Studios Battle For Bond
20th April 2017
Five studios are in the running for a partnership with MGM on the 25th James Bond film
By MI6 Staff
All four Daniel Craig films in the James Bond series so far have been distributed by Sony under a profit sharing deal with MGM. That marriage of convenience came about due to MGM being cash-strapped in the mid-2000s to fund the budgets, followed by a loss of their own distribution arm when the company was restructured coming out of bankruptcy. The two-film deal for 'Casino Royale' and 'Quantum of Solace' got upped to include 'Skyfall' and expired after 'SPECTRE'.
Former studio chief Amy Pascal, who was ousted in the aftermath of the Sony Pictures hack, was the driving force behind Sony partnership with MGM, which industry veterans criticized for being a bad deal for the studio. Sony had to front half the production budget, only took 25% of profits after costs, and also had to spend millions in marketing. With Pascal - who was a Bond fan and friend of Barbara Broccoli - gone from the studio, would the new Sony management team be interested in another deal? Yes, it turns out.
The New York Times is reporting today that Sony put on a lavish presentation to once again win the affections of MGM and EON Productions. On Tuesday this week, "leaders at Sony spent an hour making their case. Kazuo Hirai, the chief executive, helped give the pitch, which emphasized the studio’s deep knowledge of Bond and its ideas for expanding the franchise’s reach. In true Hollywood fashion, Sony gave its presentation inside a sound stage on a recreated set from 'Dr. No'," the paper reports.
There are other interested parties. Warner Bros, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Annapurna are all said to be in the running. Universal are probably the outsiders. The tight relationship between MGM chief Gary Barber and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara could see the lion favouring a deal with a new partner. MGM and Warner Bros have already teamed up on the 'Hobbit' trilogy and the Rocky spin-off 'Creed.'
20th Century Fox already has a deal with MGM for the Home Entertainment releases of all the James Bond films (including the ones Sony partnered to distribute theatrically).
The curve-ball in the report is the interest from newcomer Annapurna. Headed up by Oracle heiress Megan Ellison, the group has been behind box-office successes 'Her', 'Zero Dark Thirty', 'American Hustle' and animated comedy 'Sausage Party.' Landing Bond would put them on the global map as a serious contender to the traditional studios. MGM and Annapurna already have another deal for their films in select international territories.
Out of the running is said to be Paramount, who are cash-strapped and are relying on 'Mission: Impossible 6' to make a profit for them this year. Walt Disney Studios have also declined a pitch as they focus on family oriented films and their Marvel and Star Wars franchises.
According to the NYT report, whether Daniel Craig returns or not for a fifth outing as 007 was not confirmed to any of the studios who have been pitching.
MGM lost most of 2016 messing around with a Chinese takeover deal that ultimately fell apart. They recently spent $1b taking control over Epix, which increases their run-rate profits and makes them more attractive to potential buyers.
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