Still more Bond 25 questions after NYT story

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig: Working together on another Bond movie soon?

Nothing like a story by The New York Times to generate more questions about the future of the film 007.

What’s Barbara Broccoli thinking? Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the Eon Productions boss, had by all accounts a good relationship with Sony executive Amy Pascal. The Broccoli-Pascal relationship was noteworthy in a still male-dominated movie business.

Pascal is gone, losing her job as a result of the Sony hacks in 2014 (though having a producer deal at Sony).

One of the bidders to release Bond 25, according to The Times is Annapurna. It’s an “upstart” (The Times’ words) movie concern that is about to release its first film Detroit, a drama about the 1967 riots in that city.

Annapurna head Megan Ellison, 31, is a tech heiress who has been active in producing dramatic films. Could she forge a bond with Barbara Broccoli, who turns 57 in June, similar to the one Amy Pascal had?

Why is MGM and Eon Productions only seeking a one-film deal? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 a smaller company. It has been rebuilding gradually.

MGM spent much of 2016 negotiating with a Chinese buyer (still unidentified) but those talks didn’t pan out. MGM also has talked about selling stock to the public at some point.

MGM may yet see major changes. Keeping a distribution deal to Bond 25 only provides MGM executives flexibility for the future.

Why isn’t Walt Disney Co. interested in 007, according to the NYT story? Disney tends to think big. It spent billions to acquire both Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars) and is reaping the rewards as both crank out big hits.

Being the Bond film distributor means a lot of cost without a lot of profit. Sony, in its most recent deal, co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM and Eon got more money than Sony did.

Bond fans may object, but for Disney releasing Bond movies would probably be more trouble than its worth. Disney would only get involved with 007 if it could buy everybody out and control it all, the way it did with Marvel and Star Wars.

 

5 studios seeking to release Bond 25, NYT reports

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Five studios are seeking to release Bond 25, The New York Times reported, citing five people familiar with the process it didn’t identify.

What’s more, according to the newspaper, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions are only offering a one-film deal. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond films and its most recent two-picture agreement expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

The studios identified by The Times are Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and Annapurna, “an ambitious upstart financed and led by the Oracle heiress Megan Ellison.” Neither Walt Disney Co. nor Paramount are involved, The Times said. None of the companies involved returned calls from The Times seeking comment.

Reporter Brooks Barnes described an elaborate presentation by Sony that involved Kazuo Hirai, the CEO of parent company Sony Corp.

“Casting for the franchise has not been discussed in the meetings, according to the people briefed on them, although producers hope Daniel Craig will play the lead for at least one more chapter,” Barnes wrote. “He has a gap on his docket, according to movie industry databases, that would allow for filming.”

Under the most recent distribution deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy as a smaller company, without its own distribution operation. MGM mostly produces television shows. It relies on distribution deals with other studios for its small film slate.

Craig likely to return as Bond, NY Post says

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

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is on the verge of getting Daniel Craig to come back for a fifth appearance as James Bond, the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column said late Monday.

Here’s an excerpt:

Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has “just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie.” This comes after Broccoli produced his hit off-Broadway production of “Othello” with David Oyelowo, which won Craig the serious acting plaudits he craved.

A Hollywood source said, “Daniel was very pleased with how ‘Othello’ went and the great reviews. Now Daniel’s talks with Barbara are going in the right direction. They have a script — screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade [who’ve penned several Bond movies] are writing and they’ll go into production as soon as Daniel is ready to commit.”

Page Six goes on to say that Broccoli wasn’t impressed with actor Tom Hiddleston, mentioned as a would-be replacement for several months last year. The gossip column said Broccoli and Craig didn’t answer requests for comment.

The return of Purvis and Wade as writers was reported last month by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail.

Both Broccoli and Craig have other work over the next several months. Broccoli is involved with various non-Bond films, including one where Eon purchased a helicopter. That spurred publicity it might be for Bond 25. Craig will be in Purity, a made-for-cable-television series for Showtime.

Also, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio for the Bond films, has yet to line up a distribution partner. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four 007 movies but its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

Tony Stark mentors Spider-Man in new trailer

Steve Ditko’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

This blog clearly erred in its look at the first Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer when it said Robert Downey Jr. made “an appearance” in the movie.

If the film’s second trailer is an indication, Downey’s Tony Stark may be doing some serious mentoring for Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.

In the trailer, Iron Man helps Spidey out with a major piece of super heroics. But Stark isn’t happy that Parker keeps taking such high profile actions instead of sticking with being “a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” That phrase, of course, was a punch line from the original Marvel Comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

This leads to a conflict not shown in the first trailer that debuted in December.

Meanwhile, there’s more footage of Michael Keaton’s Vulture (one of the first villains introduced in the comic books) and Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May.

For Sony Pictures, there’s a lot riding on the movie. The studio cut a deal with Marvel Studios that makes this film essentially a co-production and puts the third film version of Spidey (via Holland) into Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Sony has had a rough ride of late and it’s looking for an unqualified hit. Spider-Man: Homecoming will be out in July. The new trailer is embedded below.

 

Sony passed on chance to buy MGM, WSJ says

Sony Pictures at one time passed on a chance to outright buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of James Bond, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Journal doesn’t specify exactly when this occurred. But, based on the story by Ben Fritz, it was before MGM reorganized during a 2010 bankruptcy. Here’s the key excerpt:

Sony Pictures executives discussed buying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose James Bond movies Sony had distributed for years. Instead MGM reorganized itself into an independent venture. Other potential acquisitions targets for Sony included DreamWorks Animation and pay-cable network Starz, according to employees. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. ended up buying the network.

“There was a cautious business philosophy where we did not want to take big swings,” said a former Sony Pictures executive.

The story concerns both Sony Pictures and Paramount described as “Hollywood’s two worst-performing movie studios” by the Journal.

Paramount missed its own opportunity. It initially released movies produced by Marvel Studios. But Walt Disney Co. moved in and bought Marvel.

Sony has released the past four James Bond films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal expired with SPECTRE. Under that contract, Sony co-financed the films but only got 25 percent of the profits.

The Journal recently reported that MGM’s attempts to sell itself to a Chinese buyer fell apart last year.

Regardless, MGM has no distribution agreement for Bond 25. The studio and Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) control the Bond franchise.

MGM says nothing about Bond 25 on conference call

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said nothing about Bond 25 during a 24-minute conference call to discuss 2016 earnings.

CEO Gary Barber didn’t mention Bond 25 in prepared remarks. Shareholders asked no questions despite recent reports last month in the New York Post and Wall Street Journal that MGM had been shopping itself to an unidentified Chinese buyer. The deal came undone late last year, the Journal said.

MGM instead highlighted remakes it has in production or planned, including Tomb Raider, Death Wish and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The company also said it plans to increase its “content spend” this year to $400 million to $440 million from $218 million in 2016.

In March 2016, Barber said on an investor call that Bond movies would come out on a three- to four-year cycle. There has been no significant news from the studio about Bond 25 since.

MGM isn’t big enough to release films on its own and cuts deals with other studios to distribute and co-finance movies. MGM doesn’t have a distribution deal for Bond 25. The last four 007 films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture Bond deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

The latest conference call is archived on MGM’s investor relations page of its website.

Bond 25: Why MGM has to get bigger or sell out

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

For the James Bond film franchise, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is a millstone.

MGM is not big enough to compete with other major studios by itself. Since a 2010 bankruptcy, the home studio of 007 films has needed studio partners to distribute and market Bond movies.

For the past two Bond films, 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, MGM negotiated a sweet deal with Sony Pictures. Sony co-financed the movie but only got 25 percent of the profits. Sony ended up in third in line behind MGM and Eon Productions for the 007 spoils.

But good fortune like that only lasts so long.

The Sony deal expired with Skyfall. “There’s no rush,” MGM CEO Gary Barber said of reaching a new Bond distribution deal with Sony or another studio. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

MGM logo

That was eleven months ago. No hurry, indeed.

In reality, other studios — Sony, Warner Bros. and Paramount among them — have their own issues.

Sony’s parent company wrote down the value of its movie business by almost $1 billion, an indication that things aren’t going well. Warner Bros.’s parent company, Time Warner, is in the midst of an $85 billion acquisition by AT&T. Also, Warner Bros. is struggling with its “extended universe” of movies based on DC Comics characters. Paramount is struggling, period.

Under those circumstances, cutting a deal with MGM to distribute Bond movies might not be the top priority. Even more stable studios, such as 20th Century Fox and Universal, probably want a better deal than Sony got for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

These days, MGM mostly makes television shows while producing a few movies.

Bond, however, remains MGM’s biggest property, going back to when MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. 007, which not that long ago had his first $1 billion box office movie (Skyfall), is a major league property, or at least can be.

For that promise to be fulfilled, however, Bond needs to be at a major league studio.

MGM isn’t that. It hasn’t been for a long time.

To be a big-time studio, MGM needs to be able to release its own movies and be in more control of its destiny.

It’s fine to cut deals with other companies for financing (other studios do). Ultimately, however, Bond’s home studio needs the ability to distribute the movies.

MGM’s Barber wants the company to sell stock to the public in the next three to five years. Maybe it can become big enough to be a real studio again.

But if it can’t, the 007 franchise will suffer. From the selfish standpoint of Bond film fans, a better option might be for MGM to sell to a studio that has big league status.