UPDATED: MGM’s possible studio partners for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Back in April, the blog took a look at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s potential studio partners for Bond 25.

Well, no decision has been reached (or at least announced) since then, but there have been developments among the studios. So here’s an updated look at the studios that may co-finance and distribute the next James Bond film.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four Bond films but its most recent contract expired with SPECTRE.

Sony’s share of the Bond profits were paltry the past two films. New leadership took over the studio and Amy Pascal, the executive who negotiated that deal, is gone.

Still, it may be the case that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sony this summer tried to revive Ghostbusters, this time featuring four women ghostbusters. (Pascal was one of the producers.) The Hollywood Reporter said in an August story that the new film is on track to lose $70 million and that a sequel is unlikely.

Sony and Marvel Studios are working together on a new Spider-Man movie (with Marvel in creative control). But Sony remains in need of a movie “franchise.”

Radar Online, an entertainment and gossip website, this weekend RAN A POST saying that Sony “should be announcing any day that the studio is re-upping the distribution rights for the Bond series.” Further, it says Sony (it doesn’t mention MGM) is offering Daniel Craig, 48, $150 million to do two more Bond movies.

We’ll slap the Caveat Emptor label on that. One of Sony’s problems with the last two 007 movies is, while they generated $2 billion in worldwide box office, the studio was third in line (behind MGM and Eon Productions) in getting money despite putting up half of the large production budgets.

Paying your leading man $75 million per movie isn’t going to help studio profitability. But we’ll see what happens. Regardless, Sony’s interest in Bond likely remains high, especially after this summer’s Ghostbusters movie.

Warner Bros.: The studio has its hands full with its slate of movies featuring DC Comics characters.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the No. 5 movie worldwide so far this year at $872.7 million. Another DC-based movie, Suicide Squad, featuring villains forced to work for the government, is No. 8 worldwide at $643.4 million.

Most studios would love such a result, but “Mr. Warner” was hoping for more than $1 billion for Batman v Superman. Rival Marvel Studios, part of Walt Disney Co., is No. 1 for 2016 at $1.15 billion for Captain America: Civil War.

Still, the studio isn’t backing down, with a movie version of the Justice League in the works for 2017, picking up where Batman v Superman left off. Does the studio have the bandwidth to also co-finance Bond films?

Paramount: When last we looked in on Paramount, there was a lot of turmoil at its parent company, Viacom.

Well, that soap opera reached a resolution last month, including the forced departure of Paramount chief Philippe Dauman. That raises the question whether new leadership at the studio can mount an effort to strike a deal with MGM.

Paramount co-financed and released MGM’s Ben-Hur remake, which reached theaters last month. The movie bombed, apparently the answer to a question audiences weren’t asking.

20th Century Fox: Not much has changed here. Fox has a deal with MGM to handle home video distribution of Bond movies.

 

Suicide Squad is No. 1 again, albeit with a big falloff

The Joker after reading the Rotten Tomatoes website about Suicide Squad.

The Joker celebrates after Suicide Squad repeats as No. 1 movie in America.

“Mr. Warner” got good news and not-so-good news about Suicide Squad.

The Warner Bros./DC Entertainment movie about super villains forced to work for the government was again the No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada, with an estimated box office take of $43.8 million for the Aug. 12-14 weekend, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO.

The not-so-good news was that represents a 67 percent falloff from its opening weekend. Still, the movie is estimated to generate U.S.-Canada box office of almost $223 million through today.

Suicide Squad isn’t nearly as well known as DC kingpins Batman and Superman. Three characters in the movie (Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Killer Croc) had their origins as Batman villains.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the first film appearance together of the flagship DC characters, had U.S.-Canada box office of $330 million earlier this year. So, you can argue that Suicide Squad is punching above its weight.

Suicide Squad is arguably going to perform about as well as we could have hoped a Task Force X movie to play,” Forbes.com’s Scott Mendelson wrote. “Regarding actual grosses, it was indeed a live-action shot-in-the-arm to the summer box office that the theaters needed after a somewhat underwhelming mid-May to late-July period.”

Suicide Squad also includes cameo appearances by two DC heroes and has some scenes that set up bits for future movies based on DC characters.

Suicide Squad opens big despite reviews

The Joker after reading the Rotten Tomatoes website about Suicide Squad.

“We’re No 1!” The Joker chanted.

Despite bad reviews and reports about production and editing problems, Suicide Squad opened big in the U.S. and Canada.

The Warner Bros./DC Entertainment movie generated estimate box office in the region of $135.1 million for the Aug. 5-7 weekend, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

The results were, no doubt, welcome news for “Mr. Warner” (this blog’s nickname for Warners). The studio has a lot riding on movies based on characters originally published by DC Comics.

The movie, about a group of villains forced to work for the government, initially had positive buzz when its first trailer was released early this year.

Over the past week, that changed as critics panned the movie and The Hollywood Reporter published a story describing reshoots and a last-minute attempt to light the film’s tone in the editing room. The IndieWire website published a follow-up story saying Suicide Squad was “the product of everything that’s wrong with studio filmmaking.”

The main question now is whether Suicide Squad can hold on to its audience and attract some repeat viewings. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened big in March ($166 million its opening weekend), but it fell off quickly.

Jason Bourne was the No. 2 movie of the weekend, with estimated box office of $22.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, a 62 percent drop from its opening weekend.. That movie has a global box office of $195.3 million, with $103.4 million of that coming from the U.S. and Canada.

 

‘Mr. Warner’ having a bad week (so far) with Suicide Squad

The Joker after reading the Rotten Tomatoes website about Suicide Squad.

The Joker after reading the Rotten Tomatoes website about Suicide Squad.

Mr. Warner (our nickname for Warner Bros.) has been having a bad week as Suicide Squad, the studio’s latest big DC Comics-based movie, is about to debut.

First, there were the reviews. Good news: Suicide Squad scored better than the 27 percent “fresh” rating of March’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Bad news: Not much better. As of Wednesday afternoon, Suicide Squad has a 32 percent “fresh” rating on the same website.

Now bad reviews by themselves don’t necessary translate to financial ruin. Batman v Superman had a global box office of almost $873 million. However, it didn’t match a number of Marvel Studios movies (including two Avengers films) that scored global ticket sales exceeding $1 billion. Also, Batman v Superman had a big opening but fell off quickly.

Until this week, there had been positive buzz about Suicide Squad, about a group of Batman villains forced to work for the government. Beyond the bad reviews, a story today by Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter suggests a lot of behind-the-scenes intrigue affected the film, including millions of dollars of reshoots. A sample:

Yet if the villain team-up ultimately works — and it has drawn some harsh early reviews — it will be in spite of the kind of behind-the-scenes drama that is becoming typical for giant franchise movies that now are the main focus of the studio business: a production schedule engineered to meet an ambitious release date; a director, David Ayer (Fury), untested in making tentpole movies; and studio executives, brimming with anxiety, who are ready to intercede forcefully as they attempt to protect a branded asset.

That’s probably not the kind of reading Mr. Warner was looking forward to just ahead of the film’s debut.

Now, as the Masters story notes, there are estimates that Suicide Squad could have an opening weekend of $140 million. Still, Mr. Warner has a lot riding on DC Comics-based films, as it tries to match rival Marvel Studios and its owner, Walt Disney Co. So Suicide Squad is going to get even more scrutiny than the average big-budget movie.

We’ll see how it turns out for Mr. Warner in short order. If that big Suicide Squad opening materializes — and Suicide Squad doesn’t fade as quickly as Batman v Superman did — the bad buzz will fade quickly.

DC rolls out more optimistic take on movies

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman was criticized for being overly dark.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Book Con, Warner Bros./DC Entertainment provided its first preview of an more optimistic take on its super hero movies.

The studio used Comic Con to show a trailer for the Woman Woman movie scheduled for June 2017. Also unveiled was a video with footage from Justice League, due out for release in the fall of 2017.

To a degree, both seemed lighter than Batman v Superman, which was criticized in late March for its mostly dark and somber tone.

Batman v Superman got a ton of bad reviews, reflected in a only a 27 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. More importantly, for studio executives, its worldwide box office was $872.7 million.

While impressive for most movies, the movie plunged after a huge opening its first weekend. Also, Warners was looking to join the $1 billion club. The movie didn’t match the 2015 James Bond movie SPECTRE ($880.7 million).

WB/DC’s big competitor, Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, made to the $1 billion club again a few months later with Captain America: Civil War. That movie had a serious, emotional payoff while still retaining the type of humor seen in other Marvel films.

Since then, there has have been executive changes at DC, including elevating Geoff Johns, a comic book writer turned executive, to co-head of DC’s movie operations. The news was broken in May by The Hollywood Reporter, which described the move as a “course correction.”

New York magazine’s Vulture website described Johns as “big on hope and optimism.”

The studio has a lot riding, in particular, on Justice League, because it’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers movies (the Justice League came first in the comics). Also, Justice League, is being directed by Zack Snyder, the director of Batman v Superman.

Anyway, both trailers are below.

Soderbergh says he was twice approached about 007 films

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Director Steven Soderbergh says he twice was in discussions about working on a James Bond film, according to THE PLAYLIST website.

The director, who previously vowed to retire at age 50 but is still at it, made the comments during a screening of his 2012 film Haywire, according to The Playlist.

Here’s an excerpt with the few details:

When the conversation swung back to “Haywire,” Soderbergh dropped a big reveal about the 007 series. “Over the years, I’ve been in conversations… ,” he said with a pause and some hesitation and then just blurted it out. “I’ve been approached twice about doing a Bond film. And it never quite got anywhere. And [‘Haywire’] in some ways, was my opportunity to do what I would do with a Bond movie.”

That’s all there is Bond-wise. No details available about the time the supposed discussions took place.

Haywire, released in the United States in early 2012, featured Gina Carano as a double crossed spy operative who gets revenge. It was made in 2011, before Sodebergh was supposed to make a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Soderbergh dropped out of the U.N.C.L.E. project in late 2011 following disagreements with Warner Bros. over casting and budget. The U.N.C.L.E. film eventually was directed by Guy Ritchie.

Soderbergh is scheduled this fall to director Logan Lucky, a heist film that includes Daniel Craig in its cast, part of the actor’s growing list of non-007 projects.

Forbes raises idea of a Nolan-directed 007 film

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

In the absence of any actual James Bond news, Forbes.com made the case for how Christoper Nolan could enter the world of 007.

The post by Forbes contributor Mark Hughes says Warner Bros. is the studio best situated to strike a new 007 film distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. If that happens, according to Hughes, it could be the catalyst for Nolan to enter the picture.

Mr. Warner (this blog’s nickname for Warners, based on the studio’s cartoons who addressed the unseen Jack L. Warner) “is pursuing the rights full steam and has much to offer — enough, in fact, that I think it makes them the most likely studio to secure the Bond rights,” Hughes wrote. “Warner could use another solid, reliable franchise right now. I also believe Warner is in a strong position to put forward a better deal than other contenders.”

Mr. Warner, meanwhile enjoys a good relationship with Nolan. The director helmed a Batman trilogy for the studio from 2005 to 2012. As a reward, Warner Bros. financed Nolan’s 2010 Inception movie. Nolan, 45, is currently directing a World War II film, Dunkirk, for Warners.

“Warner seems the most likely to bring Christopher Nolan aboard the franchise, and that’s a big chip in the studio’s favor,” Hughes wrote for Forbes.

Nolan has said he likes Bond and 2008’s The Dark Knight includes Bond-inspired bits. Also, Inception included an homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Some fans are intrigued by the idea of a Nolan-helmed Bond film and Nolan’s influences were seen in the Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall and SPECTRE.

In May 2013, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who had a history of being correct about his 007 scoops, reported Nolan had been approached about directing what would become SPECTRE. But it became a moot issue when Mendes agreed to a second turn in Bondage.

However, there is a potential barrier to Nolan taking on 007 which would have to be addressed.

Nolan also produces movies, via his production company Syncopy. His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on those films. Would Eon Production co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson agree to such an arrangement on a Bond film?

Eon, in the 21st century, has given directors more freedom than the early years of the franchise. Still, it seems unlikely Broccoli and Wilson simply would yield to Thomas. Could they work out a deal where they’d work together, similar to the way Kevin McClory worked with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman on Thunderball?

Some fans figure Nolan loves Bond so much, he’d simply come aboard without his Syncopy associates. As Tracy said in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “I wouldn’t go banco on that.”

Again, there’s no actual news here. It’s just the speculation about Bond 25 is now branching out from potential successors to Daniel Craig (who has not actually publicly said he’s quitting the Bond role) to other matters.