Bond 25 questions: The Annapurna edition

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Annapurna, one of the studios involved with Bond 25, has been having a financial crunch after a series of movies that underperformed at the box office. The Hollywood Reporter has said, quoting “multiple sources” that Annapurna has hired a law firm to explore “bankruptcy protection.”

Since Annapurna is a Bond 25 player, naturally the blog has a few questions.

What does Annapurna have to say?

Megan Ellison, Annapurna’s founder, wrote a note to employees.

“I got word this morning that there are some rumblings around town about our current status with the banks and that a story is likely to hit the press at some point today,” Ellison wrote, according to THR.

“Restructuring deals with financial institutions is not uncommon, yet the process is usually handled without a spotlight on it….Regardless of whatever comes out in the press, the truth is that we are well on our continued path towards success. There will always be speculation, misinformation and personal jabs in the press – that’s part of the business.

Sounds like a denial. Is it? 

Remember, THR reported that Annapurna had retained a law firm to evaluate a bankruptcy filing. It didn’t say the decision had actually been made to file. That’s not the firmest denial. Way back in the Watergate days, that sort of thing was dubbed a “non-denial denial.”

Moreover, when a CEO says they have no plans to do something, that applies to this moment, right now. Things change tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. Such statements have a very short life span. Things can change — and sometimes in a hurry.

Why should a Bond fan care?

Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are partners in a joint venture called United Artists Releasing. The joint venture will release Annapurna and MGM films in the U.S. UAR is slated to release Bond 25 in North America.

Bond 25, of course, is well underway in its filming schedule. The question is whether an Annapurna bankruptcy filing, should it happen  cause some kind of hiccup with U.S. distribution. Universal is handling Bond 25 distribution internationally. Meanwhile, THR updated its original story to quote an MGM “source” (not identified) as saying there won’t be an effect.

But we should be OK for Bond 25, right?

Probably, at least for now. But a week ago nobody was talking about the possibility of an Annapurna bankruptcy. It’s something to keep an eye on.

UPDATE (Aug. 8) –– Things might be dicier regarding that last question.

Deadline Hollywood has more details. The entertainment website says Annapurna “has burned through much of the $350 million credit facility the company secured in fall 2017. Those sources said Annapurna has either defaulted or is about to default on that debt. A deadline has been set by lenders for this week to come to a solution.”

Credit facility is a fancy way of saying borrowed money.

Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle and Megan Ellison’s father, may bail out Annapurna, according to Deadline. But the tech mogul is being a tough negotiator and preparations are being made to file for Chapter 11 in either California or Delaware if no deal is struck, Deadline reported.

Annapurna exploring bankruptcy, THR says

Annapurna logo

Annapurna Pictures, one of the studios involved with Bond 25, is exploring bankruptcy, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The studio “has retained a law firm to explore bankruptcy protection,” the entertainment trade publication/website reported, citing “multiple sources.”

Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are partners in United Artists Releasing. UA will release Bond 25 in the United States in April 2020. Universal will handle international distribution.

Annapurna was founded by tech heiress Megan Ellison in 2011. It added a distribution operation of its own before joining forces with MGM to form United Artists Releasing.

“But perhaps the biggest looking question is the fate of the James Bond franchise,” THR said of a possible Annapurna bankruptcy. “Annapurna has at least a 50 percent stake in United Artists Releasing. …How Annapurna’s cash flow issues will effect the MGM tentpole’s release will be determined.”

Annapurna is in a cash crunch after a series of money-losing films.

With a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, a company is granted protection from creditors while it devises an operating plan. Such plans are subject to approval by a bankruptcy court. MGM filed for Chapter 11 in 2010 and it reorganized while in bankruptcy court. It exited bankruptcy without a distribution operation. Forming the United Artists Releasing joint venture was a way for it to get back into distribution.

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter updated its story. First it added this sentence related to Bond 25: “An MGM source says there would be no impact on the release of any its titles including Bond.”

The outlet (along with others) included the text of an email Megan Ellison sent to Annapurna employees. Here’s the text via THR:

Restructuring deals with financial institutions is not uncommon, yet the process is usually handled without a spotlight on it. Fortunately/unfortunately, people like to write about me and my family.

That said, it is of tremendous importance to me that you all know we are as committed as ever to this company and are in full support of our future.

Regardless of whatever comes out in the press, the truth is that we are well on our continued path towards success. There will always be speculation, misinformation and personal jabs in the press – that’s part of the business.

But know, none of that matters to me. What does is your sense of security and protecting the special community and culture at Annapurna. I believe in what we make and have no intention of stopping any time soon.

We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon and I have no doubt all of our hard work will continue to show Annapurna’s unique and powerful place in this industry.

If you have any questions or want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out.

It should be noted that’s not the hardest denial. THR said Annapurna had hired a law firm to look into bankruptcy. Ellison didn’t specifically deny that.

UPDATE II (Aug. 8) — Deadline Hollywood has more details. The entertainment website says Annapurna “has burned through much of the $350 million credit facility the company secured in fall 2017. Those sources said Annapurna has either defaulted or is about to default on that debt. A deadline has been set by lenders for this week to come to a solution.”

Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle and Megan Ellison’s father, may bail out Annapurna, according to Deadline. But the tech mogul is being a tough negotiator and preparations are being made to file for Chapter 11 in either California or Delaware if no deal is struck, Deadline reported.

THR: Annapurna’s ills may affect Bond 25 U.S. distribution

Annapurna logo

Financial problems at Annapurna Pictures may affect the U.S. distribution of Bond 25, The Hollywood Reporter said as part of a broader look at the company.

As things currently stand, a joint venture between Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will release Bond 25 in the U.S. in February 2020 while Universal will distribute the movie in international markets.

Bond 25 is “the jewel in the crown” for the Annapurna-MGM joint venture, wrote THR’s Kim Masters. “If Annapurna falters, that film is likely to be released by Universal, which is handling overseas distribution. (MGM might also make a play to distribute domestically itself.)”

The joint venture was set up last year. It distributes movies for each partner. Movies that originate with Annapurna carry that brand. Movies generated by MGM, such as Bond 25, carry MGM’s Leo the Lion logo.

The THR story mostly is about cutbacks in film production at Annapurna, headed by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

“(T)he company’s operations now are being reviewed by an executive (with experience in business, but not in Hollywood) dispatched by Ellison’s father,” Masters wrote.

The story quotes a person with knowledge of the situation that it didn’t identify as saying this about Annapurna: “Larry respects money and wants it to be run in a more responsible way.”

Annapurna has exited some movies it commissioned, including a project about the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

“We are simply recalibrating so that our creative decisions are fully aligned with our business goals,” Annapurna said in a statement to THR.

Bond 25: An Annapurna primer

Annapurna logo

This week, various entertainment-news outlets (including Variety, The Wrap and The Hollywood Reporter among others) carried stories about turmoil at Annapurna Pictures.

The company is tied to Bond 25. So 007 fans are wondering if something may be up on that front. What follows is a primer.

What is Annapurna? It originally was a production company involved with films such as Zero Dark Thirty. It was founded by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

In 2017, Annpurna branched into distribution. Its first distributed movie was Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city. The film bombed at the box officce.

How is it tied to Bond 25? Also in 2017, Annapurna formed a distribution joint venture with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The joint venture distributes films for each of the partners. Movies generated by MGM would carry that brand. Movies generated by Annapurna would carry that brand.

In May, it was announced the MGM-Annapurna joint venture would distribute Bond 25 (an MGM-generated project) in the United States while Universal would distribute the movie internationally.

Why the concern? Annapurna abruptly has dropped a number of film projects, including a movie based about the late former Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

Annapurna “has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars of losses over the years due to some significant box office losses,” according to a Variety story (linked above) by Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly. The scribes write that Larry Ellison is exterting control to attempt to make Annapurna profitable.

Could this imperil Bond 25? No. Annapurna is one of three players (itself, MGM and Universal). The Bond 25 deal is expected to help Annpurna, because it’ll get a distribution fee, according to Variety. The entertainment site also says Universal is a likely candidate to take over U.S. distribution if necessary.

Still more Bond 25 questions after NYT story

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig: Working together on another Bond movie soon?

Nothing like a story by The New York Times to generate more questions about the future of the film 007.

What’s Barbara Broccoli thinking? Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the Eon Productions boss, had by all accounts a good relationship with Sony executive Amy Pascal. The Broccoli-Pascal relationship was noteworthy in a still male-dominated movie business.

Pascal is gone, losing her job as a result of the Sony hacks in 2014 (though having a producer deal at Sony).

One of the bidders to release Bond 25, according to The Times is Annapurna. It’s an “upstart” (The Times’ words) movie concern that is about to release its first film Detroit, a drama about the 1967 riots in that city.

Annapurna head Megan Ellison, 31, is a tech heiress who has been active in producing dramatic films. Could she forge a bond with Barbara Broccoli, who turns 57 in June, similar to the one Amy Pascal had?

Why is MGM and Eon Productions only seeking a one-film deal? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 a smaller company. It has been rebuilding gradually.

MGM spent much of 2016 negotiating with a Chinese buyer (still unidentified) but those talks didn’t pan out. MGM also has talked about selling stock to the public at some point.

MGM may yet see major changes. Keeping a distribution deal to Bond 25 only provides MGM executives flexibility for the future.

Why isn’t Walt Disney Co. interested in 007, according to the NYT story? Disney tends to think big. It spent billions to acquire both Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars) and is reaping the rewards as both crank out big hits.

Being the Bond film distributor means a lot of cost without a lot of profit. Sony, in its most recent deal, co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM and Eon got more money than Sony did.

Bond fans may object, but for Disney releasing Bond movies would probably be more trouble than its worth. Disney would only get involved with 007 if it could buy everybody out and control it all, the way it did with Marvel and Star Wars.

 

Bond 25 questions/observations after NYT story

Daniel Craig

The New York Times turned up how five studios are bidding to release Bond 25. That new piece of the jigsaw puzzle adds information and raises new questions.

So much for that fan theory: Until now, there has been a popular fan theory that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer really had a Bond 25 distribution deal in its hip pocket but was just waiting for the right time to announce it.

If The Times is correct, no way. The April 20 story says MGM and Eon Productions only now “have started attending dog and pony shows put on by studios that want the (distribution) rights.”

A sliver of uncertainty in an uncertain world: Relatively speaking, Sony didn’t make as much money as you might think from distributing Skyfall and SPECTRE, the two most recent entries in the 007 series. Sony co-financed the movie but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM and Eon got a bigger share of the haul that Sony did.

However, as Brooks Barnes of The Times wrote, the competition reflects “the realities of the modern movie business. As competition for leisure time increases, studios have focused more intently on global blockbusters, and those are in short supply….Having a Bond movie on the schedule guarantees at least one hit in a business where there is almost no sure thing.”

Now the questions.

So when does Bond 25 come out? Not soon. Until a distribution deal is reached, things such as budgets can’t even be discussed. Some fans still hope that Bond 25 can still go into production in early 2018 for a late 2018 release.

Is Daniel Craig coming back as Bond? Still unknown.

What is Annapurna? It’s one of the five bidders, along with Sony, Warner Bros. Universal and 20th Century Fox.

Annapurna is a movie company founded by tech heiress Megan Ellison. Here’s a description from a 2011 New York Times story:

Annapurna Pictures has Megan Ellison, a 25-year-old scion of Silicon Valley, who over the last year or so has been feeding what may soon be hundreds of millions of dollars to the hungriest part of the movie business: the writers, producers, directors and stars who make sophisticated dramas and adventure films that are too risky for studios and their corporate owners.

Annapurna, for example, has a Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama due out in August, simply titled Detroit, set during the 1967 riots in that U.S. city. Ellison, now 31, has producing credits including Zero Dark Thirty. Finally, Annapurna has done business with MGM in the past.