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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Get ready for a new era with Disney-Fox deal

Walt Disney Co. logo

UPDATE (7:10 a.m., Dec. 14): Walt Disney Co. announced this morning it was acquiring the 20th Century Fox studio and other Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock.

Among the bullet points in the press release: “Popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic to join Disney’s portfolio.

Disney also said CEO Robert Iger, 66, who has postponed retirement once already, will remain in the post through 2021. It was under Iger that Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars), deals dwarfed by this latest one.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 13): Walt Disney Co. reportedly is about to buy 20th Century Fox and other major assets from 21st Century Fox. (Both CNBC and The New York Times have said the deal may be announced Thursday.)

Many entertainment and fan websites have concentrated on how major Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, now controlled by Fox, would come under Disney and its Marvel Studios unit.

The business media (such as this CNBC story) has focused on how the deal would bolster Disney with its plans to start a streaming service to challenge Netflix.

However, such a deal would cut the number of major studios releasing movies. 20th Century-Fox probably would become another brand for Disney and be involved in fewer movies overall. As the Daily Beast put it last month, “A Disney-Fox Merger Is Bad for Everyone But Disney.” Also, such a transaction may spur additional deal making and consolidation.

Fox currently handles home video distribution for James Bond films, with its current deal lasting through June 2020. It’s uncertain how or when a Disney acquisition of Fox assets would affect that. Disney may have its hands full dealing with Marvel characters and streaming issues that the 007 home video situation may have to wait.

Meanwhile, if a Disney-Fox hookup spurs more consolidation, it’s possible the Bond franchise may be affected. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, is a relative runt.

MGM is just now — seven years after exiting bankruptcy — taking steps to distributing its own movies again by forming a distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Could MGM get gobbled up at some point?

In any case, the anticipated Disney-Fox deal means things won’t be the same.

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.

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 says Bond 25 distribution not resolved

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said today that distribution — and presumably financing — of Bond 25 has not been resolved.

“Distribution plans for Bond 25 still have not been announced and we are continuing discussions with a variety of potential partners,” MGM chief Gary Barber said on an investor call. “We look forward to sharing more details on Bond 25 on future calls.”

Deadline: Hollywood reported Sunday that a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures was close to being named U.S. distributor for the next James Bond film. An international distributor has not yet been selected, Deadline said.

The last four 007 films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 without a distribution operation. MGM films were co-financed and distributed by various studios.

On the call, Barber talked up the joint venture with Annapurna.

“We decided the time was right to be less dependent on co-production partners to theatrically distribute our theatrical films,” Barber said.

The first MGM film to be distributed by the joint venture will be a remake of Death Wish early next year.

Wonder Woman sequel to debut 1 week before Bond 25

Wonder Woman poster

Bond 25’s U.S. competition just got tougher.

Warner Bros. has rescheduled Wonder Woman 2, the sequel to this year’s hit, to Nov. 1, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter said. That’s six weeks earlier than it’s previous release date of Dec. 13 — and one week before Bond 25’s current U.S. date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Warners moved the Wonder Woman sequel after Walt Disney Co. moved Star Wars Episode IX to Dec. 20, 2019, THR said. That movie originally had a May 2019 release date. But the Star Wars entry changed directors (to J.J. Abrams from Colin Trevorrow), causing Disney to push back its release.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions announced the Nov. 8 date for Bond 25 in July. For the moment, there isn’t an official distributor for the 007 movie. However, Deadline: Hollywood reported on Sunday that MGM and Annapurna Pictures’ new distribution joint venture is close to being named the U.S. distributor of Bond 25. An international distributor hasn’t been decided, Deadline said.

If the Nov. 8 date stands, Bond 25 will have major competition in the U.S. from the second weekend of Wonder Woman 2. (Bond 25 is to come out earlier internationally but a date hasn’t been specified.) Patty Jenkins, who directed this year’s film, is scheduled to helm the sequel.

One potential caveat: Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip operation, on Nov. 11 reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot is balking at playing the character again if producer-mogul Brett Ratner’s RatPac-Dune is involved with Wonder Woman 2. Warner Bros. has called that story false.

RatPac-Dune has helped finance a number of Warner Bros. movies over the past few years, including Wonder Woman. Ratner, meanwhile, has been accused of sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, given how Wonder Woman was both a critical and box office hit, Warner Bros. has incentive to get Gadot back. She has been a major part of the marketing for Justice League, which comes out this week.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reported separately that the RatPac-Dune deal with Warner Bros. expires in spring 2018 and likely won’t affect Wonder Woman 2.

Footnote: Warner Bros. has been among those studios vying to be a Bond 25 distributor.

Bond 25: The distribution edition

Annapurna logo

If Deadline: Hollywood is correct, the Bond 25 picture is about to get clearer but there are still key questions to be asked.

What Deadline reported: The new joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures will release Bond 25 in the United States.

MGM and Annapurna announced the venture on Oct. 31. It will release movies for both companies. But when the venture was announced, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

So let’s go with the questions.

Who’s going to release Bond 25 internationally? Deadline didn’t know. It said studios including Warner Bros., Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal are in the mix.

More importantly, who’s going to finance Bond 25? Sony has released the last four Bond films. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal (Skyfall and SPECTRE), the studio co-financed the movie with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

Presuming we end up with MGM-Annapurna in the U.S. and someone with international distribution, Bond 25’s financing has the potential to be more complicated.

Will Annapurna do some of the financing? Or will its involvement be more limited? Will the international distributor also kick in some of the financing?

Or is MGM confident it will be the dominant financing entity?

Too early to answer any of that. The MGM-Annapurna distribution deal for Bond 25 in the U.S. hasn’t been announced yet.

Why does the blog ask these questions? Because until they’re settled, nobody is going to get paid to do the movieThe blog occasionally has its chain yanked (hopefully in a kidding way) about bringing up the subject. But it’s still legitimate. Eon Productions doesn’t finance Bond films and doesn’t release them.