The 007 film dilemma in 3 minutes

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As the James Bond film franchise decides what to do next, it faces a bit of a dilemma:

Should it continue to seek more critical respect (Casino Royale and Skyfall) or should it embrace its roots, the way SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, did?

The last two Bond films were directed by an auteur, Sam Mendes.

In 2012, Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli told ComingSoon.Net that the franchise didn’t hire journeymen directors: “(W)e’ve never been one to hire directors for hire. We always wanted someone who was a great director in their own right and a storyteller.”

Yet, in the first four movies of the series — which generated some of the most memorable scenes for the franchise — were directed by journeymen Terence Young and Guy Hamilton. Young, in particular, dealt with cost and schedule overruns on Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Young even had part of his Dr. No fee impounded until costs were recouped at the box office because of the overruns. Bond was a much more modest undertaking in those days.

2012 also saw something that summarizes the divide between respect and tradition.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversayr of the Bond films. So Tom Jones appeared to perform the title song to Thunderball, the fourth 007 film.

The audiences was full of artistes. Yet they seemed to be having as good a time as audiences did in 1965 when Thunderball first came out.

On some occasions, respect and tradition can coincide. Something to keep in mind as Bond 25 undergoes its journey in development. Here’s Sir Tom in 2012:

FWIW, observations about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talked a bit about the future of the James Bond film franchise. The studio didn’t say a lot but it was the most actual news since SPECTRE began its theatrical run last year.

So, here are some conservative observations about Bond 25 and what’s coming next.

It’s taking longer to reach a new 007 distribution deal that people initially thought:  Sony’s most recent 007 distribution contract ended with SPECTRE.

Some, including Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, which actually makes the 007 films, expected a new deal to be reached by January or February. No deal is in place and MGM CEO Gary Barber told investors last week there’s “no rush.”

Barber also said MGM has talked to many studios about a deal and he’s confident MGM will reach a good deal. But it also *suggests* other studios want better terms than the last Sony deal — 50-50 financing but Sony having to accept only 25 percent of the profits. For the first billion-dollar Bond — Skyfall — Sony only got $57 million in profits while MGM made $175 million.

More than ever, the MGM-Eon partnership is an uneasy one: When MGM was in bankruptcy in 2010, it said it planned to put Bond films on an every-other-year schedule. Barber’s remarks last week — Bond films will come out every three to four years — marked a formal surrender from that.

Eon bosses Wilson and Barbara Broccoli aren’t interested in making Bond films every other year. They have other irons in the fire, including plays and television projects. One suspects MGM would like Bond films more frequently than less frequently. But MGM relies on Eon to make Bond films and there’s only so much it can do. During’s last week investor call, Barber played up MGM’s other projects.

Also, the Eon side has lived through a lot of different MGM executive regimes ever since MGM bough United Artists in 1981. You could make the case that Wilson and Broccoli have no reason to be any closer to Barber than his various predecessors.

Take the over in over/under bets about when Bond 25 comes out: If this blog had to bet, it’d still bet on 2018 for a Bond 25 release date. But if the talks for another distribution deal drag out a few more months, a 2019 release date suddenly looks more reasonable.

As a general rule, there seem to be more reasons for a later release date than an earlier date. In 2012, Sony executives said they expected a 2014 release date for Bond 24. Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig slapped down the idea in a joint interview, saying a Sony executive was getting ahead of himself. Sure enough, Bond 24, later called SPECTRE, came out in 2015.

Bond movies to come out on a 3-4 year cycle, MGM says

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said this week that James Bond movies will come out on a “three-to-four year cycle” and it’s not hurrying to strike a new 007 distribution deal.

The disclosures were made by MGM chief Gary Barber during the question-and-answer portion of the company’s fourth-quarter and year-end earnings conference call.

Six years ago, when the studio was in bankruptcy, it produced a plan calling for Bond films to again come out on an every-other-year basis. After Skyfall came out, Barber began backpedaling during a November 2012 investor call. This week, he made clear an every-other-year 007 schedule is never going to happen.

The 007 films have “been on a cycle of every three to hour years and I anticipate it will be on that same three-to-four year cycle,” Barber said.

The executive provided no timetable for Bond 25, except to say it is “under discussions with our partners at Danjaq.” Danjaq LLC is the parent company of Eon Productions.

The CEO of MGM later cited the three-to-four year cycle as a reason why the studio isn’t hurrying to strike a new Bond distribution deal.

“There’s no rush,” Barber said. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond films. After MGM came out of a bankruptcy, Sony struck, in hindsight, a bad deal to distribute what turned out to be Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Under that accord, Sony co-financed the two 007 films while getting only 25 percent of the profits. Sony got $57 million for Skyfall while MGM took home $175 million, according to documents that became public because of the Sony computer hacks.

Sony got even less for SPECTRE, because that movie had a higher budget and lower box office. Danjaq got more than Sony because it’s paid a percentage of the grosses of the movies.

None of this was mentioned during the conference call. Barber said this week that “every single studio” is interested in being MGM’s 007 partner.

The Guardian’s daft 007 proposal

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The Guardian’s proposal for alternate-universe 007s sounds a lot like “The Flash of Two Worlds” story published by DC Comics in 1961.

The Guardian has come out with a story in effect saying don’t choose between Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba as the next James Bond but do movies with both — at the same time.

The British newspaper cited how, “We are, after all, living in the era of Marvel’s highly successful expanded universe of interconnected movie and TV superhero stories. Star Wars’ take on the concept is moving forward apace, and Warner Bros has 10 films based on the DC Comics back catalogue planned between now and 2020.”

That sets up the meat of the proposal:

But Bond is just as big as any of the above, and right now seems even more suited to being split into multiple strands. Elba fans reckon the Hackney-born Londoner would make the perfect 21st-century 007, while Hiddlestonians see their Eton-educated man as the epitome of traditional Flemingesque toff sophistication. So why not take the opportunity presented by Craig’s mooted departure and give both versions screen time?

Here are two reasons why the Guardian’s idea is daft.

–Expanded universes and multiple/alternate universes are not the same thing.

To use Marvel as an example, the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man co-exists in the same fictional universe as Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain America. The characters have been featured in separate films and have also been in movies together. That’s what Warner Bros. is moving toward with the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie that opens this week.

What The Guardian is calling for are movies featuring alternate universe versions of Bond. Eon Productions opened the door to this concept when it rebooted the 007 series ten years ago with Casino Royale. The production company decided to start over, but kept the popular Judi Dench as M, with the explanation that Dench is playing a different version of the character than she did previously.

The Guardian is calling for an Elba 007 set in the present time and a Hiddleston Bond set in the time of the original Ian Fleming novels. Unless the two Bonds suddenly develop super powers, like the two versions of DC Comics’ The Flash, the two Bonds can never meet because they’re in separate universes.

Still, some fans might be intrigued with watching alternate takes. So let’s look at the second reason.

–Eon has trouble enough producing one James Bond movie every three years. Do you really expect it to produce, in effect, two series at once?

Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has talked since at least 1999 about how exhausting it is to make Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the other co-boss, told the Los Angeles Times in November 2012 that she didn’t want to hurry future 007 installments.

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

Also, even with a three-year gap between Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, the scripting process was chaotic. So imagine that situation squared as Eon produced twin Bond series. And that doesn’t take into consideration other ideas put forth by The Guardian, including a Netflix series (similar to the Netflix shows featuring other Marvel characters) featuring Moneypenny.

Finally, on top of all that, Broccoli and Wilson are interested in various non-Bond projects. In that respect, they’re more like Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman than they are the other co-found Albert R. Broccoli, who never did a non-Bond film after 1968.

Wall Street Journal on 007’s ‘moral victory’

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

It turns out this blog wasn’t the only outlet interested in SPECTRE’s long and slow march to the $200 million box office mark in the U.S. and Canada.

The Wall Street Journal on March 21 posted a story titled “James Bond and the $200 Million Moral Victory.”

The 24th James Bond movie hit the $200 million mark for the region this past weekend, more than a month after it became available on home video and after it had been in release for more than 130 days. Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film, was in release in the region for 108 days. By the March 18-20 weekend, it was in just nine theaters.

Here are some excerpts from the Journal story:

Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst at comScore Inc., says while the biggest movie can now gross $200 million for just the opening weekend — “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did that last year — the figure is still “an important milestone” to reach for a film’s entire run. “Even the $100 million benchmark matters. No matter how much box-office inflation there is, these are important levels.”

To compare, “Skyfall” broke $200 million in North American grosses on its 15th day of release in 2012.

(snip)

Perhaps helping get the movie over the hump was the film recently moving into some discount theaters. Such viewing is “a great opportunity” for those not having seen a particular film on the big screen or looking to do so again before that channel closes, says Dergarabedian.

Overall, Skyfall generated $304.4 million in U.S.-Canada box office. The North American results were a key reason why SPECTRE’s global box office ($880.6 million) fell short of Skyfall’s ($1.1 billion).

SPECTRE projected to finally pass $200M in U.S.-Canada

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

SPECTRE is projected to finally pass the $200 million mark in the U.S. and Canada by the end of today, ACCORDING TO BOX OFFICE MOJO.

The website,which tracks box office performance, estimates the 24th James Bond film will finish the March 18-20 weekend with a cumulative total in the region of $200,002,111.

The movie’s estimated weekend total is $35,000 at just nine theaters, according to a Box Office Mojo chart.

SPECTRE has been in release for 136 days. That’s longer than its predecessor, Skyfall, which generated $304.4 million in U.S.-Canadian box office in 2012-13.

SPECTRE’s estimated worldwide total is $880.5 million.

UPDATE: At midday Saturday, Box Office Mojo listed SPECTRE’s U.S. box office as $3,000 for Friday, March 18. Today, IN THIS CHART,  the website has an estimate of $12,000 for March 18, $17,000 for March 19 and $6,000 for today. Those figures are subject to revision on Monday, when final figures for the weekend are due out.

Bond 25: What’s being talked about, what isn’t

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

In sports, there’s the season and the “off-season,” where some players retire, others change teams, etc. For fans of the James Bond films, this “off-season” is a little off kilter.

What’s mostly being talked about is who the next 007 is going to be — even though the incumbent (Daniel Craig) hasn’t actually said if he’s done with the role or not.

Last week, Tom Hiddleston was the center of attention after the actor said he’d like the role if he got the chance. This week, Irish actor Aidan Turner is in the spotlight after THE SUN RAN A STORY that Turner “has jetted to LA where he is holding talks about becoming the next James Bond.”

The story is a bit lacking in detail. Evidently, he’s far from a sure thing because Turner “will have fierce competition from Brit stars including Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy.”

There’s also a quote from an unidentified source: “Aidan has held preliminary talks with Bond producers and being in LA will give him a further chance to discuss the role.” The preliminary talks reference is interesting but it sounds like the source doesn’t know whether or not Turner will actually have talks with Bond people in LA or not. He just has “a further chance” to talk about it. Regardless, other media outlets picked up on the Sun’s story.

Meanwhile, something people aren’t talking much about is what studio will actually release Bond 25 whenever it does come out.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half the Bond franchise, is too small to release movies. The contract of Sony Pictures, which has released the last four Bond films, expires once SPECTRE is out of theaters (it’s still on 16 U.S. screens this week). It was thought a new deal — with either Sony or somebody else — would be struck early in 2016.

It is still early, but the year’s first quarter is nearing an end.

Sony’s most recent two-picture deal was a bad one for the studio — it financed half of Skyfall and SPECTRE, but only got a quarter of the profits. The Sony executive who struck that deal, Amy Pascal, is gone. Other studios are interested but would they agree to the kind of terms Sony provided?

Hard to say, but for now it’s not a subject getting that much attention.

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