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Sony set to secure Bond 23 distribution deal with MGM

07-Feb-2011 • Skyfall

Deadline hears that Sony Pictures is close to landing distribution rights to MGM's James Bond franchise again, and specifically for the next untitled Bond #23, even though several studios are still very much in the hunt. Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton distributed both Daniel Craig 007 pics, Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, and now have moved into first position to recapture 007. That's because Sony is agreeing to allow MGM's new leadership to leverage the next Bond pic, and indeed the Bond franchise, to create more cash flow for the reconstituted studio post-bankruptcy. The new brass, Spyglass Entertainment co-owners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum who are now the Co-Chairmen andCEOs of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, are finishing negotiations to co-finance a number of films with Sony. Deadline has learned that Pascal and Lynton have already found a title on the Sony slate for MGM to co-finance. That's exactly how Birnbaum and Barber built Spyglass in the first place: by investing in films it didn't make, such as The Sixth Sense and the recently rebooted Star Trek.



There's no doubt this is a shrewd move by MGM, but Deadline also learned it wasn't sitting well with the majors. Top execs at Sony and Fox and Paramount and Warner Bros were increasingly frustrated with the way that the Spyglass duo were playing one studio off another -- "and enjoying it," in the words of one exec involved. Sony at the time even described its strategy to win Bond #23 as "pleading". Now it looks like that worked along with agreeing to much of MGM's negotiating terms.

Even though MGM holds sway on where Bond #23 lands, a 007 return to the Sony fold would please EON partners Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson. Amy Pascal in particular has developed a strong personal and professional relationship with Broccoli when they were making the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig. Broccoli and Wilson found Craig among a list of possible 007s, and the choice wasn't popular at first. But Pascal supported Craig. Also Sony has a reputation for spending big to market Bond: for Casino Royale, Sony spent a humongous sum worldwide to introduce the new Bond. MGM was supposed to distribute the 23rd Bond film itself, until the studio was pushed into bankruptcy.

As Deadline previously reported, MGM wanted to make an overall deal for worldwide theatrical and home entertainment distribution of not just Bond but also MGM's new product as well as its library of films. But what wasn't known is that, as part of that deal, MGM sought from whichever studio is chosen to distribute Bond #23 an agreement to co-finance a number of films. "That would provide MGM quick cash flow," an insider told Deadline. "The quick cash flow allows MGM to have revenue which it hasn't had in a long time. Thereby their books look better, and therefore the possibility of getting more funds for production is increased. So expect whichever studio lands Bond to also announce it is several co-financing deals allowing MGM into other pics that are already shooting."

Click here for the full report on Deadline.

UPDATE: We're told Paramount dropped out of the Bond bidding when MGM insisted on bringing the distribution fee under 8% and when MGM got "grabby" in wanting a piece of a Paramount established franchise that studio didn't want to give up.

Thanks to `Quantumofsolace007` for the alert.

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