MGM’s possible studio partners for Bond 25 Part III

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a new year but there some leftover business from the old: What studio will end up releasing Bond 25?

The blog has twice (once in April and again in September) analyzed the possibilities. So here’s an updated look.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films but as of now has no new contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for future Bond movies.

Not a lot new since September. Last year’s Ghostbusters reboot wasn’t a success for Sony and isn’t likely to become a franchise. Sony is teaming up with Marvel Studios to get new Spider-Man movies going.

Sony may be sufficiently desperate to again accept a low-profit distribution deal for Bond 25. Most recently, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. It received less money than MGM and Danjaq, the parent group for Eon Productions.

However, there’s the possibility of a wild card.

The New York Post last month reported that its “Tokyo tipsters claim” that CBS chief Les Moonves was looking to acquire Sony Pictures from its parent company, Sony Corp. The story didn’t offer much in the way of details. Certainly, no actual deal materialized.

Paramount: CBS had been looking to merge with Viacom, parent company of ParamountBut that deal unraveled in December.

CBS and Viacom had once been together but then were split apart. The companies are controlled by the Redstone family. There had been a family soap opera in 2015 and 2016 which led to, among other things, a new leadership team at Paramount.

It remains to be seen how quickly Paramount recovers from all this and whether it’s in the position to make a Bond deal with MGM.

Warner Bros.: AT&T announced in October it agreed to acquire Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros. The $85 billion deal isn’t forecast to be complete until the second half of this year.

That raises the question whether Warners can do a Bond 25 deal. The studio already is busy trying to establish its “shared universe” of movies based on DC Comics characters. Two big ones, Wonder Woman and Justice League, are coming out this year.

20th Century Fox and Universal: Neither studio has the issues confronting Sony, Paramount or Warner Bros. Either or both could make a play. But the question is whether either would be willing to take the kind of low profits Sony got for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Walt Disney Co.: This is strictly a guess but Disney doesn’t act like a company interested in doing a limited distribution deal for Bond. Disney likes to get out its checkbook and buy properties whole, such as Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. If Disney were interested in 007, it’d be more likely to buy everybody else out.

MGM (?): Sony emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a much smaller company without its own movie distribution operation.

MGM has been working toward an initial public offering of stock in a few years. However, if the pending AT&T acquisition causes a new round of media deals, MGM will face a decision.

Is the current strategy adequate? If not, does it get bigger (and re-establish distribution)? Or does it sell out and get acquired by someone else?

Caveat Emptor: UK tabloid claims MGM ‘panicking’

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

A British tabloid apparently has decided U.S. tabloids shouldn’t have all the James Bond fun.

The Mirror claims that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives are “panicking” because they can’t get Daniel Craig to respond about whether he’ll be in Bond 25.

Here’s an excerpt, for what it’s worth.

A source said: “Daniel and MGM are currently at a stalemate with him having not spoken to them about Bond.

“They have offered a bigger wage deal, and asked about his filming availability to his reps in 2017, but as yet they have not spoken to Daniel.

“They want Bond 25 out in October 2018, but currently they have no Bond, film dates or knowledge of when that will change.”

What’s more, according to the tabloid, getting a commitment from Craig, 48, is an important part of securing an agreement from Sony Pictures to co-finance the movie.

The Mirror didn’t get into this detail or context. But here goes. MGM is a shadow of its former self. After a 2010 bankruptcy, MGM isn’t big enough to release its own movies. Sony Pictures, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has distributed the past four 007 films.

Sony’s most recent contract expired with SPECTRE. That contract called for Sony to co-finance the 007 movies while only getting 25 percent of the profits.

On Jan. 11, the New York Post’s Page Six gossip site said Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is producing Craig’s current Othello off-Broadway play to encourage the actor to do Bond 25 eventually after a hiatus of performing more serious roles.

And the world goes round and round….

2016: 007’s lost year?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

While there’s a little more than month yet to go, 2016 is shaping up as a kind of lost year for the cinematic James Bond — when pretty much nothing substantial happened.

Decision made about a studio to actually release Bond 25? No.

Release date, if only the year? No. Can’t set a release date without somebody to distribute it.

Script? Not that anyone knows about.

Director? No.

Bond actor cast for sure? Not really. Incumbent Daniel Craig said in October of Bond, ” Were I to stop doing it, I’d miss it terribly.” But that’s not the same thing as saying, “I’ll be back.”

Something else of note that Craig said was, “There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,”

That evokes the 2002-2006 period when Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were going through a creative mid-life crisis.

Or, as Wilson told The New York Times in 2005, describing that period: “We are running out of energy, mental energy. We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

That creative mid-life crisis followed the release of Die Another Day, a big, sprawling and expensive (for the time) movie. The current exhaustion followed the release of SPECTRE, a big, sprawling and expensive movie.

On top of the usual pressures, much of the behind-the-scenes issues on SPECTRE became public knowledge because of the Sony computer hacks in 2014.

Thus, e-mails about the film’s budget, script problems and negotiations for tax incentives in Mexico became public knowledge. The Gawker website described the plot in detail based on a draft of the script made available by the leaks. So, to be fair, you could argue SPECTRE was more stressful than the usual big-budget movie.

Still, nobody — especially this blog — expected that things would seemingly shut down in 2016.

Michael G. Wilson said late last year he thought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would select a new distributor by January or February. Wilson also said MGM had talked with executives at three studios, although he didn’t identify them. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four 007 films but its contract expired with SPECTRE.

By March, MGM said no deal was struck and it wasn’t hurrying to reach one. Studio boss Gary Barber said he expected Bond movies to come out on a “three-to-four year cycle.” Eight months later, that’s still the status quo.

As a result, right now there appears to be no momentum on the 007 film front.

By contrast, in November 2012 (the same month Skyfall was released in the U.S.), a writer (John Logan) had been hired and publicly announced by MGM. In July 2013, a fall 2015 release date for the then-untitled Bond 24 was disclosed, along with an announcement that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would return for an encore.

Much of the year has been taken up by reports of supposed contenders for the Bond role or, conversely, supposed major offers for Craig to come back.

Remember how Tom Hiddleston, among others, was a cinch to be the next 007? Remember how Sony supposedly “should be announcing any day” it had a new deal to release Bond 25 and was offering Craig $150 million for two more movies?

Months and months later, neither has become reality.

Maybe there will be a flurry of news in December, such as MGM finally selecting its studio partner. Still, Bond 25 development is behind the pace of SPECTRE at a similar point three years ago. Maybe 2017 will be more eventful.

MGM: Bond 25 to be released ‘over the next few years’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expects Bond 25 to come out “over the next few years,” CEO Gary Barber said last week, without providing specifics.

On a conference call with investors and analysts, CEO Gary Barber listed “premium franchise titles” that “we expect to release over the next few years.” The list included Bond 25 as well as reboots of Death Wish and Tomb Raider.

A recording of the call is on the investor relations portion of MGM’s website.

MGM on Nov. 10 reported a third-quarter profit of $12 million, down from $124 million a year earlier. The main reason for the plunge was the studio’s unsuccessful Ben Hur remake released in August.

MGM, since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, primarily makes television shows. It produces a small film slate, including the 007 series. But MGM isn’t big enough to release movies on its own. So it enters distribution deals with other studios. Ben-Hur, for example, was released by Paramount.

Sony Studios, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four Bond films. Sony’s most recent two-picture contract, where it co-financed Bond movies with MGM, expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. No new 007 distribution deal has been announced.

Thanks to reader Matthew Miner for the heads up.

MGM watch: Will studio be affected by media consolidation?

MGM logo

AT&T Inc.’s pending $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner may kick off a new wave of media consolidations, analysts told Reuters.

So where does that leave Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a small fry on the media landscape?

MGM, the home studio of the 007 film series, emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a small company. It’s unable to release its own movies and has to cut deals with other studios. It’s also more of a television production company, making shows for cable networks.

Many bigger studios are already parts of conglomerates, including Warner Bros. (Time Warner), Columbia (Sony Corp.), Paramount (Viacom), Universal (Comcast), etc., etc., etc.

With AT&T’s announced purchase of Time Warner, still subject to regulatory review, even more consolidation is expected. Here’s an excerpt of the Reuters story by David Shepardson and Jessica Toonkel:

Media content companies are having an increasingly difficult time as standalone entities, creating an opportunity for telecom, satellite and cable providers to make acquisitions, analysts say.

Media firms face pressure to access distribution as more younger viewers cut their cable cords and watch their favorite shows on mobile devices. Distribution companies, meanwhile, see acquiring content as a way to diversify revenue.

“The industry needs to consolidate,” said Salvatore Muoio, whose firm invests in a number of media companies, including Time Warner. “You have a lot more competition from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.”

“Media content companies” include movie and TV studios.

There’s no telling how this will turn out. AT&T doesn’t expect the Time Warner acquisition to be completed until the end of 2017. Also, the purchase is going to be carefully examined by U.S. regulators.

It’s just worth noting the media business is going through new uncertainty. The Bond film series is tied to a small player in MGM. It may be worth watching how the consolidation unfolds.

Craig’s post-007 career looking promising, Vulture 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 is setting himself up for a good post-007 career, whenever that may be, the Vulture entertainment news blog says.

The article, by Kevin Lincoln, is more an analysis than a news story. The blog, part of New York magazine, says three projects comprise “a solid triptych of projects that might begin to usher Craig into the next wave of his career, should he decide to give up martinis and gunplay for good.”

The three are Logan Lucky, a heist movie that was in production this fall; Purity, the 20-episode limited TV series on Showtime set for production in 2017; and Kings, a drama about the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Kings is listed as in development at IMDB.com, with information only available on the professional part of the website. The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment website reported this summer that Craig was in early talks about the project.

Vulture also argues that Craig is benefiting from the rise of comic book-based films.

“With that shift also came an expectation that most major, and even serious, actors would also have their own franchise, making Bond likely less of an albatross for Craig than it might’ve been for his predecessors, who worked in eras when those types of ongoing character obligations weren’t nearly as common,” Lincoln wrote.

Just when Craig’s post-Bond career will start isn’t known. The 48-year-old actor said earlier this month in New York that no decisions have been made about Bond 25, although he said he’d miss the Bond role.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at The New Yorker Festival on Oct. 7.

Also, the 007 franchise is in a bit of a hiatus. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which isn’t big enough to release its own films, hasn’t yet struck a deal with another studio to distribute future Bond movies. Sony Pictures has released all four Craig 007 movies but its most recent deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

To read the entire Vulture analysis, CLICK HERE.

MGM watch: Studio’s 2nd remake fares considerably better

MGM logo

The Magnificent Seven, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s second remake this year, fared considerably better in its opening weekend in the U.S. compared with the studio’s “re-imagining” of Ben-Hur.

The western film generated an estimated box office of $35 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

The film was a remake of the 1960 film of the same name released by United Artists. MGM acquired UA in 1981, including its film library. In addition to the 1960 Magnificent Seven (and its sequels) that film library at the time also included the first 12 James Bond films produced by Eon Productions.

Both the 1960 and 2016 Magnificent Seven films, in turn, were based on the 1954 Japanese movie, Seven Samurai.

MGM, which exited bankruptcy in 2010, is trying to demonstrate it’s more than just the 007 film series. MGM these days mostly makes television shows for cable channels while producing a few movies annually.

The studio’s Ben-Hur remake, which was released and co-financed by Paramount, was a big setback for MGM. That movie’s U.S. opening weekend was only $11.2 million, finishing No. 6 that weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. Its total U.S. box office was $26.2 million. The movie generated worldwide box office of $82.6 million against an estimated $100 million production budget.

The new version of The Magnificent Seven was distributed by Sony’s Columbia, which has released the last four Bond films. The post-bankruptcy MGM doesn’t have the resources to release its own movies. As a result, the studio strikes deals with bigger studios to distribute MGM productions.

At this point, MGM doesn’t have a studio partner for Bond 25 after Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 deal expired with SPECTRE.  MGM intends to sell stock to the public within three to five years.