Bond 25: The distribution edition

Annapurna logo

If Deadline: Hollywood is correct, the Bond 25 picture is about to get clearer but there are still key questions to be asked.

What Deadline reported: The new joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures will release Bond 25 in the United States.

MGM and Annapurna announced the venture on Oct. 31. It will release movies for both companies. But when the venture was announced, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

So let’s go with the questions.

Who’s going to release Bond 25 internationally? Deadline didn’t know. It said studios including Warner Bros., Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal are in the mix.

More importantly, who’s going to finance Bond 25? Sony has released the last four Bond films. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal (Skyfall and SPECTRE), the studio co-financed the movie with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

Presuming we end up with MGM-Annapurna in the U.S. and someone with international distribution, Bond 25’s financing has the potential to be more complicated.

Will Annapurna do some of the financing? Or will its involvement be more limited? Will the international distributor also kick in some of the financing?

Or is MGM confident it will be the dominant financing entity?

Too early to answer any of that. The MGM-Annapurna distribution deal for Bond 25 in the U.S. hasn’t been announced yet.

Why does the blog ask these questions? Because until they’re settled, nobody is going to get paid to do the movieThe blog occasionally has its chain yanked (hopefully in a kidding way) about bringing up the subject. But it’s still legitimate. Eon Productions doesn’t finance Bond films and doesn’t release them.

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Bond 25 not part of MGM-Annapurna distribution deal

Annapurna logo

Bond 25, at least for now, is not part of a deal where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures are joining forces to distribute their movies in the United States.

The two studios are forming a joint venture for U.S. distribution, the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets reporting, citing an announcement.

The announcement, however, said Bond 25’s distributor would be determined at a later date.

MGM hasn’t had a distribution operation since it exited bankruptcy in 2010. Annapurna, a movie production company, only recently got into distribution with its Detroit drama that came out in August.

The joint venture will release about 15 movies annually. The first movie to be released by the joint venture will be a remake of Death Wish, due out in early 2018.

The big project that isn’t covered by the joint venture is Bond 25. MGM and Eon Productions in July announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 without any word who the distributor would be.

Annapurna, founded by tech heiress Megan Ellison, was among the studios seeking to distribute Bond 25. Others included Sony Pictures, which released the last four 007 films, and Warner Bros. Then, in September, The Hollywood Reporter said in September that Amazon.com and Apple were also seeking he Bond rights, possibly with an eye of buying control of the Bond franchise.

MGM and Annapurna have done business before. In March, MGM said it had a deal to distribute Annapurna movies in some international markets. Also, Annapurna originally was going to release MGM’s Death Wish remake.

The Deadline: Hollywood website suggested the MGM-Annapurna joint venture may be in the best position to distribute Bond 25.

“With MGM moving back into distribution, it seems like the natural set-up to distribute the next Bond film,” wrote Deadline’s Anita Busch.

Eon’s new spy movie gets a February 2019 release date

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Eon Productions’ new spy movie, The Rhythm Section, has been given a February 2019 release date by Paramount, The Wrap and other entertainment news sites reported.

The film, starring Blake Lively, will be released Feb. 22, 2019. The project was announced in July. It’s based on a novel by Mark Burnell.

“Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is on a path of self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash, a flight that she was meant to be on,” according to a plot summary released in July. “After discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible.”

The Rhythm Section is part of a growing portfolio of non-007 films by Eon. Its drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool had its premiere at the 2017 Telluride Film Festival.  It’s being released in December by Sony Pictures Classics, part of Sony Pictures.

Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. Currently, the movie has no distributor.

Bond 25: The Lt. Columbo edition

We’ve mentioned before how, like Lt. Columbo, “little things” bother the blog.

Like the good lieutenant those little things can prevent you from sleeping soundly at night.

Well, whatever. These aren’t necessarily new, but these little things aren’t getting resolved.

Why hasn’t a distributor been selected yet? We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of SPECTRE’s world premiere. With SPECTRE, Sony Pictures’ most recent two-movie contract to release 007 films would expire.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer knew it. Sony knew it. Other studios knew it. Supposedly, there were talks started not long after SPECTRE came out.

Yet no decision was made in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported in early 2017 that MGM spent much of the year negotiating to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but no deal resulted.

By September 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said tech giants Apple and Amazon were looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights — and possibly snatch all the 007 film rights.

Yet, more than a month later, NOTHING has been announced. Major news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which normally cover Apple and Amazon closely, didn’t even mention the story. You’d think the Journal and Times would find this a juicy story worthy of their time. But no, evidently.

How secure is that announced November 2019 release date? In July, Eon Productions and MGM made separate announcements that Bond 25 would have a November 2019 U.S. release date, with a U.K. release before that.

But neither Eon nor MGM can release a movie. MGM cuts deals with other studios (on a film-by-film basis) to distribute its movies.

Many entertainment news websites take that November 2019 date as a given. But at this point, there isn’t an entity that can actually get the movie into theaters.

Most of the Bond 25 media buzz consists of whether Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve will helm Bond 25. But until a distributor is in place, the movie’s financing (i.e. who will cut the checks) isn’t settled.

With the last two Bond films, distributor Sony financed half of the production. That’s an important detail nobody seems interested in talking about.

What about that Eon might want to sell (after Bond 25) buzz? That idea was raised (sort of) in July by a Birth.Movies.Death writer and (sort of) seconded by the MI6 James Bond website, albeit with caveats. Yet, other major entertainment websites apparently have not pursued that question.

As the blog noted earlier this month, it’s all somewhat peculiar.

Apple, Amazon seek 007 rights, THR Reports

Apple logo

Tech companies Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are seeking James Bond film rights, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SAID.

They’ve joined traditional film studios, including Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures seeking a deal to distribute Bond 25, according to the entertainment news website. The Bond franchise is controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq, the parent organization for Eon Productions.

The THR story raises the possibility that Apple and Amazon could expand 007’s reach beyond theatrical films.

Here’s an excerpt:

But the emergence of Apple — which is considered such a viable competitor that Warners is now pressing MGM hard to close a deal — and Amazon shows that the digital giants consider Bond one of the last untapped brands (like a Marvel, Pixar or Lucasfilm) that could act as a game-changer in the content space. Apple’s and Amazon’s inclusion in the chase would indicate that more is on the table than film rights, including the future of the franchise if MGM will sell or license out for the right price.

 

Two former Sony Television executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, are leading Apple’s effort, the Reporter said. The move suggests “Apple is interested in cutting a larger rights deal or acquiring full ownership to exploit Bond’s largely unmined TV potential,” according to the story by Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit.

Studios have scrambled to acquire “intellectual property” that can be the basis of movies, television and other outlets as well creating merchandising opportunities. Walt Disney Co. spent billions to buy Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd., which originated Star Wars. Disney’s Marvel and Lucasfilm operations now account for much of Disney’s film output.

The Reporter says the Bond franchise could be worth anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion. Apple and Amazon both have the resources to make that kind of deal.  Each is among the largest companies in the world. Amazon recently spent more than $13 billion to acquire Whole Foods.

In July, Eon announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. But no distributor has been announced. Sony has released the last four James Bond films. MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation.

Bond 25 questions: Lull before the news edition

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

The past few months has had significant Bond 25 news (Daniel Craig confirming his return and a U.S. release date). And some additional news may be made soon.

Until then, some questions to pass the time.

Who is the distributor going to be? This isn’t as sexy as the lead actor (there was plenty of speculation before Craig announced his return on CBS’s The Late Show) or who the title song performer will be (the current focus of U.K. tabloids).

But without a distributor, nobody can see the movie. And, with a U.S. release date of November 2019 being announced by Eon Productions, you’d think one was already in place. If the distributor still hasn’t been decided, well, announcing a release date shows lots of chutzpah.

Back in April, The New York Times reported there were five contenders: Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Universal and upstart Annapurna. Nothing has come out since.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, doesn’t have a distribution operation. And MGM, despite a financial recovery since a 2010 bankruptcy, probably doesn’t have the resources to mount a Bond movie by itself. It needs a studio partner to kick in the money to film Bond 25.

Yes, this blog has raised this question before. It’s still the most important unanswered question at this point.

Which leads us to…..

How much will Bond 25’s budget be?

2012’s Skyfall had a big budget (estimated at $200 million) but less than 2008’s Quantum of Solace (estimated at $220 million to $230 million).

The only significant first-unit location shooting for Skyfall was in Turkey, while a second unit got enough Shanghai shots to make it look as if 007 & Co. actually went there.

With 2015’s SPECTRE, thanks to the Sony hacks of 2014, e-mails about spending exceeding $300 million became known. Thanks to product placement and Mexican tax incentives, the net cost supposed was lowered to $245 million (though nobody involved put their name to that figure).

Even so, SPECTRE was still the most expensive Bond film to date, fattened up by a $36 million “car chase” in Rome and the biggest explosion in motion picture history that wasn’t particularly dramatic. Before the $300 million-plus figure emerged, SPECTRE director Sam Mendes joked (maybe) that the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios is where “budgets come to die.”

So: Does Bond 25 follow the Skyfall model (some economizing) or not? The answer depends on the answer to the previous question.

Questions after Bond 25 release date announcement

Is this guy coming back?

The official announcement that Bond 25 will be out in fall 2019 no doubt is spurring Bondologists to read it line by line for clues.

That’s because while being the first bit of hard news since SPECTRE came out in 2015, the announcement raises question. A number of questions.

And since questions is a specialty of the blog….

Why make this announcement now? After no hard news during 2016 and the first half of 2017, why say this in the last week of July?

Calling dibs on the release date (Nov. 8, 2019 in the U.S.)? Big movie franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe announce release dates years into the future, even if they just say “untitled.”

Regardless, there is a reason. This could have been done last week. It could have been done next week. We’ll see if the reason surfaces.

Is Daniel Craig coming back? The four-time 007 actor was conspicuously absent from the announcement. Is he coming back for his fifth go-round as 007? Or not?

Craig has a movie, Logan Lucky, coming out next month. You’d think he’d be asked about Bond regardless. If there aren’t additional announcements between now and the movie’s release, the Bond 25 announcement news ensures he’ll be asked about it during Logan Lucky publicity events.

Who’s going to distribute Bond 25? No word on that in the release date announcement. The New York Times reported in April that five studios (Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures plus upstart Annpurna) were bidding to distribute the movie.

Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, came out of bankruptcy in 2010 and can’t release its own films. It negotiates distribution deals with other studios. Sony has released the last four 007 films.

Does Eon Productions announcing a release date mean the distributor has either been chosen or will be chosen soon? Michael G. Wilson of Eon said in November 2015 he expected MGM to make a decision by early 2016. It obviously didn’t happen.

Who’s going to direct? There have been occasional stories speculating about a new director. But there has been no hard news.