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.”

Variety says NTTD’s budget was $301 million

Not that the blog is jumping to conclusions or anything…

No Time to Die’s “net” budget — even taking into account the value of product placement deals and tax breaks — was $301 million, Variety said.

The figure, if accurate, would make the 25th James Bond film the most expensive in the series produced by Eon Productions.

The raw spending on 2015’s SPECTRE exceeded $300 million, according to documents that became public in 2014 after Sony Corp. documents were hacked. But that was before product placement and tax breaks were factored in. The “net” figure for SPECTRE was $245 million.

For months, entertainment outlets have reported No Time to Die’s final budget at $250 million, only slightly more than SPECTRE.

The $301 million figure provides more evidence that No Time to Die may be a financial disaster for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

No Time to Die has been delayed repeatedly. The movie was set to be released in April but was delayed to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the Bond film was delayed again to April 2021.

The Hollywood Reporter carried an Oct. 27 story with behind-the-scenes details of how MGM had talks with Apple Inc. about a one-year lease for No Time to Die to show on Apple’s streaming service. But Apple only offered $350 million to $400 million. MGM wanted $650 million to $750 million or more, THR said.

The THR report said the No Time to Die delay is costing MGM $1 million a month in interest costs. The Variety story carries the same figure.

In addition, according to Variety, star Daniel Craig “and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who control the rights to the series, have generous backend and profit participation deals, limiting the amount of money MGM is able to make on the movie.”

As stated before, No Time to Die was a pre-pandemic movie financed and filmed before COVID-19. But the Bond movie is to come out in the middle of a pandemic which has reduced theater availability.

Nothing exceeds like excess. No Time to Die might be the best James Bond movie ever and still be a financial disaster for MGM.

Bond 25 questions: The trailer, soundtrack edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

The No Time to Die publicity machine got reactivated this week, including a new trailer and details about the soundtrack being released.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s the big takeaway?

It’s very clear that No Time to Die is back to “saving the world” territory.

The new trailer shows agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) saying villain Safin “will kill millions.” Bond (Daniel Craig) says if his team is unsuccessful there won’t be anything left to save.

Eon Productions has shied away from such sweeping, big stakes since Craig took over as Bond. Quantum of Solace, for example, dealt with water rights.

I’m not exactly sure about the stakes of SPECTRE. Bond and his allies sought to prevent something from being deployed related to observing people. But SPECTRE already seemingly had the ability to record every single phone conversation on the planet. It wasn’t very clear how things would be any worse if SPECTRE succeeded.

Anything new catch your eye?

The No Time to Die ad that debuted during the Super Bowl showed Bond and Nomi is a plane or glider. In the new trailer, we see it can become a submarine.

That idea isn’t new. One of the earliest Gerry Anderson shows was Supercar, a craft that could fly and be a submarine. (I actually had a Supercar toy as a kid.) The 1964-68 series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea featured the Flying Sub, which flew and could travel undersea.

Still, it’s an element of fantasy that hasn’t been part of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films.

Hey, what happened to Steve Mazzaro?

For the uninitiated, No Time to Die composer Hans Zimmer told Variety in June that he needed Steve Mazzaro’s help to do the movie’s score because of a tight deadline.

As part of that interview, Zimmer said: “Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film.”

Naturally, there was no mention of Mazzaro in the press release Eon Productions put out with the soundtrack cover.

There were quotes from the likes of Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and director Cary Fukunaga about the genius of Hans Zimmer. Of course, Fukunaga doesn’t mention how his composer choice, Dan Romer, got fired from the project.

Does that surprise you?

No. When I read the Zimmer interview in Variety, I took his remark about how Mazzaro should get top billing as an empty compliment, not something he meant seriously.

Still, it’s another example of how studios and “artistes” count on people not remembering what has been said previously. So it goes.

Zimmer suggests his NTTD co-composer did a lot of work

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer, the lead composer on No Time to Die, suggests in a new interview with Variety that his assistant composer did a fair amount of work on the 25th James Bond film.

Zimmer told Variety of how he was approached by producer Barbara Broccoli about scoring the movie.

“And I asked her if it was okay that Steve Mazzaro, who is one of the most fabulous composers I know, could do it with me, because there was very little time,” Zimmer said. “And of course she said yes. Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film. I hope we’ve done it justice.” (emphasis added).

Mazzaro scored The Rhythm Section, the non-Bond spy film that Eon produced, which was released by Paramount in January. Zimmer was the producer of that movie’s soundtrack. Zimmer and Mazzaro shared the music title card, with Zimmer getting top billing.

Mazzaro also is one of the composers affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions company.

In the Variety interview, Zimmer also discussed recruiting guitarist Johnny Marr to perform on No Time to Die.

Zimmer replaced Dan Romer as the composer for No Time to Die. Zimmer’s name is on No Time to Die posters that include credits but Mazzaro’s is not.

The article examines other movie projects Zimmer is working on. You can view it by CLICKING HERE.

M:I 7 Venice shoot delayed by coronavirus

A stunt from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Updated to note the Paramount statement.

Mission: Impossible 7’s Venice shoot is being delayed by the coronavirus, Variety reported, citing a Paramount statement.

The delay was reported earlier by the tabloid Daily Mail said.

Paramount said it was delaying the Venice shoot because of an “abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew,” according to Variety.

There has been an outbreak of more than150 cases of coronavirus in Italy and the Venice carnival was cut short, according to The New York Times.

Star-producer Tom Cruise arrived in Venice last week and was scheduled to begin filming, the Daily Mail said.

M:I 7 is scheduled to be released in 2021. It is to be filmed back-to-back with an eighth installment coming out in 2022. Recent Cruise M:I movies were written around locations and stunts.

The most recent M:I film, Mission: Impossible-Fallout, was a hectic affair, which included Cruise breaking his ankle doing a stunt. The production altered its schedule and some late filming occurred to make a summer 2018 release date.

An outbreak of coronavirus in China has caused a China premiere and publicity tour for No Time to Die in April to be canceled. The disease has shut down theaters in China.

Some questions Variety could have asked Broccoli & Wilson

Eon Productions logo

This week, Variety published an interview with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions. What follows are some questions that could have been asked.  Maybe they were but there’s no reference in the story that they were.

–Mr. Wilson, you’re 78. You and your half-sister Barbara Broccoli have run the franchise for a quarter-century. Does Eon have a succession plan in place? If so, can you describe it? Might you retire? Or do you plan to carry on? Or  will Barbara Broccoli take full command?

–Has anyone proposed acquiring Danjaq/Eon in the last 10 years?

–Do you expect the Broccoli-Wilson family will remain in control of the Bond film franchise 10 years from now?

Michael G. Wilson

–Who proposed that “Smallville”-style TV show? (The Variety story said Broccoli and Wilson rejected a “Smallville”-style TV series with Bond at Eton as a teenager) Was it Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, your studio partner? Why did Eon reject it?

–How would have the proposed “Smallville”-style TV show differ from the “Young Bond” novels published by Ian Fleming Publications? Would it have been substantially different in tone than the James Bond Jr. animated show (which featured Bond’s nephew, rather than Bond himself) from the 1990s?

–MGM, has undergone many changes over the past 40 years. It exited bankruptcy in 2010. It hasn’t had a CEO since Gary Barber exited in March 2018. Are you satisfied with where MGM is right now?

–The entertainment industry is facing a lot of changes with streaming. What is Bond’s place amid all these changes? Stay with movies? Make some kind of adjustment?

I did a couple of tweets with a few of these questions. I got some pushback from a reader who felt the questions were rude. The thing is, all of these are legitimate questions.

Remember, Albert R. Broccoli put Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) up for sale in the early 1990s. Nothing came of that. But succession planning is common. Even family-owned companies do succession planning all the time.