated $1.11 billion in worldwide box office, while MGM got $175 million).

The main questions: Can Sony’s new regime negotiate a better deal from MGM? If not, is Sony willing to walk away from 007?

Warner Bros.: MGM chief Gary Barber reportedly is a friend with Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara. And MGM and Warners have done business in the past, being partners on the recent Hobbit series of movies.

But that only goes so far in business.

Warner Bros. had had issues lately. Its 2015 slate (including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie) had a lot of flops. Also, its Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice appears it won’t be the $1 billion blockbuster the studio may have hoped. (CLICK HERE for a blog that says this alone may prevent Warners from cutting a 007 deal.)

Warners is soldiering on, however, with a Justice League movie going into production, with plans for a new Batman solo film. Does 007 fit in with the studio given all what’s going on?

Paramount: Again, here’s a case where MGM has a relationship with another studio. MGM and Paramount are partners on a remake of Ben Hur being released later this year.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s parent company, Viacom, is in a lot of turmoil, according to Vanity Fair. Viacom said in February it was considering selling a minority stake in Paramount. However, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Viacom controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, 92, opposes such a move.

For now, Viacom/Paramount sounds like a cross between Peyton Place and Dallas. Is Paramount in a position to do a 007 deal?

20th Century Fox: Again, another studio with which MGM does business. Fox handles home video for 007 movies.

At the moment, Fox doesn’t have the issues that Warner Bros. and Paramount are dealing with. In fact, Fox had a recent big financial success with Deadpool, an X-Men-related property it leases from Marvel. As with the other possibilities, the question is how much 007 is worth to Fox for a co-financing/distribution deal.

Walt Disney Co.: Disney doesn’t seem interested in co-financing/releasing deals, like the now-expired MGM-Sony agreement for 007 films. Disney devours franchises whole (Marvel and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars, for example) and turns them into profit genrators for the Mouse.

Nobody has reported, or even suggested, anything like that is happening related to 007. But some Bond fans are keeping an eye  on Disney anyway.

 

Amy Pascal’s soft landing

Steve Ditko's cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Steve Ditko’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Last week, Sony Pictures announced Amy Pascal was stepping down as a studio executive but would get a producing deal. It didn’t take long for her next project to surface: helping produce a new Spider-Man movie as part of a JOINT MARVEL/DISNEY-SONY PROJECT.

Here’s an excerpt from the press on Marvel’s website released issued late Feb. 9:

(Culver City, California, and Burbank, California February 09, 2015) – Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

Pascal drew criticism after hacking of Sony documents revealed how she criticized actors and made racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama. The hacks also included business dealings, including how Sony and Marvel were negotiating about jointly making future Spider-Man movies.

The hacks also included a draft of the script for SPECTRE, the James Bond movie currently in production, and how it stands to be one of the most expensive movies of all time. One email also showed that Pascal preferred Idris Elba as the next James Bond after Daniel Craig.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, according to A STORY IN VARIETY, Marvel’s Kevin Feige may end up doing most of the heavy lifting in this partnership. The story has more details how the deal came together.

Our scorecard on comic book creators and ’14 movies

John Romita Sr.'s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

John Romita Sr.’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

Sorry, Gerry Conway.

Last month, we carried a A POST wondering if comic book creators would get their due with 2014’s bumper crop of comic book-based films.

So far, the creators are 1-for-2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier carried a creator credit for Cap (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) and included a “special thanks” credit for a number of comic book writers and artists, including scribe Ed Brubaker who devised the Winter Soldier storyline that’s the spine of the movie.

This weekend, saw the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko got a “based on the comic book by” credit, as they have with past Spider-Man films. But others, mainly Gerry Conway, who authored an early 1970s story whose outcome is incorporated into the movie, didn’t get a mention. The closest reference in Amazing Spier-Man 2 is how there’s a “Principal Conway” character.

Also going unmentioned is John Romita Sr., co-creator of the Rhino; a much different version of the character appears in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

This isn’t that surprising. Movies produced by Marvel, now a Walt Disney Co. unit, have for the most part provided some kind of recognition for those who created characters and stories used by film writers and directors. Studios that license Marvel characters, such as Sony with Spider-Man, haven’t been as diligent.

Later this month, Fox will release another X-Men movie. Much of that film is based on a Chris Claremont-John Byrne story. The X-Men were originally created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and a 1975 reboot with a number of new characters was started by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. It remains to be seen whether any of them will get a mention in the 2014 film.