Bond 26 (!) questions: The Pinewood deal edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the weekend, Pinewood Studios announced that Walt Disney Co. had signed a deal to lease almost all of the revered London-area studio sound stages and production facilities.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal may run for 10 years.

Given that Pinewood is the traditional home to James Bond film productions, the blog has questions how this may affect future James Bond films, starting with Bond 26.

OK. What does this mean for Bond 26?

There’s a good chance that Bond 26 — whenever that goes into development — may have to look for another home studio base.

But, couldn’t Disney sub-lease space at Pinewood to Eon Productions for Bond 26?

It could. But then again, why would Disney do so? Disney wouldn’t have cut such a deal unless it had production plans where it would need all that Pinewood space.

Put another way, Disney has never been known for sentimentality, even when “Uncle Walt” was running the place.

After Disney animators went on strike in 1941, some were fired. The Magic Kingdom may be part of Disney. But the Magic Kingdom is, in the end, a fairy tale.

Some of the Disney strike participants were among the founders and contributors of United Productions of America (UPA). UPA went on to win some Oscars and created characters such as Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing.

Is there back story we should be aware of?

Pinewood is exiting Pinewood Atlanta, a joint venture. Pinewood is selling out to its partner. That operation will retain the Pinewood Atlanta name for up to 18 months.

Pinewood Atlanta has been the home base of some major productions by Disney-owned Marvel Studios, including the last two Avengers films. But that appears to be a things of the past.

What happens next?

No Time to Die, aka Bond 25, still is in production. We won’t know about Bond 26 for a long time, perhaps years.

With the increasingly long time in-between Bond films, Eon Productions will have plenty of time to look for a new home production base.

If something bigger happens — some kind of sale that would shake up the Bond status quo — that will have to play out before a search for new studio quarters. If Bond became part of the Disney fold, then presumably it could again film at Pinewood.

Meanwhile, Pinewood has just secured rent for the 007 Stage, the Roger Moore Stage and other studio facilities for years. That’s business.

UPDATE (11:35 a.m. New York time): The BBC has weighed in with a story about the deal. It has this line:

“Despite the Disney deal, it is believed that there is a possibility that, given its history, future James Bond films will still be filmed there.”

First of all, who believes this? Secondly, “a possibility” is less than definitive. Possibilities are not certainties.

UPDATE II (Sept. 11): This slipped by me at the time. In July, Netflix reached an agreement to lease almost all of the space at Sheppterton Studios (owned by Pinewood’s parent company). A July story in The Guardian has details. In effect, there’s now an arms race to lock up U.K. studio space.

Bond 25 questions: Eve (?) of the announcement edition

It seems we’re about to get some Bond 25 news this week. But, given how Bond 25 development has gone the past three years, there are questions even in the home stretch.

What changes from the normal media launch might we see?

During the evening of April 23, the MI6 James Bond website came out with a story that said the following:

MI6 has been informed that there will be no traditional press conference.

Instead, specially recorded segments in Jamaica will be packaged by ABC TV (Good Morning America) in the USA and ITV in the UK (Good Morning Britain) for broadcast on Thursday and Friday this week.

Anything particularly odd about that?

U.S. network ABC, which airs Good Morning America, is owned by Walt Disney Co. Competitor NBC, which airs Today, a morning rival to Good Morning America, is owned by Comcast. Comcast, in turn, is parent company to NBC-Universal. The Universal part is Bond 25’s international distributor.

So?

From a distance, it would appear Bond 25 is messing over one of its corporate partners (Universal).

Any other concerns?

The blog is wondering if we’ll find out Bond 25’s actual title this week. This decade, at this point, we were told that Bond 23 would be called Skyfall and Bond 24 would be called SPECTRE.

Maybe we’ll be told Bond 25’s actual title. But the format of this week’s media event is different enough that the blog isn’t taking it for granted.

UPDATE (April 24): Comcast also is being shut out on the European side of the Atlantic when it comes to this week’s Bond 25 events. Comcast owns a controlling interest Sky. But ITV isn’t part of Sky. h/t to reader Rob Coppinger for bringing this to my attention.

UPDATE II: Reader @CorneelVf on Twitter has a post of a program guide indicating Comcast’s Sky will have a half-hour show on Thursday called Bond 25: The Announcement.

UPDATE III: The official Eon Productions 007 Twitter feed has details about a live Bond 25 announcement at 13:10 GMT on Thursday. Twitter users can ask questions using #BOND25. This may be a social media substitute for the traditional media event for 007 films.

 

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.

Black Panther receives Oscar Best Picture Nomination

Black Panther poster

Black Panther was one of eight films to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today.

Marvel Studios and its parent company, Walt Disney Co., had promoted the 2018 film heavily during the nomination process. Black Panther also received other nominations, including best score, costume design, song and production design. It received no acting, writing or directing nominations.

Still, it was a big moment for Marvel, whose films have had a huge impact on the box office. Black Panther was No. 1 grossing U.S. film last year at $700 million, according to Box Office Mojo.  Worldwide, it was No. 2 at $1.35 billion, behind Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War at $2.05 billion.

The Black Panther character made his debut in 1966 as part of a Fantastic Four comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The story introduced Wakanda, a technologically advanced African nation. The film drew also drew upon later stories by various writers and artists that expanded the Panther mythos. Director Ryan Coogler also said last year that the movie drew inspirations from James Bond films.

The other films nominated for Best Picture were BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice.

Also, Rachel Weisz, wife of 007 actor Daniel Craig, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Favourite.

So who is going to buy 007’s home studio?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

It seems as if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s days are numbered as an independent studio. So who ends up with 007’s home studio?

A new era of media consolidation is underway. And MGM is a small fry.

AT&T Inc. has completed its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and other media properties. The move comes after a U.S. court approved the deal earlier this week.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, is trying to buy most of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

Comcast is offering $65 billion in cash after 21st Century Fox agreed in December to accept $52.4 billion in stock from Walt Disney Co. An all-out bidding war is expected from the two media giants.

MGM supposedly is trying to go it alone. But, in this new media reality, that seems a long shot at best.

MGM is mostly owned by hedge funds following the company’s 2010 bankruptcy. Hedge funds rarely invest for the long run. They mostly look for a quick turnaround. The fact that the hedge fund owners have held on to their ownership for eight years is remarkable enough.

Given how volatile the situation is, making a prediction about who will buy MGM seems foolhardy. But it seems likely somebody will at some point.

Comcast’s Universal recently won the rights to distribute Bond 25 outside the U.S. So Universal may have a foot in the door. Maybe.

Here’s another question worth asking.

Would a bidder for MGM get out its checkbook and buy out Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions?

After all, if you’re going to go to the trouble of buying MGM, shouldn’t you buy all the James Bond film rights? Especially if media companies are throwing around tens of billions of dollars for acquisitions?

Some Bond fans feel the Broccoli-Wilson family would never sell out. Star Wars fans used to say to the same thing about George Lucas before he sold the franchise to Walt Disney Co.

Interesting days may lay ahead.

With Solo, Star Wars comes back down to Earth

Solo: A Star Wars Story is being lumped with Justice League as an example of a pricey movie that’s not generating the kind of box office it needs.

The movie, which provides the back story of Han Solo, is estimated to produce $83.3 million in the U.S. market for the May 25-27 weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, which compiles such information.

Last November, Warner Bros.’s Justice League generated $93.8 million for its opening U.S. weekend. At the time, that was the poster child for a movie that’s reasonably popular (almost $658 million in global box office) but a financial bomb because of a huge budget (estimated to be as much as $300 million).

Until now, Star Wars has been seen as a sure thing. Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4 billion for that reason.

Under Disney ownership, Star Wars output has sped up. Previously, Star Wars movies came out in three-year intervals. And there was a long hiatus between the first trilogy (1977-1983) and the second (1999-2005).

Now, the main Star Wars movies come out every other year. In between, there are one-offs that expand upon the basic story line.

Solo wasn’t an easy production. Its directors were fired. Ron Howard was brought in to replace them and re-shot most of the movie.

With the movie out, Scott Mendelson of Forbes.com declared Solo had bombed. 

“Disney already killed Han Solo once–He’s gone for good now,” Exhibitor Relations, which analyzes box office data wrote on Twitter. “So long, SOLO.”

Normally, action-related movies do well in the big China market. No so, Solo. “China Box Office: ‘Solo’ Combs With Third-Place $10.1M Opening,” was the headline in The Hollywood Reporter.

Now the question is being raised whether Star Wars movies are coming out too often. 

The Exhibitor Relations tweet also adjusted the opening of previous Star Wars movies for inflation to demonstrate how Solo shapes up.

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Should Marvel’s Feige get a Thalberg award?

Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios

The Playlist website had a story where the writers of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War make the case for Marvel Studios getting at least some awards love.

““When is someone going to get [Kevin] Feige the [Irving G.] Thalberg award,” scribe Stephen McFeely was quoted as saying. “All he’s doing is remaking Hollywood. Please!”

The Thalberg award is an honorary award given out by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the same organization that gives out the Oscars. The award is given to “creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production,” according to the Oscars website.

The Thalberg award isn’t given out every year. In fact, it hasn’t been given out since 2010 when Francis Ford Coppola, also a noted writer and director, received it.

The thing is, comic book movies generally don’t get a lot of Oscars love. Heath Ledger won a Best Supporting Actor award for The Dark Knight (2008). Suicide Squad (2016) won an Oscar for makeup and hairstyling.

More broadly, escapist movies generally don’t appear to get the same consideration as more serious fare. James Bond films won five Oscars from 1965 to 2016, including two Best Song awards, but none for acting, writing or directing.

The biggest Oscar love was when Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, received a Thalberg award in 1982, presented to him by Roger Moore, his 007 actor at the time.

Still, the Playlist story may have a point.

Under Feige, 44, Marvel has produced its own movies, rather than licensing rights to other studios, starting with 2008’s Iron Man. In that decade, Marvel established the idea of inter-connected movies all within the same fictional universe.

The success of that universe spurred Walt Disney Co. to buy Marvel, which has mostly let Feige run his own show.

So far, that has resulted in 18 movies, running through last month’s Black Panther. Two more Marvel Studios films are coming out this year, including next month’s Avengers: Infinity War.

Remember, Broccoli won the Thalberg when he was in his early 70s for his Bond output. That was 12 films at the time he received the award (Dr. No through For Your Eyes Only) with the 13th (Octopussy) in preparation. He would eventually be involved with the first 17 007 films before he died in 1996.

Now there are big differences between Marvel and Bond. As the blog has written before, Marvel is a prime example of the corporate model while Eon is the embodiment of the family model.

Still, Feige has had a major impact. Warner Bros., over the decades, came out with Superman and Batman movies that weren’t part of a single universe. Marvel spurred Warner Bros. to follow suit. Other studios have tried to replicate what Marvel did but came up short.

It remains to be seen whether the academy will consider Feige for the Thalberg, considered one of its major awards. But Feige, over the past decade, has had a major impact on the movie business.