With Fox deal, Disney gets some 007 action (for now)

Skyfall’s poster image

Walt Disney Co. apparently is now in the Bond business — until mid-2020, anyway.

Disney this week completed its $71.3 billion acquisition of most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio. One of the properties Disney picked up was Fox Home Entertainment, which handles home video releases of James Bond films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

That includes the 24-film Eon Productions series as well as the 1967 Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again. MGM and Fox last year reached a settlement in a lawsuit for not including those movies in a 007 box set marketed as containing “all” Bond films. Under the settlement the two studios distributed free digital copies of the non-Eon 007 films.

The following passage is from MGM’s third-quarter financial report for 2018.

Fox Home Entertainment (“Fox”) provides our physical home entertainment distribution on a worldwide basis (excluding certain territories) for a substantial number of our feature films and television series, including Spectre, Skyfall, Death Wish, RoboCop, Vikings, Get Shorty, The Handmaid’s Tale, Teen Wolf and other titles…Our agreement with Fox expires on June 30, 2020.

Disney had announced its Fox acquisition in December 2017. So MGM, when it issued its various 2018 financial reports, was aware that ownership of Fox Home Entertainment was likely to change.

Meanwhile, Bond 25 “physical” home video is spoken for by Universal, which is handling international distribution of the movie.

“Under this arrangement, MGM will retain digital and worldwide television distribution rights,” the studio said in a May 2018 press release about Bond 25. “Universal will also handle physical home entertainment distribution.”

It doesn’t take too much imagination to guess Universal may make a play for the other Bond films for “physical” home video after the current Fox deal expires.

Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in April 2020 and the home video products would be out in the second half of the year, after the Fox deal is over. It would make sense for a new marketing push for previous 007 films to accompany Bond 25 coming out on home video. That’d be easier if one entity handled it all.

Meanwhile, all of this is a footnote for Disney. The company currently is carrying out job cuts at Fox. Its Marvel Studios unit is making plans to use Marvel characters Fox had licensed.

Bond 25 questions: The glass half-full/half-empty edition

No time to panic..

So Bond 25 has been delayed again. It has now been assigned its third release date since July 2017. And the news came one day after fans had begun their one-year countdown art and memes.

As usual, the blog has questions. But the blog is switching up the format with this post.

Is this bad news?

Half-full answer: It’s not even a two-month delay. Nothing to see here. Move along. No reason to panic.

Half-empty answer: Any other shoes to drop?

What’s going on?

Half-full answer: Universal, which will distribute Bond 25 outside North America, is juggling its schedule. Fast & Furious 9 (working title) has been moved from April 10, 2020 to May 22, 2020. So it makes sense to movie Bond 25 to April 8 and get a start on the Easter weekend for 2020.

Half-empty answer: Bond 25 hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck. Some movies get moved earlier (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation by months in 2015 and Avengers: Infinity War by a week in 2018).

Let’s say this release date won’t change (really). Will it be good for Bond?

Half-full answer: People go to movies at times other than summer and the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Batman v Superman opened big during Easter weekend 2016. Admittedly it fell off quickly, but people came to see it opening weekend. Furious 7 (part of the Fast & Furious series) had a big opening during Easter weekend 2015.

Half-empty answer: We’ll see. This is new territory for Bond.

Isn’t this weird? Three release dates?

Half-full answer: Nothing to see here. Move along. Release dates change all the time.

Half-empty answer: Of course it’s weird. Let’s face it, Bond 25 has had a development full of twists and turns.

Star Daniel Craig and producer Barbara Broccoli each take an extended break after 2015’s SPECTRE. The first release date (November 2019) was announced in July 2017 when no distributor was in place (and wouldn’t be for months). Craig finally came back but that was followed by a long director search, one director signing but leaving (Danny Boyle) followed by a quick search for a replacement, etc., etc. etc.

So for argument’s sake, assume this newest delay is strictly Universal’s doing. It still comes on top of a longer-than-usual gap. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) went bankrupt in 2010. That resulted in a four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. The current gap already was longer with nothing as calamitous involved.

Bond 25 release pushed back 2 months

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25’s release has been pushed back almost two months to April 8, 2020, The Wrap entertainment news website said.

The change was confirmed in an announcement on the official 007 website of Eon Productions.

The Wrap’s initial story was only two paragraphs long. It provided no details nor said how it obtained the information. An updated version added some background but still had no details. The Eon announcement was only one sentence.

Bond 25’s scheduled release date had been Feb. 14, 2020.

Bond 25 had already been pushed back once. The next 007 film originally was announced as having a November 2019 release date in the United States.

The 25th James Bond film originally was to have been directed by Danny Boyle. He departed over “creative differences.” Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Bond 25 will be distributed in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures. Universal is handling international distribution.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m., New York time): Perhaps a piece of the puzzle: Universal (which is distributing Bond 25 internationally) has moved Fast & Furious 9 from April 10, 2020 (the start of Easter weekend), to May 22, 2020, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

MGM briefly mentions Bond 25 on investor call

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, during an investor call this week, briefly referenced Bond 25, mostly about the hiring of Cary Fukunaga as director.

“We wouldn’t be more excited about the creative direction of our next installment of our treasured evergreen franchise, Bond 25,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said in prepared remarks. MGM is “thrilled to add Cary’s versatility and innovation to the next James Bond adventure.”

Fukunaga’s hiring was announced in September. He got the job after Danny Boyle departed in August in the midst of Bond 25 pre-production. Fukunaga has directed both streaming television series and feature films. Brearton also referenced Bond 25’s release date being delayed to February 2020.

Other MGM subjects weren’t discussed. The company has been run by a committee of executives since Gary Barber was fired as CEO in March. There were no comments whether he’ll be replaced or not.

Also, MGM’s partner in a U.S. film distribution joint venture, Annapurna Pictures, has been hit with financial troubles. But Annapurna’s name didn’t come up. The joint venture is scheduled to release Bond 25 in the U.S. while Universal will distribute the film internationally.

There were no questions from investors on the call.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter for the heads up.

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.

THR: Annapurna’s ills may affect Bond 25 U.S. distribution

Annapurna logo

Financial problems at Annapurna Pictures may affect the U.S. distribution of Bond 25, The Hollywood Reporter said as part of a broader look at the company.

As things currently stand, a joint venture between Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will release Bond 25 in the U.S. in February 2020 while Universal will distribute the movie in international markets.

Bond 25 is “the jewel in the crown” for the Annapurna-MGM joint venture, wrote THR’s Kim Masters. “If Annapurna falters, that film is likely to be released by Universal, which is handling overseas distribution. (MGM might also make a play to distribute domestically itself.)”

The joint venture was set up last year. It distributes movies for each partner. Movies that originate with Annapurna carry that brand. Movies generated by MGM, such as Bond 25, carry MGM’s Leo the Lion logo.

The THR story mostly is about cutbacks in film production at Annapurna, headed by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

“(T)he company’s operations now are being reviewed by an executive (with experience in business, but not in Hollywood) dispatched by Ellison’s father,” Masters wrote.

The story quotes a person with knowledge of the situation that it didn’t identify as saying this about Annapurna: “Larry respects money and wants it to be run in a more responsible way.”

Annapurna has exited some movies it commissioned, including a project about the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

“We are simply recalibrating so that our creative decisions are fully aligned with our business goals,” Annapurna said in a statement to THR.

Bond 25: An Annapurna primer

Annapurna logo

This week, various entertainment-news outlets (including Variety, The Wrap and The Hollywood Reporter among others) carried stories about turmoil at Annapurna Pictures.

The company is tied to Bond 25. So 007 fans are wondering if something may be up on that front. What follows is a primer.

What is Annapurna? It originally was a production company involved with films such as Zero Dark Thirty. It was founded by Megan Ellison, daughter of tech magnate Larry Ellison.

In 2017, Annpurna branched into distribution. Its first distributed movie was Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city. The film bombed at the box officce.

How is it tied to Bond 25? Also in 2017, Annapurna formed a distribution joint venture with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The joint venture distributes films for each of the partners. Movies generated by MGM would carry that brand. Movies generated by Annapurna would carry that brand.

In May, it was announced the MGM-Annapurna joint venture would distribute Bond 25 (an MGM-generated project) in the United States while Universal would distribute the movie internationally.

Why the concern? Annapurna abruptly has dropped a number of film projects, including a movie based about the late former Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

Annapurna “has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars of losses over the years due to some significant box office losses,” according to a Variety story (linked above) by Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly. The scribes write that Larry Ellison is exterting control to attempt to make Annapurna profitable.

Could this imperil Bond 25? No. Annapurna is one of three players (itself, MGM and Universal). The Bond 25 deal is expected to help Annpurna, because it’ll get a distribution fee, according to Variety. The entertainment site also says Universal is a likely candidate to take over U.S. distribution if necessary.