THR describes challenges at MGM, Bond’s home studio

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer faces various challenges that may lead to James Bond’s home studio being sold, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The entertainment news outlet paints a picture of a studio in flux, including possible suitors and executive changes. Among the highlights:

–MGM needs No Time to Die, the upcoming James Bond film to generate $1 billion in global box office. Only 2012’s Skyfall has reached that mark among Bond films.

–Various companies might be interested in acquiring MGM, including Comcast (parent company of Universal, which is handling international distribution for No Time to Die), Viacom (parent company of Paramount) and tech company Apple Inc, which has expanded into streaming television.

“Apple’s fledgling streaming service is far behind Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and the coming-soon HBO Max and Peacock,” THR said. Apple is sitting on $250 billion in cash and could easily afford an acquisition.

–MGM management is shifting. It was previously known that Jonathan Glickman was departing as head of MGM’s film division. THR reported that former Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal has joined MGM’s board of directors. Pascal had a close relationship with Barbara Broccoli of Eon Productions when Sony distributed four Bond films from 2006-2015.

–MGM wrote down the value of its Epix premium TV channel by $480 million. MGM bought out its partners for about $1 billion. Translation: MGM paid a lot more for Epix than it was worth. Epix is supposed to be a way for MGM to be consistently profitable.

–MGM is “highly leveraged” (i.e. it has a lot of debt).

MGM became the home studio of Bond when it acquired United Artists in 1981. UA had owned half of the franchise since it bought out Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman in 1975.

Ever since, the MGM-Bond relationship has been a soap opera. Danjaq, Eon’s parent company, filed a lawsuit against MGM, which contributed to the 1989-1995 hiatus. MGM underwent a 2010 bankruptcy, which caused Bond production to grind to a halt for a time.

MGM never replaced CEO Gary Barber after the studio’s board forced out the executive in 2018 MGM currently is managed by an “office of the CEO.”

TCM to show 19 James Bond films in September

Turner Classic Movies, the U.S. movie channel, is showing 19 James Bond movies on Thursdays this month.

With TCM, the “broadcasting day” starts at 6 a.m. New York time and runs until 6 a.m. the following day. With that in mind, here’s the schedule.

Sept. 5: Dr. No, 8 p.m.; From Russia With Love, 10 p.m.; Goldfinger, 12:15 a.m.; Thunderball, 2:15 a.m.; You Only Live Twice, 4:45 a.m.

Sept. 12: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 8 p.m., Diamonds Are Forever, 10:30 p.m.; Live And Let Die, 12: 45 a.m.; The Man With the Golden Gun, 3 a.m.

Sept. 19: The Spy Who Loved Me, 8 p.m.; Moonraker, 10:15 p.m.; For Your Eyes Only, 12: 30 a.m.; Octopussy, 3 a.m.; A View to a Kill, 5:15 a.m.

Sept. 26: The Living Daylights, 8 p.m.; Licence to Kill, 10:30 p.m.; GoldenEye, 1 a.m.; Tomorrow Never Dies, 3:30 a.m.; The World Is Not Enough, 5:30 a.m.

On TCM, movies are shown uncut, although in 2009 some Bond films had minor changes.

The Bond films are part of a broader TCM program schedule celebrating the 100th anniversary of United Artists.

UA was the studio that originated the Bond film series produced by Eon Productions. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought UA in 1981. Bond films have been released under the MGM brand since The World Is Not Enough.

On Wednesdays, TCM will show additional UA movies, including A Hard Day’s Night, West Side Story, The Pink Panther and Midnight Cowboy.

MGM and Annapurna Pictures this year revived the UA name (as United Artists Releasing) for the joint venture that releases movies from both company in the U.S.

David Picker, ex-UA executive, dies at 87

David Picker (1931-2019)

David Picker, part of the United Artists executive team that struck the deal with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to launch the 007 film series, died Saturday at 87, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The cause was colon cancer, according to the entertainment-news outlet.

Picker was among the UA executives who, in 1961, held a meeting in New York with Broccoli and Saltzman. He was head of production for the studio, which was led by Arthur Krim (1910-1994).

In the documentary Inside Dr. No, he said UA struck a deal with the producers the same day.

Picker wrote a 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybe and Nevers: A Book About the Movies. In the book, he took credit for part of the success of the Bond series.

“Much has been written about Bond,” Picker wrote. “Until now, no one has written in detail exactly what happened, how it happened and why it happened for one simple reason: they weren’t there.” The Bond series “would not have happened had it not been for this author’s belief in their potential.”

In the memoir, Picker wrote that Dr. No really cost $1.35 million, not the $1.1 million that had been budgeted and that he had found a way to provide the extra $250,000.

The 2011 book A Bond for Bond, published by Film Finances Inc., the company that provided the movie’s completion bond, published a copy January 1963 budget document with a figure in British pounds that was closer to the $1.1 million figure.

In 1969, Picker became president and chief operating officer at UA. For 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, Broccoli and Saltzman signed American actor John Gavin to play Bond. PIcker, though, didn’t like the choice and wanted to try to re-sign Sean Connery, who had departed the Eon series after You Only Live Twice.

UA operated more like a bank than a studio. It didn’t have its own studio facilities, like a Warner Bros. or a Disney. It often gave the producers it worked with a lot of leeway.

But on this occasion, Picker won out and Connery was signed for $1.25 million, with UA agreeing to finance other films for the star. One movie, The Offence, was made under that deal.

Picker left UA in the 1970s. For a time, he became a producer himself, then held executive jobs at Paramount and Columbia Pictures.

Picker appeared in multiple documentaries made in the late 1990s and directed by John Cork about Bond movies. He also was among those interviewed for the 2012 documentary Everything or Nothing about the 007 film series.

United Artists name revived by MGM, Annapurna

United Artists logo from 1997

The United Artists name — officially 100 years old today — is being revived by the joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures, MGM said in a statement.

The joint venture will now be known as United Artists Releasing. The joint venture, formed in late 2017, performs U.S. distribution for both MGM and Annapurna.

The original United Artists studio was formed on Feb. 5, 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. UA, then headed by a management team that included Arthur Krim, was the studio that launched the James Bond film series in 1962.

United Artists Releasing is scheduled to handle U.S. distribution of Bond 25 in 2020, with Universal performing distribution in overseas markets. In effect, Bond 25 will represent a homecoming of sorts with the UA name.

Other films released by the original UA included The Magnificent Seven, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Knight and the Pink Panther and Rocky series.

MGM acquired UA from Transamerica Corp. in 1981. The United Artists brand has mostly disappeared since the late 1990s. Bond films were released under the UA name through 1997.

United Artists Releasing “intends to work not only with MGM and Annapurna but with third-party filmmakers – offering an alternative distribution option outside the studio system,” according to today’s statement.

The board of United Artists will have equal representation from MGM and Annapurna.

Publicist’s book: For 007 completists only

Cover to Jerry Juroe book

Charles “Jerry” Juroe, a veteran movie publicist, met many famous and interesting people over a long career. But that doesn’t mean the telling of those interactions is interesting.

That’s the problem with his book, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn. Many names get dropped. Observations are made. And we’re off to the next anecdote. It’s like an extended party conversation rather than a narrative.

Juroe had separate stints working at United Artists (in the 1960s when the 007 series was launched) and later at Eon Productions where he headed the publicity operation for about a decade before retiring in 1990. In between, he also did publicity for The Man With the Golden Gun

That’s supposed to be the selling point for the book.  That’s why he’s holding a gun on the cover. The Beatles get a quick mention in a chapter about United Artists. Marilyn Monroe is the subject of a pre-UA chapter when Juroe did publicity for 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl.

Among the 007 insights provided: Columbia Pictures messed up by passing on Bond, allowing UA to make the deal. Dana Broccoli made “immense and continuous contribution behind the scenes.” Albert R. Broccoli, “oh-so-steady and ways in control,” was “a perfect match” for Harry Saltzman. UA made a mistake with the first U.S. release of Dr. No but wisely did a quick re-release Juroe liked Christopher Lee, “a thoroughly decent human being and also a world class raconteur.” Roger Moore’s then-wife Luisa was “volatile.”

There’s more, of course. But there’s not a lot of depth.

Of all the anecdotes in the book, one of the most attention grabbing took place years before Juroe’s involvement with Bond.

Juroe worked at Paramount in the 1950s. The publicist writes he was in a limo with William Holden and his wife Brenda Marshall after the actor won his Oscar for Stalag 17. “You didn’t deserve that,” Marshall said. “Holden’s fingers white with rage as his fist tightened around his Oscar,” Juroe writes

It was a revealing moment. But it’s over in a few sentences. We’re off to another Oscar-night anecdote.

For 007 completists, who can’t get enough books about 007 films, the book may be worth the time. Others may or may not find the book worth their while.

How to keep Marilyn Monroe in From Russia With Love

A poster for the United Artists-released Some Like It Hot

One of Ian Fleming’s most notable chapter titles was “The Mouth of Marilyn Monroe” for chapter 19 of From Russia With Love. It’s where Bond and Darko Kerim (aka Kerim Bey) hunt down the assassin Krilencu (as it’s spelled in the novel).

The killer has an escape hatch hidden in a giant movie advertisement on the side of a building. “The outline of a huge woman’s face and some lettering appeared,” Fleming writes in the novel published in 1957. “Now Bond could read the lettering. It said: ‘Niyagara Marilyn Monroe ve Joseph Cotton…'”

The movie was Niagara (1953), a 20th Century Fox release. By the time the From Russia With Love film came out, it was a full decade after Niagara and there was no way the UA-released From Russia With Love would promote a Fox movie.

On the other hand, Monroe along with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) had starred in the 1959 UA-released Some Like It Hot. Monroe died in 1962, a year before From Russia With Love went before the cameras. But re-releases were common in those days. So it wouldn’t have been unusual to see Some Like It Hot being promoted in Istanbul in 1963.

Eon decided, instead, to go with (no surprise) the Eon-produced (and UA-distributed) Call Me Bwana for the movie advertisement for the movie. Albert R. Broccoli’s and Harry Saltzman’s “present” credit can be seen on the Bwana advertisement in the 007 film. Pedro Armandariz as Kerim Bey references Bwana co-star Anita Ekberg with the line, “She has a lovely mouth, that Anita.”

Former 007 publicist has book out

Cover to Jerry Juroe book

Charles “Jerry” Juroe, a retired movie publicist who did work on the 007 film series, has a book out.

Bond, the Beatles and My Year with Marilyn is available from McFarland.com.

Here’s the description from the website:

In his remarkable 50-year career, D-Day veteran, international film publicist and executive and production associate Charles “Jerry” Juroe met, knew or worked with almost “anyone who was anyone,” from Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock to Mary Pickford, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, Brando and the Beatles.

He made his name working on the iconic James Bond films, running publicity and advertising for both United Artists and legendary producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s EON Productions. From Dr. No to GoldenEye, Juroe traveled the globe with Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. His entertaining memoir reads like insider history of Hollywood.

Juroe showed up as an interview subject on several documentaries produced for home video releases of Bond films in the late 1990s.

The book costs $29.95. The Kindle version costs $15.99. Besides McFarland, it can also be ordered through Amazon.com.

UPDATE (9:50 p.m. New York time): Reader @Stringray_travel on Twitter reminds the blog that Juroe was also an interview subject in the documentary Everything or Nothing. Here’s part of it where you can hear and see Juroe: