5 studios seeking to release Bond 25, NYT reports

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Five studios are seeking to release Bond 25, The New York Times reported, citing five people familiar with the process it didn’t identify.

What’s more, according to the newspaper, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions are only offering a one-film deal. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond films and its most recent two-picture agreement expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

The studios identified by The Times are Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and Annapurna, “an ambitious upstart financed and led by the Oracle heiress Megan Ellison.” Neither Walt Disney Co. nor Paramount are involved, The Times said. None of the companies involved returned calls from The Times seeking comment.

Reporter Brooks Barnes described an elaborate presentation by Sony that involved Kazuo Hirai, the CEO of parent company Sony Corp.

“Casting for the franchise has not been discussed in the meetings, according to the people briefed on them, although producers hope Daniel Craig will play the lead for at least one more chapter,” Barnes wrote. “He has a gap on his docket, according to movie industry databases, that would allow for filming.”

Under the most recent distribution deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy as a smaller company, without its own distribution operation. MGM mostly produces television shows. It relies on distribution deals with other studios for its small film slate.

MGM’s possible studio partners for Bond 25 Part III

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a new year but there some leftover business from the old: What studio will end up releasing Bond 25?

The blog has twice (once in April and again in September) analyzed the possibilities. So here’s an updated look.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films but as of now has no new contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for future Bond movies.

Not a lot new since September. Last year’s Ghostbusters reboot wasn’t a success for Sony and isn’t likely to become a franchise. Sony is teaming up with Marvel Studios to get new Spider-Man movies going.

Sony may be sufficiently desperate to again accept a low-profit distribution deal for Bond 25. Most recently, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. It received less money than MGM and Danjaq, the parent group for Eon Productions.

However, there’s the possibility of a wild card.

The New York Post last month reported that its “Tokyo tipsters claim” that CBS chief Les Moonves was looking to acquire Sony Pictures from its parent company, Sony Corp. The story didn’t offer much in the way of details. Certainly, no actual deal materialized.

Paramount: CBS had been looking to merge with Viacom, parent company of ParamountBut that deal unraveled in December.

CBS and Viacom had once been together but then were split apart. The companies are controlled by the Redstone family. There had been a family soap opera in 2015 and 2016 which led to, among other things, a new leadership team at Paramount.

It remains to be seen how quickly Paramount recovers from all this and whether it’s in the position to make a Bond deal with MGM.

Warner Bros.: AT&T announced in October it agreed to acquire Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros. The $85 billion deal isn’t forecast to be complete until the second half of this year.

That raises the question whether Warners can do a Bond 25 deal. The studio already is busy trying to establish its “shared universe” of movies based on DC Comics characters. Two big ones, Wonder Woman and Justice League, are coming out this year.

20th Century Fox and Universal: Neither studio has the issues confronting Sony, Paramount or Warner Bros. Either or both could make a play. But the question is whether either would be willing to take the kind of low profits Sony got for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Walt Disney Co.: This is strictly a guess but Disney doesn’t act like a company interested in doing a limited distribution deal for Bond. Disney likes to get out its checkbook and buy properties whole, such as Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. If Disney were interested in 007, it’d be more likely to buy everybody else out.

MGM (?): Sony emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a much smaller company without its own movie distribution operation.

MGM has been working toward an initial public offering of stock in a few years. However, if the pending AT&T acquisition causes a new round of media deals, MGM will face a decision.

Is the current strategy adequate? If not, does it get bigger (and re-establish distribution)? Or does it sell out and get acquired by someone else?

Jason Bourne shakes off critics on its opening weekend

Jason Bourne poster

Jason Bourne poster

UPDATE (July 31) — Jason Bourne is now projected for an opening weekend of $60 million in the U.S. and Canada, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER said.

ORIGINAL POST (July 30): Jason Bourne’s amnesia is extending to critical reviews as the year’s major spy movie appears on its way to being the No. 1 movie this weekend in the U.S. and Canada.

The movie, which reunited star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, is on a pace to generate more than $60 million in ticket sales in the region on its opening weekend, according to the Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website. The film’s global opening weekend may exceed $100 million, Deadline reported.

That was despite a “fresh” rating of only 57 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Early in the week, the movie’s score was 68 percent. But more negative reviews came out as the week progressed, dragging down the film’s score ahead of its debut.

It appears that won’t matter, at least as far as box office is concerned. Jason Bourne was forecast to open at $60 million in the U.S. and Canada while studio Universal was being more conservative at $40 million-plus, according to a July 26 story at TheWrap entertainment news website.

SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, had a U.S.-Canada opening weekend of $70.4 million in November 2015. The biggest Bond opening was 2012’s Skyfall at $88.4 million.

Jason Bourne was the fourth movie in the series starring Damon and the third helmed by Greengrass. Both have criticized 007 films, which rankles some Bond film fans. Jason Bourne was the first Bourne entry since 2007 for both Damon and Greengrass. The Bourne Legacy, released in 2012, featured Jeremy Renner as another agent.

The gritty style of the Bourne films — including more intense and violent action scenes — had an impact in the 2000s on the 007 series made by Eon Productions.

Bourne was a factor in recasting the Bond role with Daniel Craig, The New York Times reported in 2005. And 2008’s Quantum of Solace employed Dan Bradley as second unit director. Bradley had worked on the Bourne films in the same capacity.

 

Jason Bourne video debuts

A two-minute promotional video for Jason Bourne debuted on Monday as Universal continues to ramps up publicity for the spy movie coming out in July.

“I don’t mind being followed around by Jason Bourne, I like Jason Bourne,” star Matt Damon says in the video. “It’s been a defining role in the life.”

This time out, Damon says, Bourne “finds him in a really dark place, basically pounding other human beings into oblivion just to try to cope with the thoughts in his head.”

For Damon, it’s his fourth Bourne film and third with director Paul Greengrass, who also appears on the video.

Jason Bourne trailer debuts

The trailer for Jason Bourne, the fifth Bourne film from Universal, came out today.

The trailer, understandably, primarily features star Matt Damon, making his fourth Bourne film and third directed by Paul Greengrass. But it also gives viewers a bit more of a look at co-stars Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.

The movie is due out in July.

Jason Bourne trailer scheduled for Thursday

The trailer for Jason Bourne, the fifth Bourne film from Universal and the fourth with Matt Damon, is scheduled to be released Thursday.

A six-second teaser for the trailer was sent out over Twitter on Monday. The tweet is embedded below.

Jason Bourne is due out in July. An advertisement for the film aired during the Super Bowl in February.

George Kennedy and the art of scene stealing

George Kennedy's Patroni steals a scene from Burt Lancaster, the star of Airport.

George Kennedy’s Patroni steals a scene from Burt Lancaster, the star of Airport.

We deviate from our normal format to note the passing of character actor George Kennedy, who has died at the age of 91, according to an obituary at  THEWRAP WEBSITE.

Kennedy won an Oscar for Cool Hand Luke. But he also provided a kind of acting lesson in the 1970 film Airport — namely, a practical demonstration of how a supporting player can steal a movie from its stars.

Airport has been copied and parodied over the years. But in 1970, it was a big, prestigious film, starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin. It eventually was nominated for Best Picture and the distinguished actress Helen Hayes, who appeared in the film, picked up an Oscar for best supporting actress.

Nevertheless, Kennedy in a secondary role actually dominates the scenes he’s in. He plays Joe Patroni, a gruff airliner mechanic. For much of the movie he has a cigar. He also takes great advantage of the structure of the Big Movie.

Tom Mankiewicz, the one-time James Bond screenwriter, in his audio commentary for Live And Let Die describes a type of character such movies can’t do without — Leo The Explainer.

These characters provide expository dialogue, giving the audience information it needs to know. As Mankiewicz told it, stars don’t like providing such explanations. So Leo The Explainer serves that purpose.

The thing is, Kennedy’s Patroni — Airport’s Leo The Explainer — does so in an entertaining fashion that draws attention to himself.

In the movie, a mentally disturbed man (Van Heflin) intends to explode a bomb aboard a flight to Rome so his wife will collect insurance. The authorities have figured this out but the question is how to stop him.

There’s a scene in the office of airport manager Mel Bakersfeld (Lancaster) with a model of a Boeing 707. Patroni talks about what what happens when there’s sudden decompression, giving a semi-graphic explanation. (Patroni says he once witnessed such an incident personally.)

Eventually, the disturbed man sets off the bomb. Later, it’s up to Patroni to get a stranded airliner, stuck in snow, to free up the airport’s main runway so the returning, damaged jet can land safely. With time running out, Patroni declares, “We’re going for broke!” and against all odds moves the stranded plane out of the way.

Universal, the studio that released Airport, decided to release other Airport movies between 1974 and 1979. The one constant: George Kennedy as Patroni. Acting schools teach you about the craft. But Kennedy’s performance in the original Airport is a lesson for aspiring actors about the reality.