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.

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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.

How not to write a Bond 25 story

Poster for SPECTRE

Like a cancer metastasizing throughout the body, The Mirror’s July 8 story saying Daniel Craig is definitely returning as James Bond is spreading through the media.

Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Times,  Fox News and Esquire have summarized the Mirror story.

However, The Mirror’s original and the stories based on it have mostly overlooked some key facts. Very important facts. Here are some of them.

There’s nobody to pay Daniel Craig — yet. The Mirror & Co. depict Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli as having a firm lock on his services.

Problem: Eon doesn’t pay the bills of a Bond movie. The studio or studios involved do.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is Bond’s home studio. But it can’t release its own movies. It needs a studio partner to co-finance and distribute MGM films. And, for the moment, there is no Bond 25 distributor.

Maybe MGM reaches an agreement later this year. Maybe a commitment from Craig (even a verbal commitment) helps that process. But until it happens, nobody is available to actually pay Daniel Craig if he, indeed, is coming back.

There’s no director yet. You can’t have a movie without a director calling the shots. Maybe Bond 25 will get a director later this year. But until it does, not much is going to happen.

There’s no script yet. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to come up with a story, according to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, who has had a number of 007 scripts proven correct this decade.

The duo have had more than four months (and perhaps longer) to work up a story. But until a director comes on board, things can only go so far. Directors love to tweak story elements, etc. And that process can’t begin until you have a director, etc.

What’s this John Logan reference? The Mirror says John Logan, who worked on Skyfall and SPECTRE, is working on Bond 25. There’s no evidence that’s the case.

If it really is true, that would be a big turnaround. Thanks to the Sony hacks of 2014 (Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films), it’s known that Eon was unhappy with Logan’s first draft for SPECTRE, something that eventually led to the return of Purvis and Wade.

If (and that’s a HUGE if) Logan really is involved with Bond 25 that’s a major change. But, of course, you’d have to be familiar with the history to make note of that.

Has anything changed the past three months? In April, Page Six, the gossip operation of the New York Post also said Barbara Broccoli pretty much had Daniel Craig committed.

Has something actually changed since that report? The Page Six story got nowhere near the attention the Mirror has. Regardless, it’s a notable piece of background.

Spider-Man: Homecoming generates a $117M opening

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

Spider-Man: Homecoming is estimated to generate box office of $117 million for its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada, Exhibitor Relations said on Twitter.

The movie was aided by a wave of positive reviews. Spider-Man: Homecoming has a 93 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

This is the third version of Marvel Comics’ flagship character. This time out, Marvel Studios produced the movie while Sony Pictures released it.

With this version, Spider-Man is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man makes an appearance.

The film also is a follow-up to last year’s Captain America: Civil War, where Spider-Man (Tom Holland) made his MCU debut.

Sony produced and released five previous Spider-Man films from 2002 to 2014.

The opening is less than the $146.5 million opening for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 in May and a bit higher than the $103.3 million opening for Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman last month.

Exhibitor Relations gathers and tracks entertainment industry data. Here’s the post it made on Twitter.

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RECAP: 007 film franchise at mid-2017

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

For the James Bond film franchise, the first half of 2017 was similar to 2016: more heat than light.

There has been nothing confirmed in the first half of the year. There have been two meaningful bits of Bond film news:

–Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported in March that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were retained to work on Bond 25, which would be their seventh 007 scripting effort.

The reason that merits serious consideration is that Bamigboye had a number of scoops concerning Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven to be correct.

–The New York Times reported in April that five studios made proposals to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to be its studio partner to release Bond 25.

According to The Times, four were established studios: Sony Pictures (which has released the last four 007 films), Warner Bros., Universal and 20th Century Fox. The fifth is an upstart, Annapurna, a movie production company just now entering the movie distribution business.

The significance: The Times has more gravitas than entertainment news websites and British tabloids (including Bamigboye’s Daily Mail), where a lot of 007 items originate.

Other than that? A lot of stories about British bookmakers setting odds for different actors to play 007 in Bond 25. There have also been stories that speculated about actors and Bond.

Eon Productions bought a helicopter from a museum early in the year but, according to the MI6 James Bond website, that aircraft is for a non-Bond film project.

There have been examples of journalistic empty calories, including a Twitter post last month by The Tracking Board’s Jeff Sneider. He tossed out the idea that Eon Productions would like a 007 film universe but hasn’t provided anything to back it up.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Bond 25 to come out in 2018, something many fans want to happen.

In July 2013, more than a year before SPECTRE came out, there was a confirmed director (Sam Mendes’ return to the director’s chair was announced July 11, 2013); a confirmed Bond distributor (Sony); and a confirmed Bond star (Daniel Craig).

There’s still no distributor for Bond 25. Maybe MGM makes a decision in the second half of 2017. Still, Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in November 2015 that he was expecting a decision in early 2016.

No director is in place for Bond 25. There’s no confirmed James Bond actor for Bond 25. Some fans believe it’s a cinch Daniel Craig will be back for his fifth 007 film. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.

But until the distributor selection is made, it doesn’t really matter. MGM, Bond’s home studio for more than 35 years, is one of the weakest studio operations. It can’t release its own films. It needs partners to co-finance and distribute them.