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.

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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.

Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.

CNBC says Disney ‘closing in’ on deal to buy most of Fox

Walt Disney Co. logo

CNBC reported today that Walt Disney Co. is “closing in” on a deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

The financial news network said a deal may be announced as early next week. CNBC cited people it didn’t identiy

CNBC originally reported Nov. 6 that the two sides had conducted negotiations. At that time, CNBC described the talks as on again, off again and that negotiations weren’t currently underway.

Now, CNBC said, “The deal contemplates the sale of Fox’s Nat Geo, Star, regional sports networks, movie studios and stakes in Sky and Hulu, among other properties. What would remain at Fox includes its news and business news divisions, broadcast network and Fox sports.”

Such a transaction has the potential to shake up entertainment properties. Disney owns Marvel. But Fox controls key Marvel properties such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Also, Fox performs home video distribution for James Bond films.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, NBC and CNBC, has also been in talks with 21st Century Fox. However, “the talks with Disney have progressed more significantly,” according to today’s CNBC report.

Marvel Studios boss teases a ‘finale’

Marvel art in 2016 celebrating the eighth anniversary of Iron Man (2008).

Marvel Studios gave Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson a peek behind the curtain, which included mention of a “finale” with 2019’s as-yet unnamed Avengers movie.

The man doing the talking was none other than Kevin Feige, who runs the Walt Disney Co.-owned operation.

While Feige refused to reveal any details about the characters and stories Marvel has yet to introduce, he did promise a definitive end to the franchise that built Marvel. Avengers 4, he said, will “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale.”

(snip)

“There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting,” Feige teased.

A number of the franchise’s key actors, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, have contracts nearing their end, Robinson writes for the magazine’s Holiday 2017 issue. Also, actors naturally like to move on to new challenges. Downey will have played Tony Stark for more than a decade in multiple inter-connected movies by the time Avengers 4 comes out in May 2019.

In a way, Marvel has at times adapted the old Eon Productions playbook, including balancing drama and humor and finding ways to economize even though the movies are expensive overall. At the same time, Marvel is definitely an example of the corporate model of movie making compared with the still family-controlled Eon.

In turn, there other studios have tried to establish “movie universes.” So far, at least, they haven’t matched Marvel’s track record.

007: With media consolidation, just a piece on the board

“Sorry, Kronsteen. Disney just bought you out.”

In less than a week, there have been two developments that reinforced how James Bond — despite his cinema history — is just a piece of the chessboard.

On Halloween, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures announced a joint venture to release movies in the U.S.

MGM is 007’s home studio and controls half of the franchise. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal. Still, it was a reminder how Bond fans don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes.

MGM hasn’t had a distribution operation since exiting bankruptcy in 2010. The Annapurna deal is a first step toward being a “big boy” studio again. Still, it’s not clear how this affects the Bond franchise just yet.

On Monday, CNBC reported that Walt Disney Co. had engaged in discussions with Rupert Mucdock’s 21st Century Fox to buy most of the 20th Century Fox movie and TV operations.

That has the potential to affect Bond because Fox has a contract for home video distribution of 007 films. It has even more potential to affect Marvel Studios. Disney owns Marvel but Fox licenses key properties such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

For now, according to CNBC, the “two sides are not currently talking at this very moment.” But, until Monday, nobody had an inkling this was even a possibility. 

Back in February, this blog suggested MGM needed to get bigger or get out. The blog took some flak from on social media for daring to suggest MGM wasn’t as strong as other studios. Nine months later, this blog may have been proven right and then some.

It was once observed (by Shady Tree) that Willard Whyte liked “to play Monopoly with real buildings.” In 2017, it’s not just real buildings that are stake. The fate of major movie franchises is also in the pot.

How is it going to turn out? Your guess is as good as the blog’s. But next time you see someone on social media saying they know what’s going to happen, don’t believe them.