From 2020: A peek at NTTD’s scoring sessions

One of several images Steve Mazzaro uploaded to Instagram in March 2020.

Back in March 2020, Steve Mazzaro, a composer who assisted Hans Zimmer in doing No Time to Die’s score, posted several behind the scenes images on Instagram.

The photos were originally posted on March 4, 2020, after the movie had the first of three COVID-19 delays in its release date.

Zimmer is the only composer listed on movie posters and soundtrack covers that have been released to date. But Mazzaro is one of the many composers who work for Zimmer. Mazzaro also composed the score for The Rhythm Section, a non-Bond spy film made by Eon Productions.

In a June 2020 interview with Variety, Zimmer said Mazzaro’s contributions to No Time to Die were significant.

“Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film,” Zimmer told Variety. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Besides the image above, Mazzaro posted images of himself working with Zimmer at a control board as well as musicians recording the No Time to Die score.

As with anything else concerning No Time to Die, fans will have to wait to see how the movie’s score worked out.

An old Hollywood hand opines on Bond amid Amazon deal

Peter Bart’s Twitter avatar (@MrPeterBart)

h/t to David Leigh and Phil Nobile Jr. who brought this to my attention. The post below is my responsibility alone.

Peter Bart is an old Hollywood hand. He has worked both sides of the fence, serving as a studio executive and an entertainment industry trade journalist (he was a long-time editor of Variety). Currently, he writes columns for the Deadline: Hollywood site.

This week, he opted to weigh in on Amazon’s announced deal to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. He told an anecdote or two, drawing on his studio executive experience.

 I was personally introduced to the Bond bonanza in 1983 when a cadre of business affairs executives invaded my office with packets of documents. “When you sign the top document, you’ll be greenlighting the next Bond movie,” instructed the first executive. “The film is titled Octopussy.”

“Is the script as bad as the title?” I asked.

“Probably,” came the reply. “But you’re signing as president of United Artists and we need your signature, not your opinion. A Bond deal is a special deal.”

I promptly signed. I’d heard the legend of how Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, heirs to the Bond dynasty, had constructed a web of contracts that tightly controlled every creative and marketing element of their franchise, and also kept half of the action. I had no stake in intruding in this cozy arrangement.

That’s all very interesting but, as of 1983, Barbara Broccoli had a junior role in the franchise. Her father, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions, still controlled operations. Barbara Broccoli graduated college and went to work on Octopussy in 1982. She got an on-screen credit but it was part of the end titles.

Bart also took a shot at Octopussy star Roger Moore “who, at 55, came across more as a stylish maître d’ than as a master spy.” Bart also wrote that Octopussy “performed torpidly at the worldwide box office,”

The movie finished 1983 with a global box office of $187.5 million. While behind 1981’s For Your Eyes Only ($195.3 million), it was ahead of Never Say Never Again, a competing Bond film starring Sean Connery ($160 million). Those were big numbers four decades ago.

The article by Bart, who turns 89 in July, reflects a broader unease among entertainment types with Amazon and its outgoing CEO, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos is planning to spend more time with his rocket company.) Hollywood is being rocked by streaming services (such as Amazon Prime) and is still adjusting to the new reality.

Bart also offered this observation about No Time to Die, the upcoming 25th film in the Eon-produced series:

A $300 million theatrical release, the latest Bond represents a tangle of rights agreements dating back 60 years that reflect the legalistic compromises of the past rather than the slick streamer dealmaking of the present…Some ticket buyers may also see its plot as a creaky reminder of white-bread misogyny.

Amazon near deal to acquire MGM, WSJ says

Amazon is near an agreement to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for $9 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

An accord may occur as early as this week barring last-minute complications, the financial newspaper said. MGM’s board was briefed on negotiations on Sunday, the Journal said, citing a “person close to the situation.”

There are “no guarantees” an agreement will be reached, the paper said.

MGM last week reported first-quarter financial results. During an investor call, Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Kay called reports about negotiations “speculation in the media.” Variety reported May 17 that Amazon was in talks to acquire MGM for about $9 billion.

The new report by the Journal makes it sound as if the studio’s relationship with the Bond franchise would remain the same. An excerpt:

MGM shares the James Bond franchise with a holding company owned by the Wilson/Broccoli family, who co-own the copyright to existing Bond movies and control the future of the franchise. The next James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” was repeatedly delayed due to Covid-19 and is now scheduled for release in October.

No Time to Die has been delayed five times, with three of those occasions stemming from COVID-19. The first two delays took place because of the replacement of director Danny Boyle by Cary Fukunaga. The movie’s original release date was fall 2019.

At $9 billion, an MGM acquisition would be the second-largest for Amazon behind its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, according to the Journal.

Amazon is a major player in streaming. MGM’s library of films and TV shows would be a source of in-house programming. Much of that library is from United Artists, Bond’s original studio, which MGM bought in 1981.

MGM’s library does not include classic movies and TV shows originally made by MGM before the mid-1980s. Such movies as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, and Mutiny on the Bounty are part of the Warner Bros. library.

UPDATE (8:45 p.m. New York time): Bloomberg came out with a story matching the Journal reporting. Bloomberg’s story says a deal could be announced on Tuesday. It has the usual caveats, i.e. things could change, etc. The story is behind a paywall; the site forced me off the story before I could finish it.

MGM stays mum on report about talks with Amazon

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer refused to comment Thursday about a Variety report that the studio is in talks to be acquired by Amazon.

“We are aware of speculation in the media,” Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Kay said at the end of a prepared presentation about first-quarter results. The executive didn’t reference Amazon by name.

Kay said the company only take questions about first-quarter performance. No questions about Amazon were asked.

Variety reported May 17 that Amazon and MGM were in talks where the studio would be bought for $9 billion.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 owned by hedge funds. Such funds typically look for a relatively quick turnaround and sale so they can turn a profit. MGM’s hedge fund owners have held onto the studio for longer than normal.

Pro tip: Companies involved in major moves (restructurings, deal negotiations) often refer to stories such as the Variety report as “speculation.” That is until the major moves are ready to be announced.

Regardless, this week’s investor call mentioned No Time to Die once. It was basically referenced as part of why MGM will have great second-half financial results.

Amazon in talks to acquire MGM, Variety says

MGM logo

Amazon is in negotiations to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for about $9 billion, Variety reported.

MGM has been owned by a group of hedge funds since the studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. MGM reportedly has been for sale for months. According to Variety, talks have taken on new urgency. Here’s an excerpt from the Variety story:

Amazon’s interest in acquiring the studio has taken on a new tenor beyond the usual rumor mill. The deal is said to be being orchestrated by Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Amazon Studios and Prime Video, directly with MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich, whose Anchorage Capital is a major MGM shareholder.

MGM and Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, control the Bond franchise. MGM is one of the last of the independent studio operations available for aquisition.

Bond would be one of the major properties that would interest a buyer. MGM also controls the likes of The Pink Panther and Rocky/Creed franchises. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981

Amazon runs the Amazon Prime streaming service. The company, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has been expanding its entertainment properties.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film is scheduled to be released this fall. United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna, is to distribute the movie in the U.S. Universal will handle international distribution.

NTTD footnote: Annapurna’s latest

Annapurna logo

Once upon a time, Annapurna Pictures was supposed to be a thing when it came to No Time to Die. And, in a way, it was. Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2017 formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies Eventually, No Time to Die was included in the deal.

On April 14, Variety published a story about Annapurna. Founder Megan Ellison has been away for more than a year but is back at the helm. However, according to Variety, Annapurna still has a lot of issues.

One of them is the future of United Artists Releasing, its joint venture with MGM. An excerpt from the story:

Renewed interest from distributors could help the (Annapurna) film unit, given that Annapurna is free to seek new partners outside of United Artists Releasing, the wobbly joint venture it sealed with MGM in late 2017. While Ellison has the option to release films anywhere, sources said she was unusually deferential to UAR in the negotiations for “On the Count of Three,” underscoring how dependent she’ll be on the group if no one steps forward to help her place the film in theaters. The pact was set to expire in 2021, but sources said MGM has opted for another year of releasing its own films through UAR (including the upcoming James Bond adventure “No Time to Die”). To extract itself from the agreement would be more costly than it’s worth, one source said, especially as MGM continues to seek a splashy sale, which it is rumored to be pursuing. (emphasis added)

As things stand now, United Artists Releasing will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S. and Canada while Universal will release the film internationally. No Time to Die promotional materials such as trailers have the MGM and Universal logos. Posters have the United Artists Releasing logo but not Annapurna.

The joint venture took the name United Artists from 007’s original studio. MGM acquired UA in 1981. MGM and Annapurna announced the United Artists Releasing name in 2019 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the original UA.

The Variety story is mostly about continuing turmoil at Annapurna.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

A new Goldfinger?

UPDATE (1 p.m., New York time): I have been advised that a European Union trademark exists for the name Goldfinger (among other Bond trademarks).

ORIGINAL POST: James Bond fans took note of a story in Variety about a new Goldfinger project that has nothing to do with 007 or Auric Goldfinger.

This new Goldfinger film, according to the entertainment-news outlet is set in the 1980s and “depicts cut-throat machinations between Hong Kong’s jostling business elites amidst the backdrop of the tail end of British colonial rule.”

The James Bond Goldfinger, released in 1964 and based on a 1959 Ian Fleming novel, turned Bond into a phenomenon and was the first mega-hit for the film 007.

Some fans might be wondering how it’s even possible a new movie could be titled Goldfinger.

The Weintraub Tobin law firm in California has intellectual and entertainment practices. The firm’s IP Law Blog had a February 2020 entry about how copyright and trade applies to titles.

“Generally, the title to a single motion picture is not entitled to trademark protection,” wrote attorney Scott Hervey. “This is the same for the title to single books, songs and other singular creative works.”

However, things can be more complicated.

For one thing, with a serialized work such as a television series, “trademark protection would be warranged.”

Also, according to Hervey, courts may grant protection if it can be demonstrated a title has acquired secondary, or distinctive, meaning. “Establishing acquired distinctiveness is not an easy task,” he wrote.

Strictly a guess, but I could see how an attorney might argue that Goldfinger has a unique meaning, i.e. a specific rich, megalomaniac villain.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the subject, you can read the attorney’s blog post by CLICKING HERE. We’ll also see if this Goldfinger project generates fees for lawyers.

ADDENDUM: I should have pointed this out. No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, is at least the third use of that title. In the 1950s, there was a war movie produced by Irving Allen and Albert R. Broccoli with that name (it was called Tank Force in the U.S.) That movie was released by Columbia. No Time to Die was also the title of a 1992 episode of Columbo.

To be sure, No Time to Die is a pretty generic title and not in the class of distinctiveness as Goldfinger. Besides the examples above, there have been very similar-sounding titles such as And a Time to Die…, a 1970 episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Peter Mark Richman, who frequently played villains, dies

Peter Mark Richman in an episode of The FBI

Peter Mark Richman, a character actor who had a long career and often played villains, has died at 93, Variety reported.

He was often tapped by QM Productions for its various shows and was part of the “QM Players” of actors frequently employed by producer Quinn Martin.

Richman’s QM credits included The FBI (appearing as a guest star in eight of nine seasons), The Invaders, The Fugitive, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, and The Streets of San Francisco. The actor was part of a big cast for the QM TV movie House on Greenapple Road, which led to the Dan August series.

Richman also was called upon by casting directors for 1960s spy shows, including The Wild Wild West, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (the show’s two-part series finale), It Takes a Thief, and Mission: Impossible.

He also was the lead in Agent for H.A.R.M. (1966), which mixed spy fi with sci fi. The cast also included Aliza Gur, who earlier appeared in From Russia With Love as one of the two gypsy fighting women.

The production was poked fun at on Mystery Science 3000, where a host and two puppets (which were supposed to be robots) provided running commentary.

Richman’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 150 credits from 1953 to 2016.

UPDATE: The Silver Age Television account on Twitter embedded a clip where Richman appears. It’s pretty typical of the characters that Richman played.

Trade group chief says Bond will remain a theater product

No Time to Die poster

The head of a movie theater trade group predicted to Variety that James Bond films will remain a theatrical product first.

“The backers of the Bond movies have told us that they really want the movie to play theatrically,” John Fithian, chief of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in an interview with the entertainment-news outlet.

“We believe that franchise will continue being a theatrical one and we look forward to selling a ton of tickets for ‘No Time to Die.'”

Fithian made the comment in response to a question concerning reports last month that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, sought bids from streaming services, including Apple Inc.’s service, for No Time to Die.

Details of the reports varied. One of the most detailed appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. THR said Oct. 27 that Apple considered an offer of $350 million to $400 million for a one-year license for No Time to Die but that wasn’t enough for MGM.

The studio has said No Time to Die isn’t for sale. Meanwhile, MGM reportedly is incurring interest expense of $1 million a month while the 25th James Bond film figuratively sits on the shelf.

No Time to Die had been scheduled to come out this month. It was delayed until April because of COVID-19.

“There’s a reason I don’t think blockbusters like Bond are going to debut on streaming services,” the trade group official told Variety. “Our challenges are dire in the short term, but in the long term we know this business is going to be healthy again. The model works best for studios and they make the most money when they release movies in theaters first.”

Fithian expressed concern in the Variety interview about the lag between Warner Bros.’s planned Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die.

“There are a bunch of movies in January, February and March, but Bond is the next biggie” after Wonder Woman, Fithian told Variety.

“If ‘Wonder Woman’ sticks with its Christmas Day opening and people come out for that, we hope that other studios will move titles from later in 2021 into the first quarter,” he said. “That’s certainly the hope. We need movies to get back into business.”