Grupo Vidanta says it provided SPECTRE financial help

Image that accompanied a Groupo Vidanta e-mail.

Image that accompanied a Grupo Vidanta e-mail.

Grupo Vidanta, a major resort developer and operator, says it was among the Mexican companies that provided financial support to SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s the text of an e-mail sent to Grupo Vidanta customers that also includes the image on the right:

Just as we’re constantly striving to inspire happiness for you and your family, we’re constantly working to provide innovative opportunities that will benefit Mexico’s people and economy. That’s why we’re incredibly excited to announce our financial support of the new James Bond movie, Spectre, which is to be filmed in Mexico City.

In addition to stimulating the local economy during production, Spectre will showcase the spectacular scenery and rich cultural heritage of the city. Bringing this famous franchise to Mexico supports our aim to promote our beloved country as a premier global tourist destination just as we did with JOYÀ, our groundbreaking collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. As part of a franchise that’s made almost $5 billion dollars, this movie offers a prime opportunity to highlight the best of what Mexico has to offer to millions — riches that are yours to explore during your visits to the Vidanta destinations.

We hope you’re as excited as we are about this news and all it means for Mexico, your home away from home. We can’t wait to see you again soon!

The MI6 James Bond website had a STORY ON MARCH 18 quoting Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson as saying the movie had support from private Mexican companies interested in promoting Mexican tourism. Wilson made the comments during a news conference in Mexico City.

SPECTRE’s pre-credits sequence takes place in Mexico. The movie has gotten tax incentives from Mexico. Memos that became public because of the hacking at Sony Pictures included discussions of how to maximize the incentives. The Sony hack also made public memos that indicate SPECTRE’s budget could exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive ever made.

The case for and against SPECTRE

SPECTRE's soon-to-be-replaced teaser image

SPECTRE’s soon-to-be-replaced teaser image

This is a weird time for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

The movie is coming off a huge financial success with 2012’s Skyfall. This should be like 50 years ago, when Thunderball was in production coming off Goldfinger. But it isn’t.

Instead, the past few days have concerned how the production may have made script changes to qualify for as much as $20 million in Mexican tax incentives. The reason for going for the tax incentives was that the budget may have shot past $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies of all time.

Images of what appears to be an elaborate car chase in Rome have come out (it is hard hard to disguise your intent when filming in public locations). But that’s gotten drowned out by the publicity about the other matters. We know that because of the hacking at Sony Pictures, something that didn’t happen with other Bond movies.

Regardless, here’s a guide to some of the pros and cons for the movie’s prospects.

PRO: Bond has a built-in audience: No question. Around the globe, there are 007 maniacs eagerly awaiting SPECTRE, regardless of recent publicity. For these folks, Marvel’s Avengers aren’t super heroes, 007 is.

CON: SPECTRE is playing around with serious money: The rule of thumb for movies is they need to have box office equal to 2.5 times to 3 times the production budget to be profitable. Marketing costs total almost, or as much as, the production budget. Theaters take a share. Taxes must be paid, etc.

With Skyfall, with an estimated $200 million budget, its $1.1 billion worldwide box office was like the cherry on top of the sundae. For SPECTRE, a $1 billion box office is almost a necessity. Put another way, if SPECTRE’s worldwide box office totals $750 million, it will be seen as a disappointment. That sounds crazy. But that’s the way it is.

PRO: Eon Productions has been in this place before and it always turned out well in the end: True enough.

There were a lot of questions about the cinema future of 007 in 1977 when The Spy Who Loved Me came out. It wasn’t an easy production, with many scripts written. It went through one director (Guy Hamilton) before Lewis Gilbert brought it home. And it was the most expensive 007 film up to that date. Yet, it was a hit and Bond would go on.

Just two years later, Moonraker’s budget almost doubled from initial projections. Producer Albert R. Broccoli refused the financial demands of leading special effects companies for Agent 007’s journey into outer space. But Broccoli’s boys, led by Derek Meddings, did just fine and got an Oscar nomination. Moonraker also was a big hit.

In 1997, Tomorrow Never Dies was a chaotic production with a number of writers (only Bruce Feirstein got a credit) taking turns on the script. Feirstein returned to do rewrites during the middle of filming. Still, Pierce Brosnan’s second 007 outing did fine in the end.

Past performance isn’t a guarantee of future performance. Yet, it would seem extremely premature to bet against 007 at this point.

CON: The Sony hacks showed there were a lot of troubles during pre-production, particularly with the script: The Sony hacks are unprecedented in that they revealed inside information while an expensive movie was in production. To say more would mean major spoilers. We’ll avoid that here.

Suffice to say, the hacks revealed the kind of detail that, for other 007 films, only emerged many years after they were released, when people could research the papers of 007 principals such as screenwriter Richard Maibaum.

On March 17, a teaser poster for SPECTRE is to be unveiled. This may be the start of changing the conversation about SPECTRE compared with the past few days. 007 fans certainly hope so.

The spoiler debate: the sequel

"I understand Rhett Butler doesn't give a damn."

“I understand Rhett Butler doesn’t give a damn.”

On March 6, we ran a post ABOUT DEBATES AMONG FANS WHAT CONSTITUTES A SPOILER. It turns out some fans are even more sensitive than we described.

We had a spoiler-free post (as in no plot details were disclosed) about the implications related to Eon Production, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures trying to maximize filming incentives from a government for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

The post included what government — Mexico — was involved. The disclosure that SPECTRE was going to film in Mexico was MADE IN THE DEC. 4 PRESS RELEASE JUST AHEAD OF THE START OF FILMING. An excerpt:

The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

On Facebook, we got a complaint that “having read it on that basis I now know the name of a country associated with the movie I didn’t know before…”

Here’s the deal. This blog really does try to be reasonable about spoilers. Potential spoilers are labeled as such. If anything, this blog errs on the side of the spoiler adverse when it comes to warnings.

But, when the spoiler adverse complain about information already disclosed in an official press release, that’s too much. If you’re that spoiler adverse, you should not just stay away from this blog. You should stay off the Internet.

SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

Amy Pascal’s soft landing

Steve Ditko's cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Steve Ditko’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Last week, Sony Pictures announced Amy Pascal was stepping down as a studio executive but would get a producing deal. It didn’t take long for her next project to surface: helping produce a new Spider-Man movie as part of a JOINT MARVEL/DISNEY-SONY PROJECT.

Here’s an excerpt from the press on Marvel’s website released issued late Feb. 9:

(Culver City, California, and Burbank, California February 09, 2015) – Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

Pascal drew criticism after hacking of Sony documents revealed how she criticized actors and made racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama. The hacks also included business dealings, including how Sony and Marvel were negotiating about jointly making future Spider-Man movies.

The hacks also included a draft of the script for SPECTRE, the James Bond movie currently in production, and how it stands to be one of the most expensive movies of all time. One email also showed that Pascal preferred Idris Elba as the next James Bond after Daniel Craig.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, according to A STORY IN VARIETY, Marvel’s Kevin Feige may end up doing most of the heavy lifting in this partnership. The story has more details how the deal came together.

Amy Pascal steps down at Sony

sonylogo

Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, is leaving the studio to be a producer at the studio, THE HUFFINGTON POST REPORTED, citing a Sony statement.

Pascal will take her new position in May, the website reported.

Confidential e-mails by Pascal and other documents — including a draft of the script of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film — were made public last year by hackers. Some of the emails included Pascal making critical comments of actors and racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sony has released 007 films since 2006’s Casino Royale. Pascal has worked closely with Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, and has been viewed as an ally of Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss.

In some of the hacked emails, Pascal sides with Broccoli about SPECTRE’s $300 million-plus budget, the CNN/Money website reported last year. Separately, the Daily Beast last year reported that Pascal suggested Idris Elba be the next Bond after Daniel Craig.

Sony’s contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release Bond movies ends with SPECTRE.

UPDATE: The announcement confirmed a DAILY MAIL STORY that was posted earlier today.

Idris Elba praises Daniel Craig as 007

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Ever since computer hacks at Sony Pictures turned up an executive’s memo saying Idris Elba should be the next film 007, the actor keeps getting asked about it. Elba keeps trying to play it down.

For example, there’s THIS JAN. 28 BLOOMBERG STORY, which contains this excerpt:

“It’s really just a rumor—and it’s not even my rumor!” he says via phone from Germany. He has called me, an auto journalist, because the luxury brand Jaguar recently hired him to drive from London to Berlin in its new XE diesel sedan, the one that gets 75 miles per gallon. He drove it to DJ a Jaguar-sponsored party the night of his arrival in Berlin.

It was a well-timed publicity stunt. While it is true that Elba has long followed car culture—his father worked for years at Ford, and Land Rovers and a Jaguar XJR are his current cars of choice—the drive comes right after revelations from the Sony hack revealed that Elba was being considered for the title role in the next 007 flick.

For the moment, Elba says he is focusing on his life as a DJ.

“I appreciate you saying that I’d be a good James Bond, but Daniel Craig is doing a great job with it right now,” he says. 
”I love working with music, making people dance.”

The Sony executive involved was Amy Pascal. “Idris should be the next bond (sic),” she wrote in a Jan. 4, 2014 email, reported by The Daily Beast website. She’s dealt with Bond since Sony released 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s current agreement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expires after the release of SPECTRE, coming out this fall. Meanwhile, Craig is under contract through Bond 25.

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