Business of Bond: MGM goes studio shopping

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What studio will release the next 007 film?

Even as SPECTRE rolls out, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is gearing up its search for the next James Bond distribution deal, according to stories in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. That deal runs out with SPECTRE.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story by Ben Fritz:

Several studios are planning to pursue those (distribution) rights, according to people familiar with the matter, even though there is surprisingly little profit in releasing Bond films.

The Journal dug up a Sony document that saw the light of day because of last year’s computer hacking at the studio.

With Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, “Sony made just $57 million” on the the 2012 007 film, “a small sum for a movie with such a huge box-office performance,” according to the newspaper.

MGM made about $175 million while the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, made about $109 million, the Journal reported, quoting the same document. MGM and Danjaq, Eon’s holding company, declined to comment to the Journal.

Sony’s take might be even less for SPECTRE, according to the newspaper.

In the same leaked document, a Sony executive projected that if “Spectre” were to cost $250 million to produce and repeat the same box office as “Skyfall,” Sony’s profit would be $38 million.

The budget for “Spectre” is just under $250 million, said a person close to the movie, compared with $209 million for “Skyfall.”

MGM and the Wilson-Broccoli clan co-own the Bond franchise. MGM got its share after it acquired United Artists in the early 1980s. UA, in turn, acquired its stake in Bond when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold it in 1975 because of financial problems.

Despite the relatively small return, other studios are expected to seek to displace Sony as MGM’s 007 distributor.

“Here’s what we hear,” Deadline’s Anity Busch and Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “007 rights gatekeepers (MGM CEO Gary) Barber, and Wilson and Broccoli, will wait until Spectre plays around the world and accumulates an ungodly global gross that will only strengthen their leverage. And then, early next year, they will make the best deal. If that means bidding farewell to Sony, so be it.”

The Deadline Hollywood story does some handicapping about the prospects for different studios striking a deal with MGM. Busch and Fleming, in particular, play up Warner Bros. as a 007 distribution contender.

The duo write “a source sighted” MGM’s Barber and Warners chief “Kevin Tsujihara at the Montage Hotel recently…According to our source, the chatter seemed more intense than a meet and greet. It looked like they were throwing around numbers. Not surprisingly, Warner Bros has been oft mentioned as the most aggressive in this hunt.”

To read the entire Wall Street Journal story, CLICK HERE. To read the Deadline: Hollywood story, CLICK HERE.

Bill Finger to get credit on Batman adaptations, THR says

Gotham promotional art

Gotham promotional art

Bill Finger, widely viewed as the co-creator of Batman, is to get a credit for his work on Batman-related adaptations, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SAID.

Finger will begin receiving a credit on the Gotham television series “beginning later this season,” according to a statement from DC Entertainment published by THR. Finger (1914-1974) will also get a credit in the 2016 film Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice, DC said in the statement.

Bob Kane has received sole creator credit for Batman since the character debuted in 1939, including seven Warner Bros. movies released since 1989.

Finger’s contributions to the character include major revisions to Kane’s original costume (such as the cowl and gauntlets as well as a dark color scheme), the Bruce Wayne true identity, Bruce Wayne back story, the original Robin, the original Robin’s back story, etc. Finger wrote the first Batman story published in Detective Comics No. 27 and many other early stories.

In 2014, illustrator Ty Templeton did a cartoon showing what Batman would have been like without Finger’s contributions.

DC said in the statement published by THR it and Finger’s family “reached an agreement that recognizes Mr. Finger’s significant contributions to the Batman family of characters.”

In addition to Batman, Finger also co-created the original version of Green Lantern, which debuted in 1940. Finger also co-wrote a two-part story in the 1966 Batman television series.

DC has long been owned by the various parent companies of Warner Bros. DC now is part of Warner Bros. and moved to Burbank, California, from New York, the comics company’s long-time home.

U.N.C.L.E.-Batman comic book scheduled


A comic book story featuring a crossover between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Batman has been scheduled, NEWSARAMA.COM REPORTED.

This is part of the Batman ’66 title published by DC Comics.

How is this possible? DC has long been a corporate cousin of Warner Bros. DC now is part of Warners, even moving from its long-time home in New York to Burkbank, California, home base of Warner Bros.

That move reflects how Warners is ramping up its output of films based on DC characters. The studio also controls The Man From U.N.C.L.E. original series, which ran from 1964 to 1968.

Batman ’66 is based on the 1966-68 series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The comic uses the likenesses of the actors. DC has published crossover stories with The Green Hornet, mimicking a teamup from the original Batman show. The comic even published a story based on a rejected script plot by Harlan Ellison for the Batman series.

According to, the U.N.C.L.E. crossover will be published in December.

“The deadly organization known as T.H.R.U.S.H. has a new twist in their plans for world conquest—they’re recruiting some of Gotham City’s most infamous villains!,” according to a description published by “Agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin bring this information to the one man who knows everything about these new enemies: Batman. Before you can say ‘Open channel D,”’the Dynamic Duo and the Men from U.N.C.L.E. are jetting off to Europe to thwart the schemes of this deadly criminal cartel.”

In real life, the U.N.C.L.E. television series was influenced by the Batman show. In U.N.C.L.E.’s VERY LIGHT THIRD SEASON, two regular Batman writers, Stanford Sherman and Stanley Ralph Ross, were hired to contribute scripts. Ross even worked THE SAME JOKE into both series.

UPDATE: If you CLICK HERE, you can read a 2013 Den of Geek story about the rejected Harlan Ellison story for the Batman television series, which featured Two Face as the villain.

Final thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. film

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now in U.S. theaters and heading for international screens over the next few weeks, we conclude (for now, at least) our coverage of the return of Solo and Kuryakin with these observations.

It’s a miracle the movie even got made: The new version of U.N.C.L.E. got off to a disappointing start in U.S. theaters, getting steamrolled by Straight Outta Compton. But three years ago, many U.N.C.L.E. fans be happy there was even a film to be steamrolled.

For decades, it seemed like there was a curse. Various attempts were made to revive U.N.C.L.E. to no avail. It finally happened. It’s not a hit in the U.S. That’s show biz. But the project survived many obstacles.

Marketing a movie is really hard: Warner Bros. (or “Mr. Warner” as we like to jokingly refer to the studio) was faced with a challenged property.

The original U.N.C.L.E. fan base is aging. There hadn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production (The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV film) since 1983. The studio had to reach out to a broader public.

Mr. Warner tried a lot. U.N.C.L.E. was part of Warner Bros. activities at the San Diego Comic Con. The studio had a press junket in Rome. It flooded broadcast and cable television with advertisements. It flooded social media for at least the last month.

Warner Bros. also had test screenings in 2014, trying to see if younger viewers would be interested. It appeared to test well. But it’s a different deal from letting people in for free for a testing screening compared with expecting people to spend their own money.

The studio wasn’t helped when rival Paramount shifted Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31, two weeks before U.N.C.L.E. For Warners there were two choices: shift U.N.C.L.E. to a third release date or make a stand on Aug. 14. It’s hard to argue, except with hindsight, Mr. Warner made the wrong choice.

This should also be a reminder that what Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios is pretty remarkable. Marvel has interested audiences in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man, in addition to its more familiar characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. It bears repeating: Marketing a movie is really hard.

Don’t mistake intensity for numbers: Some U.N.C.L.E. fans believed the movie would benefit from actor Henry Cavill’s intense fan base.

Cavill fans like their guy. A lot. And they’re fine folks. We’ve communicated with them quite a bit via social media. But it takes more than an intense fan base to turn a movie into a hit. To become a hit, a movie has to reach out to the broader public.

U.N.C.L.E. movie underwhelms in U.S. opening

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

UPDATE (Aug. 17) — Revised figures on Monday, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBERS WEBSITE, put The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie at $13.4 million, compared to $60.2 million for Straight Outta Compton.

(ORIGINAL POST): The Man From U.N.C.L.E. underperformed in the United States and Canada, finishing No. 3 in its debut weekend with estimated ticket sales of $13.5 million, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Guy Ritchie’s reinterpretation of the 1964-68 television series trailed Straight Outta Compton, a film about the rap group N.W.A. at $56.1 million and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, in its third weekend of release.

The Tom Cruise M:I film had estimate weekend ticket sales of $17 million, according to A TWEET from Exhibitors Relations.

Straight Outta Compton initially was estimated to produce a $30 million opening weekend and is coming in at almost twice that. It also was also shown on 2,757 screens, compared with U.N.C.L.E.’s 3,638, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Over the weekend on social media, there was some debate about all this. Those who were annoyed (or worse) that the movie didn’t retain the series’ secret headquarters, Jerry Goldsmith theme (only a few notes were used in the film), or who wanted different casting, etc., said the results validated their positions.

The answer, though, may be more simple than that. It could be that outside of the aging U.N.C.L.E. fan base (including folks such as the Spy Commander) and the younger Henry Cavill fan base, there weren’t that many people who wanted to see the movie.

Warner Bros. can’t be blamed for a lack of marketing support. The studio bought ads all over U.S. television the past few weeks. For example, it paid for a two-minute ad on the ABC prime-time telecast of the ESPN ESPY awards. The spot ran shortly before transgender ex-athlete Caitlyn Jenner picked up an award for sports courage, the main highlight of the show.

Would having Jerry Goldsmith’s full theme boosted the box office take? If a great Goldsmith theme had that much impact, the 1973 series Hawkins on CBS would have lasted longer than a season and the 1975 Archer series (as in Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer) on NBC would have run longer than six episodes.

Would having the secret HQs, complete with Del Floria’s tailor shop have changed the outcome? 2015 audiences already had a secret HQs in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was basically an updated version of the U.N.C.L.E. secret HQs of the show.

Would having, say, Jon Hamm, the star of the now-completed Mad Men series, as Napoleon Solo instead of Henry Cavill changed things?

Hamm’s Million Dollar Arm in 2014 was No. 4 its opening weekend in the U.S. at $10.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It finished with worldwide box office of $38.3 million. Of course, to be fair, he also was the voice of Herb Overkill in Minions, which had worldwide box office of more than $900 million.

Would having cameos by Robert Vaughn or David McCallum, the stars of the original show, increased ticket sales significantly? Would ticket sales double or triple? Or would they have risen by 1 percent or less? Meanwhile, McCallum endorsed the film in a Fox News interview and that doesn’t seem to have had much impact.

For Warner Bros., the best hope for the film may be in overseas markets. The DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD website reported there were early signs of a better reception in various countries, including Russia.

U.N.C.L.E. movie premieres; now comes the big test

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie had a premiere in New York on Monday night.

Now comes the hard part — how will the movie do when its opens later this week?

The day started out with the movie’s stars, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, making a live appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America show (preceded by a Warner Bros. spot for the film).

The appearance itself was what you’d expect of the light approach Good Morning America takes on entertainment topics. “You better watch out, James Bond, because there are some new agents in town!” GMA co-host Robin Roberts said.

The interview covered similar topics referenced in previous interviews about the movie, including how Hammer watched YouTube videos of Russian speakers to perfect his own Russian accent and how Cavill’s bulk changes because he plays Superman.

Later, there were photos a plenty on social media on social media of the premiere itself, both from Warner Bros. and fans. One example:

Meanwhile, Lee Pfeiffer, the publisher of Cinema Retro, published a number of photos on Facebook, SUCH AS THESE. The Henry Cavill News website PUBLISHED EVEN MORE.

The test that now comes is whether a series that last aired when Lyndon B. Johnson was president (with one attempted revival during the first term of Ronald Reagan) can resonate with the 21st century public. The answer to that question will come in a few days.

‘Mr. Warner’ steps up ad spending for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

“Mr. Warner” has boosted ad spending for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie ahead of the film’s Aug. 14 release, VARIETY REPORTED on July 29.

The entertainment news site estimated Warner Bros. spent almost $11 million in its most recent weekly report of movie advertisement expenditures. The studio, a unit of Time Warner paid for “1,398 national airings across 42 networks, led by ESPN and Comedy Central,” according to Variety. Warners has spent $14.78 million on U.N.C.L.E. since July 14, according to a chart that accompanied the story.

Originally, Warner Bros. scheduled U.N.C.L.E. for a mid-January release, not considered a prime time for movie releases. “Mr. Warner” switched it to August, part of the summer movie season but after most “tentpole” films have arrived in theaters.

It appears Warners is betting The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can find a new audience. The original series ran from September 1964 to January 1968. The last U.N.C.L.E. production was the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which featured original stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

With next month’s film, director Guy Ritchie has stripped out familiar memes from the show, including its secret headquarters, while providing new takes on the characters of Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). The film had a production budget of $75 million.

No. 2 on the Variety ad-spending list was Paramount’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation at $6.57 million during 1,633 national telecasts over 44 networks. That film has showings tonight and its formal release date is Friday.

To see the Variety story and its list of the top five movies for ad spending, CLICK HERE.

Shoutout to Cynthia W. Walker and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page on Facebook.


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