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.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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.

A 007 film moment almost without precedent

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been a Bond movie moment quite like this one.

On the one hand, the incumbent Bond actor (Daniel Craig in this case) has said he’s coming back. And a release date (early November 2019) has been announced.

On the other hand, It has been more than 190 days since that release date was announced. We still don’t know who will get the movie to theaters.

The distributor issue is a moving target. At one point, 20th Century Fox was in the mix. But Walt Disney Co. struck a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of the rival film studio.

Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, which has released the last four 007 films, was also in the mix. Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai has announced his retirement. Now, there’s renewed speculation that Sony Corp. may sell off its film and TV business.

Also, Eon Productions, which produces the Bond films, hasn’t been this busy with non-Bond projects. Eon suffered a setback with its non-007 spy film, The Rhythm Section, had to suspend production following an injury to star Blake Lively.

At this point, there isn’t much firmly known about Bond 25, the next installment in the 007 film series. Craig told CBS’s Stephen Colbert in August he’s coming back; Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced the 2019 release date in July 2017; and veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on the Bond 25 story.

The Hollywood Reporter said in September that tech giants Apple and Amazon were in the hunt for Bond rights, but nothing has been heard from since then.

Before now, the 2009-2011 period was the most uncertain for the Bond franchise. MGM, which controls half of the franchise, filed for bankruptcy.

Still, MGM completed bankruptcy. On Jan. 11, 2011, Eon and MGM announced that Bond 23 (later titled Skyfall) was back in production after being suspended because of MGM’s uncertain financial situation.

Today, more than seven years later, MGM is more healthy financially. It’s moving toward becoming a “big boy” studio again. Last year, it struck a deal with Annapurna Pictures to form a joint venture to release each other’s movies. But, at least for now, that deal doesn’t cover Bond 25.

Despite that, Bond 25 distribution (and financing) issues aren’t resolved. The industry is changing quickly. The Disney-Fox deal, for example, would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

Is this crying wolf? No. It’s just a recognition things are more complicated than 2010-11, the last time when Bond’s film future was unsettled.

Disney-Fox footnote: Will Fox fanfare survive?

One subject that hasn’t come up much is whether the Fox Fanfare — that familiar piece of music that accompanies the 20th Century Fox logo at the start of Fox movies — will survive Walt Disney Co. buying the Fox studio.

The fanfare has been around since 1933, back when it was 20th Century Pictures Inc. It was written by composer Alfred Newman (1901-1970), the father of Skyfall and SPECTRE composer Thomas Newman. Here’s an early version:

In 1935, a merger took place and the familiar 20th Century Fox name was born.

In 1953, the fanfare was extended because Fox began showing movies in a new widescreen format. And the studio wanted viewers to be aware of it right away.

More recently, Fox has used a 3D version of its logo, including the extended logo music.

The Fox fanfare was part of the first six Star Wars movies. But it has been absent since Disney acquired Lucasfilm Ltd., the maker of those films. There has been some discussion whether the fanfare could be reunited with Star Wars in light of Disney’s $52.4 billion announced acquisition of most of Fox.

Meanwhile, Jon Burlingame, an author and historian of film and TV music, made clear he wants the fanfare to be preserved after Disney takes possession of the Fox assets.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

007 questions: Media consolidation edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Walt Disney Co. is buying the 20th Century Fox studio and most assets of 21st Century Fox. It’s a new media world.

So, here are a few questions from a 007 perspective.

What happens to MGM? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio is a runt among Hollywood studios. Disney agreeing to buy most of 21st Century Fox is the most prominent example yet of companies seeking to get even bigger in the digital age.

So what does MGM do? According to The Wall Street Journal in a February story, it spent much of 2016 trying to sell to a Chinese buyer. No sale.

MGM and Annapurna Pictures, a Hollywood newcomer, said Oct. 31 they were forming a new joint venture to release each other’s movies. Supposedly, the joint venture had the inside track to release Bond 25 in the United States. But that hasn’t been confirmed.

What happens to 007 home video distribution? Fox has an agreement to distribute James Bond films on home video through June 2020. But accords can change when the ownership of the one of the partners changes. Who knows at this point?

Does somebody make a play to control the entire 007 film franchise? When Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars), the bill was in the billions of dollars for each.

But Disney’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox is valued at $52.4 billion. That dwarfs the other deals Disney has negotiated under CEO Robert Iger, 66. Iger has agreed to stick around through 2021 to integrate the Fox assets into Disney.

When companies are throwing around that kind of money, anything is possible.

At the same time, Bond is a complicated animal. Control is divided between Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) and MGM. It’s not just opening the checkbook. Taking control of Bond means, probably, separate sets of negotiations.

Still, Bond is one of the last remaining properties not totally under control of a major studio. Will this week’s events prompt somebody to try seizing control of “the gentleman agent with a license to kill”?

Get ready for a new era with Disney-Fox deal

Walt Disney Co. logo

UPDATE (7:10 a.m., Dec. 14): Walt Disney Co. announced this morning it was acquiring the 20th Century Fox studio and other Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock.

Among the bullet points in the press release: “Popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic to join Disney’s portfolio.

Disney also said CEO Robert Iger, 66, who has postponed retirement once already, will remain in the post through 2021. It was under Iger that Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars), deals dwarfed by this latest one.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 13): Walt Disney Co. reportedly is about to buy 20th Century Fox and other major assets from 21st Century Fox. (Both CNBC and The New York Times have said the deal may be announced Thursday.)

Many entertainment and fan websites have concentrated on how major Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, now controlled by Fox, would come under Disney and its Marvel Studios unit.

The business media (such as this CNBC story) has focused on how the deal would bolster Disney with its plans to start a streaming service to challenge Netflix.

However, such a deal would cut the number of major studios releasing movies. 20th Century-Fox probably would become another brand for Disney and be involved in fewer movies overall. As the Daily Beast put it last month, “A Disney-Fox Merger Is Bad for Everyone But Disney.” Also, such a transaction may spur additional deal making and consolidation.

Fox currently handles home video distribution for James Bond films, with its current deal lasting through June 2020. It’s uncertain how or when a Disney acquisition of Fox assets would affect that. Disney may have its hands full dealing with Marvel characters and streaming issues that the 007 home video situation may have to wait.

Meanwhile, if a Disney-Fox hookup spurs more consolidation, it’s possible the Bond franchise may be affected. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, is a relative runt.

MGM is just now — seven years after exiting bankruptcy — taking steps to distributing its own movies again by forming a distribution joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Could MGM get gobbled up at some point?

In any case, the anticipated Disney-Fox deal means things won’t be the same.