The James Bond series may be 55 years old, but it’s still the prettiest girl at the ball. After finishing their four-film distribution deal with Sony following the release of Spectre in 2015, 007 owners Eon Productions and MGM started shopping around for a new partner. Right now, the bulk of the suitors are the older, more established companies. However, it seems that Annapurna, the young hotshot behind some of the most interesting and daring movies of the past few years, has thrown its hat into the ring.
The New York Times has the juicy details on the five-way showdown for the James Bond distribution rights. Heavy-hitters like Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox have been courting Eon and MGM, attempting to woo the lucrative franchise into being their date to the blockbuster prom. However, Sony isn’t taking the break-up lying down. They’re standing on Eon and MGM’s lawn with boombox. Or rather, they’re pitching the Bond producers on their deal from a recreation of a set seen in the first James Bond movie, 1962’s Dr. No. Seriously. They’re thirsty, but you have to admire the commitment.
However, the most interesting contender is Annapurna Pictures, Megan Ellison’s company that was founded in 2011 and has distributed movies like The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Foxcatcher, and Spring Breakers. They dipped their toe into more mainstream waters with last year’s Sausage Party and they apparently liked how it felt. They’re a fair bit more adventurous than your typical studio, throwing their weight behind unique filmmakers and eclectic projects. Do they have the muscle to co-finance and distribute the next James Bond movie, which will undoubtedly cost north of $200 million to produce? Who knows. But it’s the kind of move that will let them dig in their heels and play with the big guys.
One of the most interesting notes in the article is that the James Bond franchise isn’t even especially lucrative for the distributor. Here’s an example:
Under its previous agreement, Sony paid 50 percent of the production costs for Spectre — which totaled some $250 million after accounting for government incentives — but only received 25 percent of certain profits, once costs were recouped. Sony also shouldered tens of millions of dollars in marketing and had to give MGM a piece of the profit from non-Bond films Sony had in its own pipeline, including 22 Jump Street.
So, why does everyone want in on this? It’s simple, really: because being the company that releases James Bond movies is cool. Not to mention that fact that the Bond movies are huge enough to essentially guarantee some profit, even if it’s not much.
In any case, the studio that wins the day will be the studio that most impresses producers Barbara Broccoli (the daughter of original Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli) and Michael G. Wilson (her half brother), who have been steering the 007 franchise since the ’90s. What’s currently unknown is whether or not Daniel Craig will return one more time, although the article notes that he has an upcoming gap in his schedule that would be just right for the 25th James Bond adventure.
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