MGM looks to expand film-based consumer products

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wants to expand consumer products based on its films, including James Bond, Variety reported.

The home studio of the 007 film series hired Robert Marick as executive vice president of global consumer products and experiences, the entertainment news outlet said. Marick has worked at various studios prior to joining MGM.

Marick will supervise “expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business,” Variety said. Besides Bond, the executive will deal with film franchises and TV series such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Pink Panther and Legally Blonde.

In recent years, Bond-related merchandise has been mostly high-end, such as a Lego Aston Martin DB5 and replica DB5s made by Aston that cost 2.75 million British pounds each and aren’t street legal.

The 007 series was once an active generator of video games but that’s fallen off. In the 1960s, Bond-related merchandise included lunch boxes, puzzles, liquor and clothing. The official Eon James Bond site has a section that includes various goods.

Variety discusses MGM, Annapurna tensions about Bond 25

Annapurna logo that won’t be seen on Bond 25, according to Variety

Variety has a story today providing an update about the financial challenges facing Annapurna Pictures. It includes a passage indicating Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, partners in a joint venture that releases movies in the U.S., have had some tensions concerning Bond 25.

Quick recap: MGM exited bankruptcy in 2010 without its own distribution operation. It cut a series of deals with other, bigger studios for distribution. Annapurna, meanwhile, started distributing films. MGM and Annapurna then formed a joint venture in fall 2017 to release each other’s movies in the U.S.

In 2018, it was announced the joint venture would handle Bond 25 in North America while Universal would perform international distribution. No details were released concerning how the studios would finance the movie. The past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE, were co-financed by MGM and Sony Pictures.

Earlier this year, the joint venture was given the name United Artists Releasing.

With that background in mind, this passage in the Variety story caught the blog’s eye: “Despite dipping into Annapurna’s deep pockets to roll out the upcoming 25th installment in the James Bond spy series…Annapurna would not be allowed” to show its logo on the next 007 film. According to Variety, an MGM executive “would bark at journalists” for including a mention of Annapurna.

What’s more, according to the story, Annapurna’s movie-releasing team now, essentially works for United Artists Releasing.

About those Bond 25 delays

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Since the most recent six-week delay for Bond 25 was announced on Friday, there has been a lot of reaction. One recurring theme has been in tweets and elsewhere in social media saying to get over it, you’re being childish by being upset, etc..

For a recap, here’s a look at some previous gaps in 007 films:

1989-1995: A legal fight between Danjaq/Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; major disruptions at MGM (eventually it got taken over by a French bank); Danjaq/Eon considered a sale but didn’t follow through. Pretty major stuff.

2002-2006: Dana Broccoli, matriarch of the Broccoli-Wilson clan died in 2004. Eon did soul searching, decided to reboot with Casino Royale. Change in leading man. Pretty major stuff.

2008-2012: MGM (Bond’s home studio) goes bankrupt and reorganizes. Pretty major stuff.

2015-present: Well, there was…no calamity remotely as severe as the aforementioned gaps. No MGM bankruptcy. No reboot. No recasting of leading man.

Regardless, the current gap already is on pace to be the second-longest gap, with the latest release date of April 8, 2020.

You could argue it’s good that Eon is taking time with Bond 25’s story, reportedly hiring Scott Z. Burns to rewrite the script. Better to nail down the script before production.

Sure. That’s a glass half-full outlook and perfectly understandable. See THIS VIDEO and THIS VIDEO for examples.

On the other hand, condescending, pats on the head aren’t a good look. If you want people to take a more positive outlook, lecturing isn’t the way to achieve your goal.

Bond 25 questions: The glass half-full/half-empty edition

No time to panic..

So Bond 25 has been delayed again. It has now been assigned its third release date since July 2017. And the news came one day after fans had begun their one-year countdown art and memes.

As usual, the blog has questions. But the blog is switching up the format with this post.

Is this bad news?

Half-full answer: It’s not even a two-month delay. Nothing to see here. Move along. No reason to panic.

Half-empty answer: Any other shoes to drop?

What’s going on?

Half-full answer: Universal, which will distribute Bond 25 outside North America, is juggling its schedule. Fast & Furious 9 (working title) has been moved from April 10, 2020 to May 22, 2020. So it makes sense to movie Bond 25 to April 8 and get a start on the Easter weekend for 2020.

Half-empty answer: Bond 25 hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck. Some movies get moved earlier (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation by months in 2015 and Avengers: Infinity War by a week in 2018).

Let’s say this release date won’t change (really). Will it be good for Bond?

Half-full answer: People go to movies at times other than summer and the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Batman v Superman opened big during Easter weekend 2016. Admittedly it fell off quickly, but people came to see it opening weekend. Furious 7 (part of the Fast & Furious series) had a big opening during Easter weekend 2015.

Half-empty answer: We’ll see. This is new territory for Bond.

Isn’t this weird? Three release dates?

Half-full answer: Nothing to see here. Move along. Release dates change all the time.

Half-empty answer: Of course it’s weird. Let’s face it, Bond 25 has had a development full of twists and turns.

Star Daniel Craig and producer Barbara Broccoli each take an extended break after 2015’s SPECTRE. The first release date (November 2019) was announced in July 2017 when no distributor was in place (and wouldn’t be for months). Craig finally came back but that was followed by a long director search, one director signing but leaving (Danny Boyle) followed by a quick search for a replacement, etc., etc. etc.

So for argument’s sake, assume this newest delay is strictly Universal’s doing. It still comes on top of a longer-than-usual gap. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) went bankrupt in 2010. That resulted in a four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. The current gap already was longer with nothing as calamitous involved.

United Artists name revived by MGM, Annapurna

United Artists logo from 1997

The United Artists name — officially 100 years old today — is being revived by the joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures, MGM said in a statement.

The joint venture will now be known as United Artists Releasing. The joint venture, formed in late 2017, performs U.S. distribution for both MGM and Annapurna.

The original United Artists studio was formed on Feb. 5, 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. UA, then headed by a management team that included Arthur Krim, was the studio that launched the James Bond film series in 1962.

United Artists Releasing is scheduled to handle U.S. distribution of Bond 25 in 2020, with Universal performing distribution in overseas markets. In effect, Bond 25 will represent a homecoming of sorts with the UA name.

Other films released by the original UA included The Magnificent Seven, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Knight and the Pink Panther and Rocky series.

MGM acquired UA from Transamerica Corp. in 1981. The United Artists brand has mostly disappeared since the late 1990s. Bond films were released under the UA name through 1997.

United Artists Releasing “intends to work not only with MGM and Annapurna but with third-party filmmakers – offering an alternative distribution option outside the studio system,” according to today’s statement.

The board of United Artists will have equal representation from MGM and Annapurna.

M:I accelerates its output amid longer 007 film gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The facts are clear. The importance is a little fuzzy.

So, producer-star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie intend to do two Mission: Impossible film back to back. The movies would come out in 2021 and 2022.

If that works out, that means there will have been four M:I films (all directed by McQuarrie) from 2015 to 2022. There will have been two 007 films (2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25) coming out during that same period.

The M:I development makes sense in that Cruise will turn 60 in 2022. While a fantastic physical specimen for a middle-aged guy, the clock is ticking on Cruise’s time as a movie action hero.

The two McQuarrie-directed M:I films (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout) have been big hits. So it’s a natural studio Paramount could secure his services for two more movies. On top of everything else, McQuarrie and Cruise obviously get along.

Once upon a time, something similar was envisioned for the Bond series. John Logan was hired to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25. Skyfall director Sam Mendes, in a 2014 interview, said that he came back to helm SPECTRE after plans were ditched to do Bond 24 and 25 back to back. Star Daniel Craig had vetoed the idea.

Bond fans have a mixed reaction to this. There are the usual social media posts about Bond is superior, Bond is forever, Mission: Impossible will be done when Cruise is done, etc.

But there are also gibes (such as this one by the author of a Bond-related book) calling Cruise a “teeny man.” Cruise is listed at 5-foot-7 on IMDB.com while current 007 star Daniel Craig towers above him by an entire three inches, according to that same website. Craig is no runt but he’s definitely the shortest Bond in a series cast with tall actors.

(Historical note: Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, had his early successes as a producer after he and his then-partner Irving Allen signed 5-foot-6 1/4 Alan Ladd as a star.)

The M:I news hardly means the end of Bond. And nobody is seriously making that argument.

At the same time, M:I has been showing more energy (perhaps because of the aforementioned ticking clock). On the Bond side? It star, Craig, and lead producer, Barbara Broccoli, wanted to do other things after SPECTRE. “Everybody’s a bit tired,” Craig said during a 2016 appearance.

As I said at the beginning: The importance of all this is fuzzy. M:I will do what it has to do (with the “teeny man” having a BIG say). The Bond series will do what it wants to do. Unlike other franchises, Bond is not totally controlled by a studio and the one studio involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) a weak industry player.

McQuarrie to direct 2 M:I films back to back, Variety says

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Christopher McQuarrie has agreed to direct two more Mission: Impossible movies for Paramount, Variety reported and film them back to back,  citing people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

McQuarrie wrote and directed the last two installments in the Tom Cruise series, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossibl-Fallout. Both were hits, with the latter addressing loose ends from previous M:I adventures.

The decision to film two films at once, with McQuarrie again writing and directing is  “to take advantage of the popularity of the series,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll. The first would be out in 2021, the second the following year, Variety said.

Cruise, who turns 57 in July, also is committed to the two movies, according to Variety.

In 2012, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced John Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. The announcement occurred after the release of Skyfall, the first 007 film to generate $1 billion in global box office.

Star Daniel Craig vetoed the idea of making two Bond films back to back. Bond 24, later titled SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015. Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in February 2020.

Other franchises, though, have done back to back productions. Marvel Studios took that approach with Avengers: Infinity War, released in 2018, and Avengers: Endgame, scheduled for release this spring.

UPDATE Jan. 15: Both McQuarrie and Cruise confirmed the news on social media.

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