Sony watch: studio facing challenges


UPDATE (May 21): The Nikkei news service in Japan has reported that Sony Corp. is considering a spinoff of its entertainment business. Nikkei has an English Web site but to access THE STORY you have to be a subscriber. If you CLICK HERE, you can view a Los Angeles Times story that summarizes the Nikkei piece.

According to a BLOOMBERG.COM STORY, Sony shares climbed to their highest levels in more than two years after the Nikkei report.

ORIGINAL POST: The New York Times, IN THE LEAD STORY IN ITS MAY 19 BUSINESS SECTION has a detailed story about challenging times at Sony Pictures, the entertainment arm of Sony Corp.

One problem: it’s not as profitable as other studios, even with Agent 007 in its portfolio. According to reporters Brook Barnes and Michael Cieply, Sony’s operating margin was 6.5 percent and “figures at Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount and 20th Century Fox were all higher.”

Here’s an excerpt with part of the explanation:

SONY’S $4.4 billion in ticket sales last year was impressive, but shareholders care about profit margins.

The movie studio’s bottom line didn’t look better for several reasons. For one thing, about 75 percent of the “Skyfall” revenue went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after James Bond rights holders took their cut. Revenue from some DVD titles — “Zero Dark Thirty,” for instance — will come in the next fiscal year. But more important, “Men in Black 3” cost an arm and a leg, and when you’re making this many movies some are bound to miss: Sony’s hits were offset by the major flops “Total Recall” and Mr. (Adam) Sandler’s “That’s My Boy.”

Thus, in the case of Skyfall, which Sony distributed, the studio was third in line after the Broccoli-Wilson family and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Another challenge is investor Daniel Loeb, whose Third Point LLC, acquired a 6.5 percent stake and wants Sony Corp. to sell of 20 percent of its entertainment business and focus on its consumer electronics unit. Loeb, according to the Times, “specifically complained” about profitability of the entertainment unit. Sony said the entertainment business wasn’t up for sale.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures has distributed the last three 007 films (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) and is contracted to do so again for Bond 24 whenever it’s made.

For the complete NYT story, CLICK HERE. For more, you can CLICK HERE for a May 16 story headlined “Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Brakeup.” You can also CLICK HERE for a May 14 story by the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Skyfall: the billion-dollar Bond

The billion-dollar Bond

The billion-dollar Bond

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, is projected to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales today, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEB SITE.

Skyfall will sell an estimated $4.6 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, bringing its total in the region to $289.6 million. The 007 film has sold an estimated $710.6 million in other markets, according to the Web site which tracks movie ticket sales. The full estimated worldwide ticket sale figure as of today is $1,000,200,000, Box Office Mojo said. The actual U.S. weekend figure will be reported tomorrow. It’s possible if the actual weekend sales are revised lower that Skyfall would momentarily fall short of $1 billion.

Hitting the $1 billion mark puts Skyfall in the conversation for all-time 007 box-office champion even when adjusting for inflation. Thunderball has been No. 1 on the inflation-adjusted list, with amounts varying based on who is doing the calculations. Earlier this year, AFP-Relaxnews put Thunderball’s inflation-adjusted figure at $1.04 billion. Skyfall has yet to open in China, which will add to the movie’s take.

In the U.S., Skyfall is finishing 2012 as the No. 4 film, behind Marvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. Skyfall also looks likely to beat The Dark Knight Rises, at $1.08 billion, in worldwide ticket sales. Marvel’s The Avengers is No. 1 worldwide for 2012 at $1.5 billion.

UPDATE: A story in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER has some quotes from MGM and Sony executives about Skyfall reaching the $1 billion milestone.

007 vanquishes the vampires; Skyfall No. 1 at U.S. box office

"Vampires? What vampires?"

“Vampires? What vampires?”

James Bond vanquished the vampires as Skyfall retook the No. 1 U.S. box office title this weekend, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The 23rd 007 film generated an estimated $11 million in ticket sales for the Dec. 7-9 weekend, ahead of Rise of the Guardians at $10.5 million and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 at $9.2 million, according to the Web site of the trade publication. Final figures will be reported Dec. 10.

Skyfall held the No. 1 spot the weekend of Nov. 9-11, when it opened. It has stayed at No. 2 behind the last film in the Twilight series about young vampires ever since. Twilight’s gap, though, had narrowed. Last weekend, Twilight’s lead was less than $1 million at $17.4 million to $16.6 million for Skyfall.

On a daily basis, Skyfall first regained the lead on Dec. 1, yielded it on Dec. 2-3 and then grabbed it back starting on Dec. 4, according to charts on the Box Office Mojo Web site.

Skyfall’s U.S.-Canada ticket sales had reached $253.7 million and $876.7 million worldwide as of Dec. 7, according to Box Office Mojo.

UPDATE: Box Office Mojo has updated Skyfall’s estimated cumulative ticket sales through Dec. 9 to $261.6 million in the U.S. and Canada and $918.2 million worldwide.

UPDATE II: Box Office Mojo has the final actual ticket sales figures for this past weekend. You can CLICK HERE to see. They were 1) Skyfall at $10.8 million 2) Rise of the Guardians, !0.4 million and 3) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 at $9.2 million.

MGM may bend on Bond 24’s schedule

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signaled this week it may bend on the schedule for Bond 24, with the movie coming out in 2015, rather than 2014.

The studio held a conference call this week after releasing financial results. (You can listen to it, at least for now, by accessing a link at THE INVESTORS RELATION PART OF MGM’S WEB SITE.) Studio Chief Gary Barber was asked if Bond 24 would be out in 2014. MGM, as part of its 2010 bankruptcy, said it planned to get the 007 films back on an every-other-year schedule. Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures unit (which co-financed Skyfall and will do the same for Bond 24) has said it expects Bond 24 to be out in two years.

“We’re always hopeful on that,” the studio boss said. At the same time, he said, “We’ll put our best foot forward” on a script for the next 007 film. “If not in ’14, certainly in ’15,” he said of when Bond 24 will come out.

Earlier, in prepared remarks at the start of the call, Barber confirmed that John Logan, co-scripter of Skyfall, is working on the storyline for Bond 24 and Bond 25. He also said MGM expects Skyfall’s worldwide ticket ticket sales to exceed $800 million. They totaled $550 million earlier this week.

This is the first public show of flexibility by the studio, which controls half the Bond franchise with the Broccoli-Wilson family. Barbara Broccoli told the Los Angeles Times IN A STORY YOU CAN VIEW BY CLICKING HERE she was in no hurry. An excerpt:

“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.” (emphasis added)

Part of the reason why Broccoli and Wilson would wait before moving on to another Bond movie is because they’ve yet to settle on a future direction. “We like Daniel [Craig], obviously, and we like the way he portrays the Bond character,” Wilson said. “Our challenge is to find situations that will feel different and fresh and new and put Daniel and that character into those situations. It’s daunting.”

Neither Broccoli nor Wilson reference Logan working on the scripts for Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Skyfall sets 007 record for U.S. opening

UPDATE (Nov. 12): The revised final figure for Skyfall’s opening weekend is North America is $88.4 million according to a story at BLOOMBERG.COM.

ORIGINAL POST: Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, sold $87.8 million in tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, breaking the previous 007 record of $67.5 million for 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Daniel Craig in Skyfall scores a 007 U.S. box office record.

Here’s an excerpt of a story at BLOOMBERG.COM

“Skyfall,” the latest James Bond film and the third starring Daniel Craig, led the U.S. and Canadian box office with a franchise-record $87.8 million in ticket sales for Sony Corp. (6758) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

“They’ve done an amazing job keeping the brand strong and relevant,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It’s the oldest brand out there in the movie industry so the fact that 50 years later they’re doing record business shows that they’ve handled the property very well.”

Pandya expects the installment to gross more than $900 million globally in theaters.

For some perspective, Skyfall’s U.S. opening was higher than some recent popular comic book-based movies, including Captain America ($65 million), and Thor ($65.7 million), both released in 2011. If Skyfall can secure $900 million in worldwide ticket sales, that would get it close to the likes of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, each of which generated $1 billion in ticket sales. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, has said The Dark Knight helped influence Skyfall.

Meanwhile, the Box Office Mojo Web site estimates that Skyfall has total worldwide ticket sales to date of $518.6 million, including $428.6 million outside the U.S. and Canada.

UPDATED: Skyfall U.S. box office prediction chart

UPDATE III (Nov. 10): BLOOMBERG.COM quoted Box Office as estimating Skyfall’s opening U.S. and Canada could total as much as $80 million in ticket sales.

An excerpt:

The film earned $30.8 million yesterday, including $2.4 million in midnight showings, the box-office tracker said today in an e-mailed statement. Sales outside the U.S. and Canada for “Skyfall” are $347 million as of Nov. 8, said.

UPDATE II: The DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE quotes “rival studios” to Sony Pictures as saying Skyfall may have sold $37 million in tickets Thursday and Friday combined and could have an $88 million opening weekend.

UPDATE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says Skyfall had ticket sales of $2.2 million at Imax theaters on Thursday and $2.4 million at 12:01 a.m. showings on Friday.

ORIGINAL POST: For those interested in the business side of the movies, here’s our updated chart of Skyfall U.S. box office predictions. The movie opened at Imax theaters in the U.S. yesterday and is in wide release starting today.

“I must get to the theater NOW!”

Los Angeles Times: at least $75 million opening weekend.

BOXOFFICE.COM: $230 million total U.S.; $85 million opening weekend

Exhibitors Relations, cited in THE WRAP entertainment news Web site: $230 million total U.S., more than $70 million opening weekend.

The Wrap (citing analysts and “rival” studio executives: $75 million to $85 million weekend.

DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEW WEB SITE: $215 million total U.S., described as a “guesstimate.”

BOX OFFICE MOJO: $185 million total U.S. In a STORY TODAY, the Web state is projecting an opening weekend of $78.2 million, including Thursday showings at Imax theaters.

The Nov. 9 Box Office Mojo story also says:

One thing working against Skyfall’s opening weekend figure, though, is its Thursday IMAX debut. Sony isn’t currently releasing theater count information, though the assumption is that it’s playing in at least 300 of IMAX’s over 330 domestic locations. Based on IMAX’s track record, Skyfall could earn as much as $2 million on Thursday, which is money it would have earned over the traditional three-day weekend.

Preliminary box office figures come out Sunday, Nov. 11. They will consist of actual ticket sales on Friday and Saturday with an estimate for Sunday. Final figures come out the following day.

Eon, Sony to press for Skyfall Oscar nomination, LAT says

UPDATE (Nov. 12) — The DEADLINE entertainment news Web site has published a story discussing Skyfall’s Oscar prospects and how the studios may launch an Oscar campaign.

ORIGINAL POST: Eon Productions and Sony Pictures plan to press for a Best Picture Oscar nomination for Skyfall, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Some key details in an excerpt:

“Skyfall” director Sam Mendes will be making the rounds in Los Angeles this weekend, participating in a Q&A at an all-guild screening at the Directors Guild on Saturday afternoon, a Q&A for the Producers Guild on Saturday night and then answering questions at a Screen Actors Guild nominating committee event at the Pacific Design Center on Sunday afternoon. Mendes’ weekend will culminate with an academy screening Sunday night, where he’ll be joined by actresses Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe and and the franchise’s owners, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.


The question now: Do the film’s owners — MGM and the Broccoli estate — along with Sony Pictures, the movie’s distributor, posess the awards-season know-how to turn all this good will into a campaign that connects with academy members? Until very recently, the backers had taken a wait-and-see attitude, a source at the studio not authorized to speak publicly tells us. But now that the strong reviews are pouring in and the money is piling up, they’re ready to go full bore.

The story also quotes two Academy members, not identified by the Times, about Skyfall’s chances.

“Casino Royale” won the franchise a lot of good will,” one Oscar voter says. “If ‘Skyfall’ is better than that, then I see absolutely no reason why it couldn’t be in the conversation for best picture.”

The 007 film series has won only two Oscars: Norman Wanstall for sound for 1964’s Goldfinger and John Stears for special effects in 1965’s Thunderball. For the latter, only two movies were even nominated (The Greatest Story Ever Told being the other). The Spy Who Loved Me was the most-nominated 007 film with three (song, score and production design) but won zero.

A Bond movie hasn’t even been nominated since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only got a nomination for Best Song. In 1982, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli was given the Irving Thalberg Award. The award is for career achievement by a producer.

To read the entire Los Angeles Times story, just CLICK HERE.

U.S. Skyfall showings underway

Bond contemplated whether to see Skyfall in Imax or at a regular theater.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, doesn’t officially open until Nov. 9. But there are at least some preview showings available to audiences tonight (Nov. 7). We know of at least two operatives (aka U.S. Bond fans) seeing it tonight at any rate.

Some showings may have occurred as early as 12:07 a.m. today (0:07 military time, 11-7, get it?).

Thursday, Nov. 8, will see the movie have regular showings at Imax theaters (and possibly some non-Imax theaters based on some snooping we’ve done). On Friday, the movie will officially open in the U.S.

The movie is projected to be the top-grossing movie in the U.S. this weekend. It doesn’t have a lot of competition (Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie will have limited showings but doesn’t have it general release until Nov. 16). The movie is being released by the Sony Pictures unit of Sony Corp., which co-financed the movie with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Skyfall’s U.S. box office: how high is up?

UPDATE (Nov. 8): The Los Angeles Times in a story you read BY CLICKING HERE people who’ve seen pre-release audience surveys as estimating Skyfall’s opening weekend in the U.S. will generate at least $75 million in ticket sales. A Sony spokesman (who isn’t identified) says the studio’s estimate is $65 million to $70 million.

ORIGINAL NOV. 5 POST: Skyfall is almost halfway to being the top-grossing James Bond movie unadjusted for inflation. The question now is how high can the movie go in the U.S. market, where it opens this week.

Daniel Craig in a Skyfall publicity sill

The 23rd James Bond movie recorded $287 million in international ticket sales through Oct. 4 and $289 million in updated figures as of Oct. 5 on Box Office Mojo. It’s projected that Skyfall will also hit a U.S. record, again unadjusted for inflation. The highest U.S. sales for the 007 series was Quantum of Solace’s $168.4 million mark, which included a $67.5 million opening weekend. Casino Royale is 2006 is the top-grossing film in the series at $596.4 million.

Here’s a list of four estimates we’ve come across for Skyfall:

BOXOFFICE.COM: $230 million total U.S.; $85 million opening weekend

Exhibitors Relations, cited in THE WRAP entertainment news Web site: $230 million total U.S., more than $70 million opening weekend.

DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEW WEB SITE: $215 million total U.S., described as a “guesstimate.”

BOX OFFICE MOJO: $185 million total U.S.

Skyfall is the only major movie debuting in wide release this weekend in the U.S. (A Steven Spielberg-directed biography of Abraham Lincoln will be in limited release before its general release on Nov. 16.) Also, on Nov. 16, another movie opens that could take a lot of the U.S. box office oxygen, as described by The Wrap:

(Skyfall’s) first week in the U.S. will be crucial, as the following weekend will see the debut of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2.” Summit’s finale of the “Twilight” series has topped the pre-sales charts since tickets became available online more than a month ago, and it is projected to open in the $150 million range.

While the foreign bows weren’t intentionally set up to boost the U.S. release, Sony knew they could help. “The idea was to build worldwide momentum out of the U.K. and Western Europe,” Sony spokesman Steve Elzer told TheWrap. “We employed a similar pattern on ‘Quantum of Solace.’”

In 2008, Quantum of Solace’s ticket sales fell 60 percent because of the debut of the first Twilight movie. Sony refers to the Sony Pictures unit of Sony Corp., which is releasing Skyfall and co-financed it with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Meanwhile, many Bond fans would like to see Skyfall crash beyond the $600 million worldwide ticket sale mark and reach $1 billion. That would put the movie in the conversation as all-time 007 champ even adjusted for inflation (Thunderball is the No. 1 film on an inflation-adjusted basis). It would also put it in the same box-office class as movies such as The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

Skyfall ticket sales total $287 million after 10 days

Ticket sales of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, totaled $287 million after 10 days of release, the DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE and BOX OFFICE MOJO WEB SITE reported in separate stories.

The movie, which comes to U.S. theaters on Nov. 9 (the day before at Imax theaters), had ticket sales of $156 million this weekend. Nikki Finke, founder and editor-and-chief writes of Deadline writes:

“Overseas Bond numbers are huge. Exceptional results across the board fr Skyfall,” a Sony exec tells me. Sony’s markets earned an estimated $139 million for the weekend and MGM’s licensees did and estimated $17 million. IMAX issued an estimated weekend gross of $4.3M in 132 overseas locations over 36 territories, or $33,000+ per screen. Among holdovers, the UK fell off just 21% from its opening weekend to gross $25.7M and bring the 10-day market cume to a staggering $85.8M. France added $14.3M in its 2nd frame to bring the market cume to $30.0M, already passing the lifetime of Casino Royale and a day from passing Quantum Of Solace.

Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures unit is releasing Skyfall and co-financed the film with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

You can CLICK HERE to read the entire Deadline story or CLICK HERE to view all of the Box Office Mojo story.

One item of note in Finke’s piece. It says, “Skyfall cost much less than” either Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. Finke doesn’t provide an estimate of production costs. If correct, that would mean that Skyfall is more profitable than the previous two 007 entries. That’d be good news for Sony and MGM because of falling sales for DVDs.

Quantum cost as much as $230 million to make. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, have said Skyfall cost about as much as Quantum, though they haven’t provided a figure either.

UPDATE: A reader (see response) noes that Casino cost less and provided an estimate. Other estimates have been $102 million at The Numbers Web site and $150 million at Box Office Mojo..