Bond 25 news to watch for in 2016

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As SPECTRE winds down its run in theaters, here’s a look at some events related to Bond 25 that may take place in 2016.

MGM selects its studio partner for Bond 25: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s deal with Sony Pictures to distribute 007 movies is expiring. A lot of people expect the decision whether to continue with Sony or to go with another studio to occur early in the year.

Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, said during an appearance this year, that he expected the decision in “probably in January, February.”

Under the now-expiring Sony deal, it co-financed Bond films with MGM and paid for advertising costs in return for 25 percent of profits. With 2012’s Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, Sony got a profit of $57 million, according to an Oct. 30 story in The Wall Street Journal, citing an internal document that surfaced in the Sony hacks.  MGM received $175 million and Danjaq, holding company for Eon, got $109 million, the Journal said, citing the document.

Sony’s profit for SPECTRE will be smaller because the box office will be less (almost $837 million through Sunday) and its budget was bigger.

In any case, there’s not much that can happen until the decision is made. You need a distributor to set a release date. MGM, which emerged as a much smaller company after exiting bankruptcy, doesn’t have a distribution arm. And it needs a partner to shoulder Bond movie production budgets.

Daniel Craig decides whether he’s coming back or not: Wilson has said Craig isn’t under contract for Bond 25. The actor, in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone had made it sound like he was under contract through Bond 25.

Wilson has said he’s optimistic Craig will return. The actor isn’t necessarily in a hurry. Still, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise there’s some kind of announcement about Craig and Bond 25 after the studio partner question has been dealt with.

Bond 25’s release date is revealed: Eon, MGM and Sony jointly announced the release date of the then-Bond 24 in July 2013. The studio partner question might slow things up this time. Still, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if MGM and whatever studio partner it selects sometime next year stake out a release date for Bond 25. (Our guess is that date will be sometime in 2018, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Bond 25’s director is revealed: If a Bond 25 release date actually is announced, it’d be good public relations to have a director signed. The July 2013 announcement was a double dip, providing the Bond 24 release date and the news that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would return for another film.

Of course, things don’t have to play out that way. The original Bond 22 release date release ARCHIVED AT THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER  didn’t have a director’s name and said the movie would come out on May 2, 2008. The release date was later changed to fall 2008.  

 

SPECTRE’s Oscar campaign: Nothing to see here?

SPECTRE LOGO

Reader Kevin Koltz, in response to our NOV. 30 POST about SPECTRE’s Oscar campaign, suggested a follow up comparing Sony Pictures’ effort for the 24th James Bond film with two others. So here goes.

Sony, which released and co-financed SPECTRE, has a “for your consideration” website for SPECTRE.  However, as of Dec. 16, had not scheduled any special screenings for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists to view it.

Meanwhile, for The Walk, Sony scheduled 18 screenings in Los Angeles between Nov. 16 and Dec. 11, a Nov. 9 screening in London, five screenings in New York between Oct. 23 and Nov. 8 and two screenings in San Francisco on Nov. 4 and Nov. 12.

For Concussion, which comes out Dec. 25, Sony scheduled  a Dec. 17 screening in London, 10 screenings in Los Angeles between Nov. 19 and Dec. 21, eight screenings in New York between Dec. 2 and Dec. 22 and two screenings in San Francisco on Nov. 29 and Dec. 7.

2012’s Skyfall received five Oscar nominations and won two, the most for any 007 film.

SPECTRE box office and its future implications Part II

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

By Gert Waterink,
Guest Writer

SPECTRE while one of the most popular movies of the year, won’t be as profitable as 2012’s Skyfall. SPECTRE cost more to make and appears headed to fall short of Skyfall’s $1.11 billion box office.

Part I looked at some factors that may have contributed to this. What follows is an examination of additional issues.

Too liberal producing style?
Current Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson seem to apply a more liberal working ethos as compared to their father/stepfather Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. The creative control over the Bond franchise has become much more a “shared responsibility” between the producers and the biggest cast- and crew members involved.

Daniel Craig is now a co-producer, a title no other Bond actor achieved. Connery wanted to be a full partner, but Cubby Broccoli resisted. Directors seem to have gotten more freedom with their desired cast and crew choices. And now bigger (and more expensive) stars have joined the Bond family and their wishes seem to have become more important too.

The Bond producers had to take some radical measures to rejuvenate the Bond franchise. With Skyfall and Casino Royale, this more liberal producing style really helped. But it does have its flaws, too. Creating the “perfect Bond film” has always been precarious.

With a more liberal producing style, you make that notion prone too much to more different interpretations. One actor wants the film to become a perfect closure in case he leaves the franchise after SPECTRE whereas a producer is adamant on continuing the Bond franchise.

The ambition to make a “perfect Bond film” with SPECTRE was there. For the most part it worked (I gave it 4 out of 5 stars! 7th out of 24 on my ranking list now!). But in the process, the different interpretations of such resulted in a slightly less coherent film near the last 20 minutes of the film.

The Sony leaks
The Sony leaks are a perfect example of a very unwanted bit of publicity. They created a strong narrative that was driving the attention away from the actual film.

Once actor Idris Elba was mentioned by former Sony executive Amy Pascal, the questions from movie journalists shifted away from the actual production of the film. Idris Elba became the “main object of desire” as opposed to current Bond actor Daniel Craig. And perhaps this facilitated some of the negative remarks made by Daniel Craig himself (“I’d rather slash my wrists”).

Secondly, the entire writing process of SPECTRE became public. While this shouldn’t be directly damaging to a film – the production crew of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation started principal photography without a finished script — it didn’t help the publicity of SPECTRE. Within the movie journalism community, “unfinished draft screenplays” were easily read as or changed into “final screenplay is all over the place.”

No one can prove if the Sony leaks damaged the publicity of the film, but it did shift the attention away from the tightly scripted Publicity & Advertising campaign that Sony/MGM/EON envisioned, making the P&A budget more prone to risk.

Reviews
The Sony leaks also made its way to review aggregate sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. It is not hard to find some reviews in which the narrative of the Sony leaks are part of the reviewer’s arguments for the quality of the finished film. Simply put: The ongoing narrative of the leaks made its way into reviews. Make no mistake, P&A departments take great pride in good reviews. They are especially important during award screenings.

Conclusion
It is only logical now that the next Bond film won’t and can’t be as expensive as SPECTRE. With such high cash investments ($350 million) and in comparison low box office returns ($820 million through this weekend), the factual, real profits will be simply too low.

Bond films are an A-brand in the movie business, so financial flops are out of the question. But they can become worrisome investments. The Bond producers know that and have downscaled the production budgets on numerous occasions. Take for instance the movies that followed You Only Live Twice and Moonraker, This will happen now with Bond 25. The rumors that director Guy Ritchie, who is now quite cheap in the market, comes onboard, should therefore be taken seriously.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson need to be careful with using (older) Bond films as a template for future success. The Bond film series is 53 years old. So what may look very familiar, and fun, to Bond fans, might look bland or unimpressive to general audiences. Every new Bond adventure therefore needs to feel entirely fresh. It needs to be a good Bond film but also a good film regardless of the franchise tag.

In an era where movies have shorter cinema runs, it should especially appeal to non-fans. Skyfall has proven that. Although it seems difficult to produce such a movie, I think it’s easier than certain filmmakers want us to think.

Also, the Bond films don’t have the advantage of an extended cinematic universe. It needs to be an instant hit every three years. Unlike Marvel, the Bond franchise can’t get publicity assistance from, let’s say, a Felix Leiter spin-off. With a tighter focus on the above factors, –-original/fresher action, focus on hit scoring anthems and music, tighter creative control & perhaps downscaling on casting/crew budgets -– one can better fight off those unwanted external factors like these ghastly Sony leaks.

PS: I do think it’s a very good idea to include Ian Fleming’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the negotiating process if MGM and EON Productions will sit together with Warner Bros. for a co-financing/distribution deal. There’s no harm in sharing financial risks between Napoleon Solo and James Bond.  :-)

SPECTRE may pass break-even point this weekend

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE may surpass the break-even point this weekend less than a month after its premiere.

Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie box-office data said in a tweet that the 24th James Bond movie’s global box office “looks to top” the $670 million mark this weekend.

While only studio accountants know for sure, VARIETY ESTIMATED NOV. 4 that SPECTRE needed $650 million in worldwide box office to break even. Here’s an excerpt from that story:

With a price tag of $250 million, plus more than $100 million in marketing and promotion costs, industry executives predict that the picture will have to do $650 million to break even. That’s because “Spectre’s” backers, a group that includes Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer and Eon Productions, will have to split revenues with exhibitors. Fewer than 90 films have ever achieved that gross globally and only one other Bond film, “Skyfall,” has ever surpassed that mark.

Skyfall’s global box office was $1.11 billion. An estimate for SPECTRE’s third weekend in the U.S. and Canada will be released Sunday and the actual figure on Monday.

Here’s the tweet from Exhibitor Relations.

Business of Bond: MGM goes studio shopping

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What studio will release the next 007 film?

Even as SPECTRE rolls out, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is gearing up its search for the next James Bond distribution deal, according to stories in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. That deal runs out with SPECTRE.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story by Ben Fritz:

Several studios are planning to pursue those (distribution) rights, according to people familiar with the matter, even though there is surprisingly little profit in releasing Bond films.

The Journal dug up a Sony document that saw the light of day because of last year’s computer hacking at the studio.

With Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, “Sony made just $57 million” on the the 2012 007 film, “a small sum for a movie with such a huge box-office performance,” according to the newspaper.

MGM made about $175 million while the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, made about $109 million, the Journal reported, quoting the same document. MGM and Danjaq, Eon’s holding company, declined to comment to the Journal.

Sony’s take might be even less for SPECTRE, according to the newspaper.

In the same leaked document, a Sony executive projected that if “Spectre” were to cost $250 million to produce and repeat the same box office as “Skyfall,” Sony’s profit would be $38 million.

The budget for “Spectre” is just under $250 million, said a person close to the movie, compared with $209 million for “Skyfall.”

MGM and the Wilson-Broccoli clan co-own the Bond franchise. MGM got its share after it acquired United Artists in the early 1980s. UA, in turn, acquired its stake in Bond when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold it in 1975 because of financial problems.

Despite the relatively small return, other studios are expected to seek to displace Sony as MGM’s 007 distributor.

“Here’s what we hear,” Deadline’s Anity Busch and Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “007 rights gatekeepers (MGM CEO Gary) Barber, and Wilson and Broccoli, will wait until Spectre plays around the world and accumulates an ungodly global gross that will only strengthen their leverage. And then, early next year, they will make the best deal. If that means bidding farewell to Sony, so be it.”

The Deadline Hollywood story does some handicapping about the prospects for different studios striking a deal with MGM. Busch and Fleming, in particular, play up Warner Bros. as a 007 distribution contender.

The duo write “a source sighted” MGM’s Barber and Warners chief “Kevin Tsujihara at the Montage Hotel recently…According to our source, the chatter seemed more intense than a meet and greet. It looked like they were throwing around numbers. Not surprisingly, Warner Bros has been oft mentioned as the most aggressive in this hunt.”

To read the entire Wall Street Journal story, CLICK HERE. To read the Deadline: Hollywood story, CLICK HERE.

Reading between the lines of THR’s story on MGM and Sony

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

The Hollywood Reporter has A STORY BY GREGG KILDAY examining whether Sony Pictures will no longer release 007 films after SPECTRE. But the story has some other interesting data as well.

Sony has released all four Bond films of the Daniel Craig era, but its current two-film deal expires with SPECTRE. Here’s a look at some of the other side issues raised in the story.

SPECTRE’s budget: Kilday quotes sources he doesn’t identify as insisting “that the final net budget now stands in the neighborhood of $250 million.”

It’s known, thanks to the Sony hacks, that SPECTRE spending was on track to reach around $350 million. The Hollywood Reporter story suggests that production placement and similar deals (such as the subsidies Mexico paid out to the production) helped bring in about $100 million to offset a substantial portion of those costs.

Mind games between studios: There’s also an anecdote in the story about some mind games between Sony and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that controls half of the Bond franchise along with the Broccoli-Wilson family.

According to the story, MGM told Sony in June 2013 if it wanted its name in a press release announcing the release date of the then-untitled movie, Sony had “to opt in immediately.” At the time, there was no firm budget but Sony was being pressed to commit anyway, THR says. (Not mentioned in the story: there wasn’t even a first-draft script. That wasn’t submitted by initial writer John Logan until March 2014.)

The release was issued in JULY 2013.It had this joint quote from Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal: “It’s a privilege to work on the Bond films. EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL and we, along with our partners at MGM, can’t wait to share this new chapter with audiences all over the world.”

Subsequently, Logan was replaced writing the movie and Pascal was fired after bad publicity from the Sony hacks.

To read the entire Hollywood Reporter story, CLICK HERE.

Caveat Emptor (Cont.): NY Post says Craig told to shut up

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

The PAGE SIX GOSSIP PAGE of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post tabloid newspaper says that 007 star Daniel Craig “has been told to shut up by execs at Sony.”

This follows the interview Craig gave Time Out London that was published last week.

In that interview, done a few days after the upcoming SPECTRE, had finished production, Craig was asked if he could imagine doing another 007 movie.

“I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists,” he told Time Out London. “No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Post story:

Bond insiders said Craig’s cranky outburst to Time Out London was brought on by the tough shoot for the latest 007 installment.

One source said, “They had problems initially with the script, Craig was injured on the set and needed knee surgery, and they were still doing re-shoots last month, even though the movie is out in weeks.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films, including SPECTRE. Computer hacks at the studio last year caused details of the 24th 007 film to become public, including versions of the movie’s script.

Meanwhile, the New York Post has a reputation similar to British tabloid newspapers. So, yet again, the caveat emptor label — let the buyer beware — applies. Take it for what it’s worth.

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