MGM expects to be public company in 3-5 years

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expects to be a publicly traded company within five years, Chief Executive Officer Gary Barber said during a May 12 investors presentation.

“We envision in the next three to five years, within that period, to be a public structure so that we can unlock the value of this great company,” Barber said.

Barber was asked why wait for as long as five years.

MGM chief Gary Barber

MGM chief Gary Barber

“We’re really in the early stages of our growth,” the CEO said. “We still have to go and achieve some of the growth areas…before we take ourselves into a public structure.”

Barber became CEO when MGM emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy. MGM came out of bankruptcy a smaller studio and it currently doesn’t have the resources to release its own films.

As a result, MGM strikes deals with other studios to release MGM films, such as the now-concluded two picture deal where Sony Pictures co-financed and released Skyfall and SPECTRE. MGM has yet to reach an accord with either Sony or other studios to release Bond 25.

MGM controls half the 007 franchise, along with Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

A 4:58 excerpt of the presentation was uploaded to MGM’s investors relations page.

MGM watch: No news on Bond 25

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer reported first-quarter results on Wednesday, but provided no news about Bond 25.

A call with investors and analysts ran 17:49. No questions were asked following formal presentations and the call quickly wrapped up.

The only Bond references during the call concerned SPECTRE’s contributions, primarily via home video, to the quarterly numbers.

Overall, MGM had a quarterly profit of $57 million, up from $56.8 million for the same three-month period in 2015. Revenue for the quarter slid to $311.3 million from $364.5 million a year earlier.

MGM chief Gary Barber said during a March conference call that future Bond movies would come out on a three- to four-year schedule.

MGM is looking for a studio partner to release Bond 25 after its contract with Sony Pictures expired with the release of SPECTRE. Under the now-expired deal, MGM and Sony split financing costs but MGM got 75 percent of the profits.

The first-quarter call mostly played up upcoming MGM movie and television projects, including a Ben-Hur remake (being released by Paramount in August) and a new version of The Magnificent Sevent (being released by Sony in September).

Annette Bening to star in a non-007 film for Broccoli

Annette Bening

Annette Bening

Annette Bening will star in a non-007 movie for producer Barbara Broccoli, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, VARIETY REPORTED.

Here’s an excerpt:

Shooting will begin in the U.K. on June 27 with Paul McGuigan (“Sherlock”) directing. The production will take place at Pinewood Studios and on location in London and Liverpool.

The story is based on the memoir by British actor Peter Turner and follows the playful but passionate relationship between Turner and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame. What starts as a vibrant affair between a legendary femme fatale and her young lover grows into a deeper relationship.

Broccoli, of late, has been accelerating her non-James Bond projects. In February, it was announced Eon Productions formed a “creative alliance” with Cove Pictures to develop television projects.

Meanwhile, Bond 25 can’t really proceed until there’s a studio to release it. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, doesn’t have the resources to release a movie. Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films but its contract expired with SPECTRE.

Footnote: 8th anniversary of a fateful event

Facebook image Marvel put on Facebook

Facebook image Marvel put on Facebook

Today, May 2, is the eighth anniversary of the release of Iron Man. Things haven’t been quite the same since.

Originally, Quantum of Solace, the 22nd James Bond film, had that release date. That was always going to be ambitious, given that Casino Royale came out in the late fall of 2006.

Eventually, Sony Pictures, Quantum’s distributor, decided it couldn’t be met. The 007 film would be released in the fall. Truth be told, given the issues Quantum had as it was, shooting for a May 2008 release likely would have made things worse.

Nevertheless, that move opened up the May 2 slot for Iron Man, the first movie Marvel would produce itself instead of leasing characters to other studios.

Marvel had an ambitious plan — starting a movie “universe” of connected characters. To make it work, though, Iron Man needed to be a hit. Marvel was taking a chance on star Robert Downey Jr., a talented actor, but one who had a history of personal problems.

The gamble paid off. Iron Man was a hit. Walt Disney Co. later bought Marvel because of its movies and characters.

Eight years later, Downey Jr. is still the biggest star in the Marvel movie universe. He’s a major presence in Captain America: Civil War, which makes its U.S. debut this week.

Meanwhile, Civil War is the start of Marvel’s Phase III of films. Until Iron Man came out, nobody talked about “phases” of movies. Happy anniversary.

Thoughts about MGM’s potential Bond 25 studio partners

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Before much can happen with Bond 25, somebody has to be able to release it to theaters.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, can’t. After it exited bankruptcy it emerged with no distribution arm. MGM cuts deals with other studios for co-financing movies and to release them.

So, in the absence of any actual Bond 25 news, here are some thoughts about some of MGM’s potential partners.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures, via its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four Bond films. Its most recent two-film contract expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

That contract, for Skyfall and SPECTRE, wasn’t a good one for Sony — half of the financing (and risk) but only 25 percent of the profits.

Amy Pascal, who negotiated that deal for Sony, is gone. But Bond is dependable, even if the profits are relatively small (Sony’s profit was $57 million for Skyfall, which generated $1.11 billion in worldwide box office, while MGM got $175 million).

The main questions: Can Sony’s new regime negotiate a better deal from MGM? If not, is Sony willing to walk away from 007?

Warner Bros.: MGM chief Gary Barber reportedly is a friend with Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara. And MGM and Warners have done business in the past, being partners on the recent Hobbit series of movies.

But that only goes so far in business.

Warner Bros. had had issues lately. Its 2015 slate (including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie) had a lot of flops. Also, its Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice appears it won’t be the $1 billion blockbuster the studio may have hoped. (CLICK HERE for a blog that says this alone may prevent Warners from cutting a 007 deal.)

Warners is soldiering on, however, with a Justice League movie going into production, with plans for a new Batman solo film. Does 007 fit in with the studio given all what’s going on?

Paramount: Again, here’s a case where MGM has a relationship with another studio. MGM and Paramount are partners on a remake of Ben Hur being released later this year.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s parent company, Viacom, is in a lot of turmoil, according to Vanity Fair. Viacom said in February it was considering selling a minority stake in Paramount. However, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Viacom controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, 92, opposes such a move.

For now, Viacom/Paramount sounds like a cross between Peyton Place and Dallas. Is Paramount in a position to do a 007 deal?

20th Century Fox: Again, another studio with which MGM does business. Fox handles home video for 007 movies.

At the moment, Fox doesn’t have the issues that Warner Bros. and Paramount are dealing with. In fact, Fox had a recent big financial success with Deadpool, an X-Men-related property it leases from Marvel. As with the other possibilities, the question is how much 007 is worth to Fox for a co-financing/distribution deal.

Walt Disney Co.: Disney doesn’t seem interested in co-financing/releasing deals, like the now-expired MGM-Sony agreement for 007 films. Disney devours franchises whole (Marvel and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars, for example) and turns them into profit genrators for the Mouse.

Nobody has reported, or even suggested, anything like that is happening related to 007. But some Bond fans are keeping an eye  on Disney anyway.

 

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.

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