About those MGM sales talks and Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post reported that an unknown Chinese buyer is negotiating to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.

The Post’s sister paper, The Wall Street Journal, followed up by saying MGM had been in talks with a Chinese buyer but the negotiations broke off last year.

How all this applies to Bond 25?

This may explain why MGM never reached a Bond 25 distribution deal

Back in March 2016, MGM said it was in no hurry to negotiate a new Bond movie distribution deal. If the Post and Journal are accurate (that MGM at least *had* talks with a would-be Chinese purchaser), the reason is obvious.

MGM CEO Gary Barber had bigger things on his mind. James Bond may be MGM’s biggest asset, but whether to sell the company or not is bigger (from the perspective of an MGM CEO) than that.

Such talks may have slowed the pace of Bond 25 development

Until there’s a studio that can distribute Bond 25, a new 007 production can’t reach theaters.

Following its 2010 bankruptcy, MGM no longer had a distribution operation. Since then, it has negotiated co-financing and distribution deals with other studios. Maybe that would have changed if a Chinese concern acquired MGM. If the Journal is correct, we’ll never know.

Regardless, MGM negotiating to sell to the Chinese probably would have sent any talks with other U.S.-based studios to distribute Bond 25 to the back burner.

Where do we go from here?

Your guess is as good as this blog’s. However, this is a reminder that Bond is tethered to a weak studio.

MGM bought United Artists in 1981. UA, years earlier, got control of half of the Bond franchise when Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, sold out because of financial troubles.

The MGM soap opera changes in some regards (executives come, executives go) but not in others.  MGM’s glory days are long gone.

 

MGM sale to Chinese not happening, WSJ says

MGM logo

A sale of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, to a Chinese buyer isn’t happening, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Talks broke down between MGM and several Chinese companies late last year, an apparent casualty of China’s move to stanch capital outflows that has stalled the country’s shopping spree in Hollywood, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported.

“An MGM sale would have been among the biggest-ticket and highest-profile such acquisitions, but its failure to materialize is evidence of a twist ending that few in Hollywood expected,” according to the story by three Journal reporters.

Earlier, the New York Post reported that MGM was in talks with a Chinese buyer it didn’t identify. Both the Journal and Post are owned by News Corp., controlled by Rupert Muchoch.

Uncertainty at MGM would have an adverse effect on the 007 film franchise. MGM has been involved with Bond since it acquired United Artists in 1981. UA, in 1975, acquired half of the franchise after Eon Productions co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out because of financial troubles.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company, unable to release its own films. MGM cuts deals with other studios to co-finance and release those movies, including the Bond series.

An MGM spokeswoman told the Journal that the studio wasn’t for sale.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal story about the broader issues facing Hollywood and China:

The economic-policy changes in China come amid mounting protectionist rhetoric in the U.S. from the administration of President Donald Trump.

“We’ve heard from both [private-equity] firms and investment banks that China investment activity around [Hollywood] assets started to wane just prior to the election and is almost nonexistent now,” said Chris Fenton, a trustee of the U.S.-Asia Institute, which organizes congressional delegations to China, and president of DMG Entertainment, a media company headquartered in Beverly Hills and Beijing.

“No China entity wants to be the first to test” the heated rhetoric on the U.S. side and the capital controls on the Chinese side, he added.

The last four Bond films have actually been released by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

 

MGM in negotiations with Chinese buyer, NY Post reports

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio of the 007 film franchise, is in sales talks with a Chinese buyer, the New York Post reported.

“The name of the China-based entity involved in the talks, perhaps newly formed to make the deal, could not immediately be learned,” the Post’s Claire Atkinson wrote.

MGM acquired United Artists in 1981, giving it a half stake in the Bond franchise. UA had earlier purchased the holdings of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions and its parent firm, Danjaq.

The studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company. It doesn’t have a distribution operation and negotiates deals with other studios to release its films. The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures.

MGM’s most recent two-picture contract with Sony expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Studio chief Gary Barber said in March 2016 there was “no rush” to negotiate a new Bond distribution accord with Sony or another studio.

In 2016, MGM said it intended to sell stock to the public in three to five years.

NY Post gossip columnist says Craig will be back

Daniel Craig in a pose worthy of Orson Welles.

Daniel Craig

New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams wrote in a short, snarky item that Daniel Craig will be back as James Bond.

“The 411 on 007 is maybe he’s A-1 on BS. Remember him burping ‘I’d rather slash my wrists than play James Bond again?’ Oh, please. Dannyboy’s ready to stir that martini,” Adams wrote for the Post’s Page Six feature.

“Hollywood know-it-alls who know it all categorize this hard-to-catch play as a ploy. He says he hates filming those Bonds, but he knows he loves those Benjamins.”

Who the Hollywood know-it-alls are or how they’re in a position to know it all weren’t specified.

The Post is owned by the Rupert Murdock-controlled News Corp., which owns U.K. tabloids as well as The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal in the U.S.

Sony writes down value of film unit by almost $1B

Sony Pictures logo

Sony Pictures logo

Sony Corp. wrote down the value of its film business by $962 million, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Essentially, Sony said its film business is worth far less than what it listed on its financial books. In accounting that’s known as a “goodwill impairment charge.”

The writedown stemmed from “a downward revision in the future profitability projection for the motion pictures business,” according to a Sony statement quoted by THR.

Sony also said its commitment to the film unit “remains unchanged.” The New York Post earlier this month said Sony “is listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations.”

Sony has released the past four James Bond films. The company has said it would like to extend the relationship but it has no deal in place with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.  Under its most recent two-picture deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits.

At the moment, Bond 25 has no distributor, much less a release date.

NY Post says Sony considers selling film business

sonylogo

Sony Corp. is “listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations,” the New York Post reported Jan. 19, citing sources it didn’t identify.

That includes Sony Pictures, whose Columbia brand has released the past four James Bond films. Sony’s most recent two-picture contract to distribute 007 films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expired with SPECTRE.

On Sept. 13, Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai said in a statement that, “As we look ahead, we see our entertainment businesses as essential parts of Sony.”

The comment was part of an announcement that Michael Lynton, the head of Sony’s entertainment division is departing the company, effective Feb. 2. Hirai is setting up a second office in California “to oversee the management of the entertainment companies,” according to that announcement.

Tom Rothman, a Sony Pictures executive, told the Hollywood Reporter last year the studio is interested in continuing its Bond relationship.

Craig’s Othello play may get a separate Broadway run

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig

The off-Broadway production of Othello, with Daniel Craig as Iago, may get a separate run on Broadway in spring 2017, the New York Post reported.

The play currently is at the New York Theatre Workshop, which it is scheduled to conclude on Jan. 18.

The Post is saying the play may come to broadway. Here’s an excerpt:

Meanwhile, Daniel Craig is eying a move to Broadway after winning raves for his Iago in the New York Theatre Workshop production of “Othello.”

Craig, sources say, initially shied away from talk about Broadway because the critics were lukewarm to him in 2013’s “Betrayal.” But he’s happy now — as is his co-star, the excellent David Oyelowo — and senses a shot at a Tony for Best Actor in a Play, if the show can get in under the Tony cut-off date, which is April 27, 2017.

Othello is produced by Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli. The Post’s Page Six gossip feature said last week that Othello is part of an effort by Broccoli to lure Craig back for Bond 25.

Craig’s schedule includes Kings, a movie about the 1990s LA riots, and Purity, a limited-run television series for the Showtime pay-cable channel.