Bond 25 questions: The Amazon edition Part III

An Amazon logo

All those news reports were mostly correct, Amazon said it agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. Naturally, the blog still has questions.

So, does Amazon own MGM right now?

No. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval. It can’t close until then.

How long is that going to take?

Likely months. Maybe even the better part of a year. Amazon, an e-commerce giant, has emerged as a big, powerful company. Regulators are likely to take a close look.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s richest men. That alone, guarantees the deal won’t be rubber stamped.

How will this affect the James Bond franchise?

In the short run, not much. Presuming Amazon completes the acquisition, it will want to get to know Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions better. But MGM only controls half of the Bond franchise and Broccoli and Wilson have a lot of control.

It’s possible that Amazon still won’t own MGM this fall when No Time to Die is scheduled to be released.

In the longer run? That remains to be seen. Could Amazon try to buy out the Broccoli-Wilson family? Perhaps. But, if it were me, there’s no point attempting that until you complete the big MGM film.

UPDATE: Broccoli and Wilson sent a statement to Variety: “We are committed to continuing to make James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience,”

What’s driving this?

Streaming, in a word. Netflix is concentrating on developing movies and TV shows it owns rather than relying on studios. Some studios, meanwhile, are in streaming as well. For Amazon, getting MGM’s library (much of which is the old United Artists library) as a big programming source for Amazon Prime.

Didn’t MGM dismiss stories it was in talks with Amazon as “speculation in the media”? Were they fibbing?

Could be. MGM wouldn’t be the first company to use this trick while in merger talks.

Will the MGM name survive in the long run?

Despite decades of financial ills, the MGM name and its Leo the Lion logo are still well known. I suspect (assuming the Amazon deal is completed), the MGM logo will survive but it may say “an Amazon company” beneath it.

Anything else?

On May 24, the blog had a post predicting more Jeff Bezos jokes if the Amazon-MGM deal was announced. It has been a tidal wave of Bezos and Amazon puns today.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

THR: Apple didn’t offer MGM enough for NTTD

Apple Inc. didn’t offer Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer enough to license No Time to Die to show on streaming, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Apple considered an offer of $350 million to $400 million one a one-year license, the entertainment news outlet reported. MGM was looking for $650 million to $700 million or more, THR said.

MGM’s demands were a “nonstarter” for other streaming such as Netflix, according to THR. Meanwhile, MGM — which controls half the Bond film franchise — is incurring $1 million in interest a month for loans to finance the $250 million No Time to Die, THR said.

No Time to Die has had a series of release dates. It had been set to come out in April but was delayed until November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it’s set to come out in April 2021 but that’s uncertain as the pandemic continues.

Finally, Danjaq LLC — which controls the other half of the Bond franchise — and its Eon Productions unit wasn’t initially told by MGM about the talks. Danjaq/Eon boss Barbara Broccoli opposed the idea, THR said.

Here’s an excerpt from the THR story:

Broccoli is seen as a staunch traditionalist who is very much in support of the theatrical experience. Furthermore, Bond is a franchise connected to luxury and scarcity, and by going to a streamer there could be a brand hit in her eyes, according to one insider. “It’s a dip into a pool you won’t be able to get out of,” says the source.

Bond 25 questions: The streaming edition

No Time to Die poster

What once seemed unthinkable — a new James Bond movie debuting on a streaming service — may be a possibity. Or is it? Naturally, the blog has questions.

How did this come up anyway?

On Thursday, Drew McWeeny, who writes about film, posted a tweet that raised the possibility. He has a reputation for knowing a lot of people in the industry.

McWeeny also publishes a newsletter where he elaborated. Here is an excerpt:

In the last ten days or so, at least six people have reached out to talk to me about what they’re hearing, and it sounds like those two streamers are currently the most actively engaged in conversations with MGM and, I presume, EON and Universal to pick up No Time To Die. I have no idea if other conversations have occurred or not, but I can’t imagine they’re the only two interested parties.

McWeeny also wrote that one figure he’s heard is for more than $600 million. But he also wrote he didn’t know if that was just one film or more.

Separately, the MI6 James Bond website and Bloomberg ran stories on Friday concerning No Time to Die going to streaming first.

MI6 said it “understands that those offers started at $200m are now heading towards $250m – just for the North America streaming rights.”

Bloomberg said Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has held talks with Apple Inc. and Netflix. The news service cited “people familiar with the situation.” MGM told Bloomberg the film is not for sale. The Bloomberg story doesn’t provide a specific price.

UPDATE (Oct. 24): Variety weighed in with its own story. The entertainment outlet said MGM was looking for a deal in the $600 million range, “a price tag that was deemed too rich” for some of the streaming services. Which ones weren’t specified.

UPDATE II (Oct 24): Dealine: Hollywood (a sister site to Variety) posts a story emphasizing MGM’s denial.

A troll on Facebook (joined in July, only three followers) emphasized to me how Deadline’s Mike Fleming has a special, close relationship to Danjaq/Eon. That’s another way of saying Fleming is an extension of the Danjaq PR machine. Whatever. Personally, I prefer a knowledgeable, independent voice on these things.

What happens now?

The Bond situation is very complicated. MGM and Danjaq LLC jointly control the James Bond film rights. No Time to Die is to be distributed by United Artists Releasing (co-owned by MGM and Annapurna Pictures) in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

That’s a number of parties that may have to be dealt with for any streaming deal.

What’s driving this?

No Time to Die was to have come out in April but was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). So it was rescheduled for November. But COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and cases are rising again in the U.S. and Europe. So now, the 25th James Bond film is supposed to be out in April 2021.

What’s more, MGM is a weak studio in an industry already facing changes before COVID-19. The company is owned by hedge funds who likely are anxious to sell the studio.

A streaming deal would deliver cash now while MGM can still be prepare to sell itself later.

But what about that MGM denial to Bloomberg?

That denial may have a short shelf life. Put another way, the denial is true today. The question is how long will it be true?

About that whole Bond 26 thing

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This week, a website I am totally unfamiliar with stated that Tom Hardy is definitely the next film James Bond.

Naturally, Bond fans jumped in to debate, argue and discuss whether this was so. I’m not going to link to it because there has been enough heat and no light.

Perhaps a better subject would be under what circumstances a Bond 26 movie would occur.

Specifically, with the advent of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is making a $200 million to $250 million movie practical anymore?

The Christopher Nolan-directed Tenet was supposed to save cinema. It’s not happening in the United States (still a major movie market). Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has responded by delaying (again) Wonder Woman 1984 to Christmas.

But, Bond fans say, James Bond is different. It’s an established intellectual property (known as IP).

Sure. But a second COVID-19 wave is occurring internationally. And the U.S. as a whole, still has yet to get the pandemic under control. Major states such as Florida, Texas and Georgia are a big mess. Theaters in New York and California are still closed.

The traditional business model was movies came out in theaters, followed by video on demand, followed by home video. All of those sources were vital.

Movie studios (including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio) were grappling with the future before COVID-19. Netflix was the main source of pressure and the studios were coming out with their own streaming competitors.

The pandemic puts more pressure than ever on studios. What’s the future for movies in theaters?

Tom Hardy is guaranteed to be the next James Bond? The question is whether James Bond movies are guaranteed in the future.

No Time to Die is a pre-COVID-19 film trying to come out amid COVID-19. The future for Bond is uncertain — as uncertain as it is for movies generally.

MGM is leading media acquisition target, CNBC says

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, is the leading acquisition target among media companies as the industry consolidates, CNBC reported.

MGM “has held preliminary talks” with companies including Apple and Netflix “to gauge their interest,” the financial news network said in an online story. CNBC cited two people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple held preliminary talks with MGM.

Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, and MGM control the Bond film franchise. MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds, which acquired MGM out of a 2010 bankruptcy.

MGM may now be worth $10 billion, CNBC said. Besides Bond, it produces television shows for cable networks and streaming services and owns the Epix premium channel.

Netflix has prompted studios including Walt Disney Co. to start their own streaming services. Apple also has established a streaming service and reportedly is looking to add programming.

Bond 25 questions: James Bond Day edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

Another James Bond Day appears to be in the books. But the blog still has some questions about the meaning of the day’s events.

What’s this holiday’s name again?

In 2012, Global James Bond Day debuted. It was the 50th anniversary of when Dr. No had its U.K. debut. The new “holiday” was a marketing move to note the Bond film franchise’s 50th anniversary.

Since then, it’s had the name Global James Bond Day. Until this year.

Eon Productions (via a tweet) as well as Pinewood Studios (also in a tweet), Orlebar Brown (a maker of pricey 007-themed clothing, also in a tweet) and Aston Martin (you guessed it, in a tweet) all called it James Bond Day, with the “Global” taken off.

However, No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga, in a video on his Instagram page, called it “International James Bond Day.”

The memo didn’t make it to many Bond fan sites that kept referring to it as Global James Bond Day.

What about the teaser poster?

It came out on (Global/International) James Bond Day. But it was a minimalist affair, with an image of Daniel Craig in a tuxedo.

What about the teaser trailer?

That’s an event for another day, apparently. We’re about six months from the debut of No Time to Die. So you’d think it’d be out sooner than later. But not on (Global/International) James Bond Day.

Who was responsible for the teaser poster?

Some fans on social media were inclined to blame studios (either MGM, Bond’s home studio or its distribution partners).

However, in 2015, Eon’s Michael Wilson said Eon does the marketing and studios just execute what Eon devises. If he was correct, Eon has some fingerprints on that poster.

What about those Bond-themed names for new roads at Pinewood Studios?

Pinewood said an expansion area will have a Michael G. Wilson Road and Skyfall Avenue. The announcement came as the future of Bond at Pinewood is up in the air.

Pinewood Group PLC, Pinewood’s owner, and Walt Disney Co. have announced a deal where Disney will lock up the vast bulk of Pinewood facilities in a long-term deal. Shepperton Studios, also owned by Pinewood Group, this summer reached a deal with Netflix that locks up most of that studio space.

It remains to be seen how this will play out. But it raises the possibility that Disney crews will travel on Michael G. Wilson Road and Skyfall Avenue so they can perform their day’s work. Not to mention going to the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage to do a day’s labor.

Wally Wood’s influence on Daredevil extends to 21st century

Excerpt from Wally Wood's definitive 1965 Daredevil story, In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner

Excerpt from Wally Wood’s definitive 1965 Daredevil story, In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner

One of the most acclaimed comic book adaptations on television has been the Netflix series Daredevil.

The show, which has run 26 episodes over two seasons, is violent. If it were a movie, some episodes would definitely receive an R rating.

But one person who doesn’t get mentioned much in connection with the series is comic book artist Wally Wood (1927-1981).

Wood worked as an artist on seven issues of the original comic book and did uncredited story work. He did not work on the first issue, which was done by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. However, Wood designed Daredevil’s distinctive red costume (which debuted in issue 7), which has mostly continued on to this day.

But Wood’s primary contribution goes beyond that. In a 1965 story, Wood’s Daredevil tackles a much more powerful foe, Namor, the Sub-Mariner (created in 1939 by none other than Bill Everett), the half-human ruler of Atlantis. Namor had super strength and wings on his ankles.

Marvel (via The Fantastic Four title by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) revived the Namor character in the early 1960s and established that he wanted to conquer the surface world.

Wood’s take on Daredevil was how the hero (who was blind, but had whose other senses were heightened following an accident) never, ever gave up. In Mortal Combat With Sub-Mariner was issue 7, the first issue with Wood’s red costume.

Wally Wood's cover to Daredevil No. 7 in 1965

Wally Wood’s cover to Daredevil No. 7 in 1965

Over the course of the 1965 comic book story, Daredevil absorbed a beating at the hands of Namor. But DD always kept coming back for more until he finally fell exhaustion. But DD was more heroic in defeat than Namor was in victory.

The Netflix Daredevil series relies on those who followed Wood, especially artist-writer Frank Miller, who worked on the title in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Oddly, Wood is not included among the writers and artists who receive a “special thanks” credit in the end titles of the Netfilx series

Those who do receive recognition (among them Miller, artists Gene Colan, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr.) do deserve the credit they receive. But it’s strange that Marvel’s television arm doesn’t note Wood’s contribution. The Facebook page Wally Wood’s Daredevil has called for Marvel to recognize Wood.

Regardless, aging comic book fans who remember Wood’s short, but influential, run on the title are aware of his contributions to Daredevil that have extended into the 21st century.

Craig to be paid $250K per episode for Purity: Variety

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, will make an estimated $250,000 per episode for the Showtime limited series Purity, Variety said.

The estimate is contained within a package of stories about escalating star salaries for television, on broadcast, cable and premium channels.

Purity is Craig’s main project for 2017. (The actor hasn’t said whether he’ll be back for Bond 25.) It will consist of 20 episodes , with half to be telecast in 2017, the remainder in 2018. The actor also is an executive producer of Purity and Variety doesn’t specify if that’s part of the $250,000 per episode figure.

While a handsome figure, Craig’s estimated pay isn’t at highest level for television stars.

Mark Harmon, star of NCIS, which has run for more than a decade on CBS, receives an estimated $525,000 per episode. Lauren Graham and Alexis Biedel of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Nexflix get $750,000 an episode for a run of four 90-minute installments. It’s a continuation of a 2000-2007 series. The stars of The Big Bang Theory on CBS receive an estimated $1 million per episode.

Variety said it “conducted a wide survey of actors, executives, attorneys, agents, managers, and other representatives in an effort to offer a snapshot of the earnings power of talent at all levels in primetime, late-night, daytime, and news.”

Stories by Variety include a piece about movie stars flocking to TV projects and how soaring salaries for stars are rattling TV.