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.

Craig fans start petition for actor to remain 007

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Some Daniel Craig fans have started an ONLINE PETITION AT CHANGE.ORG urging the actor to remain in the role of James Bond.

Here’s part of the text:

Daniel Craig’s portrayal of 007 is one of the best in all times and deserves the to be in top 3.If you are a fan of Daniel Craig and want to see him again as 007 this might be your last chance. Support this petition and share this with as many people you can. Tell Craig how much we love him and we want him back. This petition is certainly not to force him but to tell him how much we love him as 007. Even after all this he chooses not to come back then we honor his decision but we have to give a last shot right?

Craig, 48,hasn’t actually said he’s out as Bond. But Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, said late last year the actor isn’t under contract for future 007 appearances. Craig has played Bond in four movies, most recently in 2015’s SPECTRE.

Neither Eon nor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is under any particularly urgency about Bond 25 right now. Also, MGM has yet to find another studio partner to actually release the movie.

Anyway, if you want to check out the petition, CLICK HERE.

Craig angered MGM chief, Vanity Fair says

Poster for SPECTRE

Poster for SPECTRE

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top executive was angered last year when SPECTRE star Daniel Craig said he’s rather “slash my wrists” than play James Bond again, Vanity Fair reported.

The disclosure was part of a broader story mostly intended to knock down last weekend’s Radar Online story that the actor is being offered $150 million to do two more 007 films. (The publication says the offer is “is as fictional as Francisco Scaramanga’s third nipple”).

Here’s an excerpt that concerns MGM’s CEO, Gary Barber:

Craig’s “slash my wrists” comment didn’t exactly endear him to MGM’s chief executive and chairman Gary Barber who, Vanity Fair has learned, personally contacted the actor last year to express his frustration in no uncertain terms. (An email to Craig’s publicist was not immediately returned.)

“Gary hit the ceiling when he read the story,” says a source with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. “He called up Daniel to yell at him. He was furious.”

Quick recap: Craig made the mark in an interview with Time Out London. The interview was conducted a few days after the seven-month shoot of SPECTRE was completed but not published until October.

The article was in Q&A format and the “slash my wrists” comment was in response to the 17th of 22 questions. Neverthless, other outlets jumped on the quote, leading with it in their summaries of the interview. Craig fans have been crying foul ever since on social media.

This isn’t the first time something like this has been reported. The New York Post’s Page Six gossip page  said 11 months ago that executives at Sony Pictures, which co-financed SPECTRE with MGM, had told Craig to shut up.

Vanity Fair, though, is considerably higher brow than the tabloid New York Post. The Vanity Fair story also says Craig still is contractually obligated to do another Bond movie. Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, said last year that Craig is not.

To read the entire Vanity Fair story, CLICK HERE.

About Daniel Craig’s supposed big 007 offer

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig on the verge of a $150 million pay day?

Over the weekend, Radar Online reported that Daniel Craig, the ever-reluctant 007, is being offered $150 million to do two more James Bond films.

Naturally, this generated a lot of discussion among Bond fans.

On one 007 message board, a poster said the equivalent of, “Why are you guys so upset? It’s not your money.”

Here’s one way of thinking about it.

Michael Cimino (figuratively) thought the same thing when he was directing Heaven’s Gate. For sure, it wasn’t his money. It was United Artists’ money.

However, in the end, he spent so much of UA’s money — and his film generated so little box office — it spelled the end of UA as a separate studio. It’s parent company, Transamerica, threw in the towel. MGM bought UA.

Now some argue Cimino’s movie was better than the reviewers thought. And perhaps it was. Nevertheless, Heaven’s Gate doomed UA. MGM bought UA and merged it into its operations.

How many fewer movies were made because UA was no longer an actual studio? There’s no way to know, of course. But likely a decent number.

Leaving that issue aside, MGM absorbing UA still had an impact on the James Bond film series. The UA-Eon relationship was generally a good one. The MGM-Eon relationship, less so. The Heaven’s Gate situation clearly had a major impact on the Bond film series. It’s still being felt to this day.

Here’s another example for old timers.

In the U.S. market, Cleopatra (1963) sold about the same number of movie tickets (actually a little more) than Goldfinger. Cleopatra sold an estimated 67.2 million tickets, according to the Box Office Mojo website. Goldfinger sold 66.3 million

Goldfinger was a big fat success while Cleopatra almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox.

Why? Because Fox spent — squandered — so much money that Cleopatra couldn’t make a dime of profit despite being a popular success. Meanwhile, Goldfinger had a budget that ensured a huge profit.

Fox survived, but only because it’s television division sold a number of TV shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, 12 O’Clock High and Peyton Place) for the 1964-65 season.

Some fans will argue, “But this is James Bond! How can you say such a thing?”

Well, to cite a John Gardner 007 continuation novel title, “Nobody Lives Forever.”

Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, once said something to the effect that James Bond is bigger than any actor who plays him. It took a while for him to be proven correct, but he eventually was.

If the Radar Oneline story is accurate (and that remains to be seen), the Cubby Broccoli approach is dead, once and for all.

Also, in the U.S. market, Skyfall had a per-day gross of $2.8 million ($304.4 million divided by 109 days of release) while SPECTRE had a per-day gross of $1.3 million ($200 million divided by 154 days of release).

Nothing is easy, or automatic, in the movie business. Just ask those folks who thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a cinch to have a billion-dollar global box office.

For a Bond movie, with its leading man getting $75 million, to make a profit, it would have to consist of said actor sitting on a stool doing a dramatic reading of the script — perhaps with ads running on the bottom of the screen.

Then again, it’s not my money. So why get upset?

UPDATE: After this post was published, the blog was asked how would other big actor pay days compare when adjusted for inflation. The INFLATION CALCULATOR of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a useful tool for such calculations.

Elizabeth Taylor was paid the then-regal sum of $1 million for 1963’s Cleopatra. That works out to $7.86 million in 2016 dollars. Sean Connery got what was seen as a staggering amount, $1.25 million, to do Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. That works out to be $7.43 million in 2016 dollars.

UPDATE II (7:30 p.m.) A website called Gossip Cop today HAD A POST where its unidentified source (“an individual involved in the James Bond franchise”) says Craig has received no such offer. In effect, Gossip Cop’s anonymous source is ragging on Radar Online’s anonymous sources. Caveat Emptor all around.

 

Comparing Daily Mail, Radar Online 007 stories

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

Radar Online story this weekend saying Daniel Craig is being offered a ton of money to return as James Bond is similar a Daily Mail story from May.

Here’s a quick look:

–The Daily Mail said Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer offered Craig 68 million British pounds ($99 million at the time, $90 million at current exchange rates) to do two more James Bond films. The Mail said Craig turned down the offer.

“The sum included endorsements, profit shares, and a role for him working as a co-producer,” according to that story.

–Radar Online said Sony Pictures is offering Craig $150 million to do two more James Bond films.

The entertainment and gossip website quotes a person it didn’t identify as saying, “Daniel’s the key for a seamless, safe transition as far as Sony and Bond bosses are concerned, and they’re prepared to pay a king’s ransom to make it happen.”

According to this story, Sony is ready to announce it has a new deal to distribute Bond films. Its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE. The Radar Online story doesn’t mention MGM.

UPDATED: MGM’s possible studio partners for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Back in April, the blog took a look at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s potential studio partners for Bond 25.

Well, no decision has been reached (or at least announced) since then, but there have been developments among the studios. So here’s an updated look at the studios that may co-finance and distribute the next James Bond film.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four Bond films but its most recent contract expired with SPECTRE.

Sony’s share of the Bond profits were paltry the past two films. New leadership took over the studio and Amy Pascal, the executive who negotiated that deal, is gone.

Still, it may be the case that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sony this summer tried to revive Ghostbusters, this time featuring four women ghostbusters. (Pascal was one of the producers.) The Hollywood Reporter said in an August story that the new film is on track to lose $70 million and that a sequel is unlikely.

Sony and Marvel Studios are working together on a new Spider-Man movie (with Marvel in creative control). But Sony remains in need of a movie “franchise.”

Radar Online, an entertainment and gossip website, this weekend RAN A POST saying that Sony “should be announcing any day that the studio is re-upping the distribution rights for the Bond series.” Further, it says Sony (it doesn’t mention MGM) is offering Daniel Craig, 48, $150 million to do two more Bond movies.

We’ll slap the Caveat Emptor label on that. One of Sony’s problems with the last two 007 movies is, while they generated $2 billion in worldwide box office, the studio was third in line (behind MGM and Eon Productions) in getting money despite putting up half of the large production budgets.

Paying your leading man $75 million per movie isn’t going to help studio profitability. But we’ll see what happens. Regardless, Sony’s interest in Bond likely remains high, especially after this summer’s Ghostbusters movie.

Warner Bros.: The studio has its hands full with its slate of movies featuring DC Comics characters.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the No. 5 movie worldwide so far this year at $872.7 million. Another DC-based movie, Suicide Squad, featuring villains forced to work for the government, is No. 8 worldwide at $643.4 million.

Most studios would love such a result, but “Mr. Warner” was hoping for more than $1 billion for Batman v Superman. Rival Marvel Studios, part of Walt Disney Co., is No. 1 for 2016 at $1.15 billion for Captain America: Civil War.

Still, the studio isn’t backing down, with a movie version of the Justice League in the works for 2017, picking up where Batman v Superman left off. Does the studio have the bandwidth to also co-finance Bond films?

Paramount: When last we looked in on Paramount, there was a lot of turmoil at its parent company, Viacom.

Well, that soap opera reached a resolution last month, including the forced departure of Paramount chief Philippe Dauman. That raises the question whether new leadership at the studio can mount an effort to strike a deal with MGM.

Paramount co-financed and released MGM’s Ben-Hur remake, which reached theaters last month. The movie bombed, apparently the answer to a question audiences weren’t asking.

20th Century Fox: Not much has changed here. Fox has a deal with MGM to handle home video distribution of Bond movies.

 

Our look at the state of the 007 film franchise

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

We’ve taken a few of our recent posts about Bond 25, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and produced an expanded article about the state of the James Bond film franchise.

You can find this article at our sister site, The Spy Command Feature Story Index.

That site contains longer feature stories. Some began as posts in The Spy Command. Others are feature stories that originally appeared in the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. The site is intended to provide a place for longer stories.

Other articles at The Spy Command Feature Story Index include pieces about the Cold War years of the Iron Man comic book, the collection of Ian Fleming manuscripts and papers at Indiana University and the University of Iowa’s collections of the papers of screenwriter Richard Maibaum and Norman Felton, the executive producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.