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.

Deadline estimates SPECTRE’s profitability

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Deadline: Hollywood, the entertainment news website, estimates that SPECTRE generated a profit of $98 million for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures to split 75-25.

“Sony and MGM split the production-cost funding 50/50 and then MGM takes 75% of the profit and Sony 25%, with the latter not getting a distribution fee on top of that, which is an amazing deal for MGM,” according to Deadline.

The estimates take in home video, pay television and other sources of revenue beyond theater ticket sales.

Based on the Deadline figures, MGM would get a profit of about $73.5 million and Sony about $24.5 million.

That’s less than the studios got for 2012’s Skyfall, which had a larger box office and lower budget. MGM got a profit of $175 million while Sony got $57 million, The Wall Street Journal reported last year, citing internal documents released in the hacking at Sony.

Sony’s deal to release Bond movies for MGM ends with SPECTRE and it remains to be seen whether Sony wins a new contract or another studio signs on.

THE DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD STORY by Mike Fleming Jr., also estimates that Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions, got $50 million and the Ian Fleming estate $10 million because of payments received from “first-dollar gross positions.” Or put another way, Danjaq and the Fleming estate get their cut off the top as the money begins to roll in.

The SPECTRE estimates were part of the website’s “Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.”

Deadline also said 007 actor Daniel “Craig’s deal is not very rich – $7M upfront plus about $4M on the back end.” If so, that runs counter to other reports.

The International Business Times said last year Craig stood to make $39 million from SPECTRE.

To read the entire Deadline story, CLICK HERE.

Below, is an embedded copy of the chart that runs with the Deadline story. You can click on it to see a bigger image.

UPDATE: In a SEPARATE STORY, Deadline: Hollywood estimates that Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation was more profitable for Paramount ($109.8 million) than SPECTRE was for MGM and Sony.

Bond 25: What’s being talked about, what isn’t

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

In sports, there’s the season and the “off-season,” where some players retire, others change teams, etc. For fans of the James Bond films, this “off-season” is a little off kilter.

What’s mostly being talked about is who the next 007 is going to be — even though the incumbent (Daniel Craig) hasn’t actually said if he’s done with the role or not.

Last week, Tom Hiddleston was the center of attention after the actor said he’d like the role if he got the chance. This week, Irish actor Aidan Turner is in the spotlight after THE SUN RAN A STORY that Turner “has jetted to LA where he is holding talks about becoming the next James Bond.”

The story is a bit lacking in detail. Evidently, he’s far from a sure thing because Turner “will have fierce competition from Brit stars including Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy.”

There’s also a quote from an unidentified source: “Aidan has held preliminary talks with Bond producers and being in LA will give him a further chance to discuss the role.” The preliminary talks reference is interesting but it sounds like the source doesn’t know whether or not Turner will actually have talks with Bond people in LA or not. He just has “a further chance” to talk about it. Regardless, other media outlets picked up on the Sun’s story.

Meanwhile, something people aren’t talking much about is what studio will actually release Bond 25 whenever it does come out.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half the Bond franchise, is too small to release movies. The contract of Sony Pictures, which has released the last four Bond films, expires once SPECTRE is out of theaters (it’s still on 16 U.S. screens this week). It was thought a new deal — with either Sony or somebody else — would be struck early in 2016.

It is still early, but the year’s first quarter is nearing an end.

Sony’s most recent two-picture deal was a bad one for the studio — it financed half of Skyfall and SPECTRE, but only got a quarter of the profits. The Sony executive who struck that deal, Amy Pascal, is gone. Other studios are interested but would they agree to the kind of terms Sony provided?

Hard to say, but for now it’s not a subject getting that much attention.

Is Sony prepared for a post-007 future?

sonylogo

Sony Pictures may have prepared itself for a future without 007 films.

The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website has POSTED A STORY BY MIKE FLEMING JR. which outlines the studio’s plans for “franchise” films.

Here’s an excerpt:

Sony’s The Dark Tower is now really real. Days after Stephen King tweeted his blessing and a confirmation that Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are firmed to square off in the leads, Sony Pictures just staked the 2017 Presidents Day weekend for a global launch of the first installment of the Nikolaj Arcel-directed epic fantasy. The studio has also set Bad Boys 3, with Joe Carnahan directing a reteam of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, for June 2, 2017, and it has set Barbie for Mother’s Day weekend, May 12, 2017.

Under Tom Rothman, Sony has been restocking its franchise arsenal, but it didn’t take long. Sony has an enviable 2017 release scheduling.

Rothman replaced Sony executive Amy Pascal, whose reputation took a hit following the Sony hacks in 2014. She’s now a producer working out of Sony and her projects include a Spider-Man movie where Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios are collaborating.

Sony, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four 007 films produced by Eon Productions. Sony’s contract expires with SPECTRE. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which co-owns the 007 franchise with Eon and its parent firm Danjaq, is deciding whether to continue with Sony or reach a deal with another studio to release Bond 25.

Until MGM reaches a deal, nothing much can happen with Bond 25. MGM doesn’t have the resources to release Bond movies on its own. Bond 25 won’t have a release date (2018, 2019, whatever) until MGM strikes a deal.

Thanks to @Stringray_travel on Twitter for alerting us to the Deadline story.

 

SPECTRE hangs in at U.S. theaters

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Believe it or not, SPECTRE is still around some theaters in the U.S. and Canada almost a month after the 24th James Bond film became available on home video.

According to BOX OFFICE MOJO, SPECTRE is in 63 theaters in the region starting March 4, down 29 from the week before. It was in 47 theaters the week starting Feb. 12 before ballooning up to 340 the week starting Feb. 19 because of a “buy one, get one free” SPECTRE ticket promotion at AMC Theaters.

Meanwhile, SPECTRE has been out long enough on home video that Wal Mart (which emphasizes low prices) is starting to mark down its price. For example, the retailer’s website lists the movie’s Blu Ray and Digital HD pack at $19.96, down from a list price of $39.99.

Fans have speculated on 007 message boards that Sony Pictures, which released SPECTRE, is keeping the movie in theaters so it can achieve $200 million box office in the U.S. and Canada.

Through Thursday, SPECTRE’s box office in the region stood at $199,855,714. On Thursday, it had $2,711 in its 119th day of release.

 

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