WB to distribute MGM movies internationally, Deadline says

MGM logo

Warner Bros. has agreed to distribute Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films internationally, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The agreement begins with “with Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All in November and continuing with the 2023 slate and beyond; the second title under the pact being Creed III in March,” Deadline said.

However, Warner Bros., part of Warner Bros. Discovery, will not be involved with MGM’s James Bond series right away.

No Time to Die, the most recent Bond film, was distributed by Universal internationally. That will remain in effect for Bond 26, according to Deadline.

“The terms of the new Warner Bros. agreement with MGM include the foreign distribution of subsequent 007 films from Bond 27 onward,” according to the entertainment news website.

Barbara Broccoli, the head of Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, has said it will be “at least two years” before Bond 26 begins filming. That would imply Bond 26 won’t be out until 2025 or so.

On the Warner Bros. side, the new agreement was hammered out by Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. They were formerly film executives at MGM.

Eon spoke highly of De Luca and Abdy and said it hoped they’d be retained after Amazon completed its acquisition of MGM. Instead, De Luca and Abdy departed and landed at Warner Bros.

Pierce Brosnan figures into Black Adam trailer

Warner Bros./DC has released the first trailer for Black Adam, a comic book-based movie that’s a starring vehicle for Dwayne Johnson.

Pierce Brosnan, however, figures into the trailer. The former James Bond actor plays Dr. Fate, a sorcerer character who has been around since 1940.

Black Adam will be out later this year. The trailer is below.

Batman, despite pandemic, remains a box office draw

Poster for The Batman

The Batman, Warner Bros.’ latest take on the iconic comic book character, got off to a rousing start at the box office despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

The Matt Reeves-directed film generated an estimated $128.5 million at the U.S. box office (including preview showings), according to Exhibitor Relations Co. The company tracks box office data.

Globally, The Batman is on track for an opening weekend of $248.5 million, ERC said.

In 2021, Warner Bros. was used by owner AT&T to drive business to streaming service HBO Max. Warner Bros. would release movies at the same time in theaters and on HBO Max.

Since then, AT&T has agreed to combine its WarnerMedia properties (including Warner Bros.) with Discovery. That deal is expected to close later this year.

Regardless, when I saw The Batman on Thursday night, it was preceded by a Warner Bros. trailer emphasizing how its major 2022 releases would be “only in theaters.” That trailer suggested an apology for 2021.

The Batman’s opening weekend reinforces Batman’s prominence in Warner Bros.’s collection of movie properties.

The Batman goes even darker

The Batman poster

Minimal spoilers

The Batman, Warner Bros.’ latest take on its most popular comic book character, goes even darker than previous incarnations.

Prime example: The Riddler, the movie’s primary villain, has traded in his bright green outfits for a much darker uniform. Also, this version of the Riddler really enjoys killing his enemis.

Beyond that, scenes are relentlessly dark. Anyone who watches a matinee showing will really squint their eyes after they leave the theater.

Besides more darkness, Gotham City is even more corrupt than before. The mob has its fingers into everything and seemingly everybody.

Still, director/co-screenwriter Matt Reeves finds a way to make Batman (Robert Pattinson here) his own. For example, Reeves plays up Batman’s role as a detective.

In the comics, Batman was billed as “the world’s greatest detective” and we get at least some of that here. However, the Riddler provides one clue that Pattinson’s Batman is slow to pick up on. Many members of the audience will be ahead of the game.

Pattinson seemed to be an unusual choice to play Bruce Wayne/Batman. Supposedly, he and Reeves had disagreements during production. But Pattinson is just fine, although you’d think a rich guy like Bruce Wayne could afford a hairbrush.

Reeves wisely avoids a detailed flashback of how Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed. Those events are referenced but there are no falling pearls as some movies have depicted when Martha Wayne got killed.

Also, Reeves sets his story two years into Wayne’s career as Batman. The relationship between Batman and Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is established when the movie begins.

One big plus for the movie is the score by Michael Giacchino. The composer has done scores for a number of Marvel films, including Spider-Man No Way Home. But Giacchino’s score for The Batman is nothing like that. His takes on two very different comic book characters are appropriate for each.

Is the movie flawed? At almost three hours, it’s too long.

At the same time, Reeves isn’t concerned with making Batman fit into a connected film universe. Everything is focused on Bruce Wayne, his personal issues, and a grim story.

The movie is worth seeing unless you hate comic book-based films on principle. It is ambitious. For me, it fell short. But fans of a dark, dark Batman will be enthusiastic. GRADE: B.

The NTTD-NSNA coincidence

h/t to reader Scott Hand to bringing this to my attention.

As almost everybody knows by now, the official U.S. release date for No Time to Die is Oct. 8. But major movies typically now have Thursday night “preview” showings. That means No Time to Die will be out the night of Oct. 7 at many U.S. theaters. (It will be out Sept. 30 in the U.K. and other countries.)

Oct. 7 also is the 38th anniversary of the U.S. release of Never Say Never Again. That was Sean Connery’s swan song as James Bond. But the movie wasn’t made by Eon Productions. Instead, it was a rival project and a remake (more or less) of Thunderball.

Never Say Never Again remains a sore point for Eon all these decades later. The 1983 movie originally was released by Warner Bros. But it’s now part of the film library of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. The last time I saw Never Say Never Again on TV, it had an Orion studio logo, which is an MGM brand.

All of this is coincidence, of course. No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of the COVID-19 pandemic and five times overall. Still, it is amusing in a way.

UPDATE: Reader Jason Kim (at The Ian Fleming Foundation page on Facebook) notes the coincidences extend further.

–Both Never Say Never Again and No Time to Die feature an aging Bond pressed back into service. Connery’s Bond is still with MI6 but at the start of the film has not been on active missions. Craig’s Bond has been away from MI6.

–Sean Connery was 53 was Never Say Never debuted. Daniel Craig will be 53 when No Time to Die debuts. (The delays with No Time to Die made that possible.)

–Both movies include M, Q, Moneypenny, Blofeld and Felix Leiter.

Some COVID-19 related movie news

There are some new tea leaves to read regarding motion pictures and COVID-19. Nothing definite, certainly not in connection with No Time to Die. But a few items to keep in mind.

Falling moviegoer confidence: The Hollywood Reporter said a late July poll indicates that confidence among moviegoers has lessened as the new delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.

An exerpt:

The results of a late July poll on moviegoing confidence levels were alarming. The National Research Group survey, closely watched by studios, showed that the overall comfort level had tumbled from a pandemic-era high of 81 percent to 72 percent in the span of just three weeks amid the delta variant. Moms appeared to be the most concerned about taking a trip to the multiplex, with their comfort index tumbling from 75 percent to 59 percent.

The story, by Pamela McClintock, references how the family film Clifford the Big Red Dog has been delayed from a planned September release. It raises questions whether other movies may also get delayed.

A notable comic book movie starts slow: Warner Bros.’s Suicide Squad debuts this weekend. It is available both in theaters and on HBO Max. It’s directed by James Gunn, who helmed two Guardians of the Galaxy films for Marvel. It’s essentially a do-over for the group of villains forced to work for the U.S. government. It also follows Birds of Prey, another Warners-DC comics film.

Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data, said on Twitter that film’s Thursday night preview shows were nothing special.

Of course, it’s still early.

UPDATE (Aug. 8): Things didn’t go so well.

There’s another MGM movie about to come out: That would be Respect, a film about the life of singer Aretha Franklin (1942-2018).

At one point, MGM viewed Respect as a way to get Oscar nominations. But then COVID-19 caused the studio to delay from late 2020 to the Aug. 13 weekend.

Like other MGM films (including No Time to Die), it is distributed in North America by United Artists Releasing, MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Respect is being shown “only in theaters,” just like No Time to Die.

h/t to David Zaritsky, via Morten Steingrimsen, who flagged The Hollywood Reporter story to my attention.

Media merry-go-round continues with AT&T-Discovery deal

One of the brands affected by Discovery’s deal with AT&T

The media business was shaken up, yet again, when AT&T announced today it’s opting to exit the media business and combining those assets with Discovery Inc.

Not that long ago, AT&T couldn’t wait to get into media as a way of combining “content” (Warner Bros., HBO, TBS, TCM, etc.) with wireless.

It was AT&T management that had Warner Bros. debut its 2021 film slate simultaneously in theaters (those that are open) and on the new HBO Max streaming service.

Never mind. AT&T’s media entities will be combined with Discovery’s, which include the likes of HGTV and The Food Network.

Why you should care: The deal announced today is a reminder that media (including, but not limited to, movie studios) remains volatile.

For James Bond fans, their hero is tethered to a media small fry, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM reportedly is for sale. It would be no surprise if MGM gets gobbled up by a bigger media player.

Why you could care Part II: The AT&T-Discovery deal involves a lot of prominent media properties. Warner Bros. already has been affected by being acquired by AT&T. Who knows what happens next?

What happens next: MGM controls some prominent media properties (the Bond franchise among them). The AT&T-Discovery deal that well encourage additional media deals. MGM is owned by hedge funds so now may be the time to cash out.

We’ll see.

About some of those Oscar ‘In Memoriam’ folks

Robert Osborne, who made an Oscars “In Memoriam,” in the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Over the weekend, the BAFTAs came out with its “In Memoriam” segment. Diana Rigg didn’t make it, apparently because the BAFTAs considered her a mere “television actor.” Meanwhile, the general public sometimes gets upset when familiar actors don’t make the cut for the “In Memoriam” segments of the BAFTAs and Ocars while insiders do.

To keep this post manageable, here are a list of Oscar “In Memoriam” entries largely unknown to the general pubic from recent Oscars telecasts.

2020 Oscars: Gerry Lewis, “marketing executive”: Lewis was “the British marketing and publicity expert who promoted such films as AlfieLove Story and The Godfather before spearheading international campaigns for Steven Spielberg efforts from Duel to Ready Player One,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2019 Oscars: Pierre Rissent, “an important behind-the-scenes figure at the Cannes Film Festival and, as a result, an influential shaper of cinematic trends and directors’ careers for half a century,” according to The New York Times. Also, Paul Bloch, a publicist “adept at putting out fires in Hollywood,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2018 Oscars: Robert Osborne, TCM host and earlier writer for Hollywood trade publications. He acted a bit including a small part in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies (a TV show, not a movie). Also, Joe Hyams, a long-time Warner Bros. publicity executive, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

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.

M:I 7’s theatrical window shortened

A stunt from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Mission: Impossible 7 will go to the revamped Paramount Plus service after just 45 days of theatrical release, Variety reported. The traditional theatrical window has been 90 days.

The move covers other Paramount movies, according to Variety.

The development is yet another example of the crumbling of the traditional 90-day theatrical window between a movie’s debut and it becoming available in some form of home video.

AT&T’s Warner Bros. for its theatrical releases this year is making new movies available simultaneously in theaters and AT&T’s HBO Max. Other studios are trying to figure out how to deal with the tsunami of streaming that’s engulfing the movie business.

Here’s an excerpt from Variety’s story about Paramount:

Those films will debut exclusively in theaters as planned. However, the studio has newly shorten the amount of time they will play exclusively on the big screen. After 45 days, new Paramount theatrical films will debut on the streaming service Paramount Plus. As part of the arrangement, Paramount has adjusted its pay TV output deal with Epix in order to bolster movie offerings on the nascent streaming service. Along with new releases, Paramount Plus will offer a deep library of more than 2,500 films.

Epix is a premium channel owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

You shouldn’t read too much into this. MGM is in hock to the tune of almost $290 million for No Time to Die. MGM has its own hard decisions in the new era — all while the studio is up for sale.

Rather, you should view this news as yet another indicator of how the movie business is in turmoil generally.