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Sony: James Bond after Spectre

MGM’s chairman calls the studio a ‘great partner’

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MGM

In Spectre, James Bond uses every trick in his considerable arsenal — speed seduction, daylight assassinations, exploding watches, cars with ejector seats — to take down the furtive crime cartel SPECTRE. In Hollywood, a no-less-fervid campaign is currently underway to establish which movie studio will distribute 007 movies in the future.

Since 2006’s Casino Royale, the first film of the modern Bond era to star British actor Daniel Craig, Sony Pictures Entertainment has served as co-distributor with longtime distributor MGM. But after a string of increasingly successful blockbusters together — Quantum of Solace topped Casino’s box-office tally in 2008 and 2012’s Skyfall became the most lucrative 007 installment of all time, grossing $1.1 billion — Sony’s deal is set to expire with the wide release roll-out of Spectre on Friday.

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At a time when Hollywood remains fixated on global movie franchises with built-in brand awareness (think: Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Marvel Cinematic Universe), the Double-0 agent ranks among the hottest of intellectual properties. And the other major studios — Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount and Disney — are reportedly stalking franchise rights before they hit the auction block.

Where Bond winds up will ultimately fall to MGM, the spy series’ distribution home for more than five decades, even though Eon Productions (the Bond film licensing company established by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Henry Saltzman that has produced every official series installment since 1962’s Dr. No), remains responsible for producing the movies. “We don’t get involved in those negotiations,” says Michael G. Wilson, who has produced Bond films for Eon since 1979. “MGM distributes the film. How they go about it is really their affair.”

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Eon producer Barbara Broccoli is Albert Broccoli’s daughter and Wilson’s half-sister. She has co-operated the Bond franchise as a family business since the late ‘80s and makes a point to praise departed Sony studio chief Amy Pascal with whom the company negotiated its original deal while making no predictions about the future. “We’re very happy with Sony. We had a great relationship with Amy,” Broccoli says. “This is the fourth — hopefully — successful film with them.”

Furthering that impression, Spectre shattered UK box-office records, taking in £41 million last week. And the thriller could haul in as much as $80 million over its American debut weekend.

In an interview with EW, MGM’s chief executive and chairman Gary Barber similarly extolled the Sony partnership. But he pointedly did not make any promise of future commitments. 

“The only way I can comment is, this is the crown jewels of MGM,” Barber says. “Moving forward to the release of Spectre with Sony, they are the incumbent distributor. We have not made any decision on the future. They have been a great partner and we will evaluate what’s in the best interests of MGM down the road with our partners at Eon. And we will address it after Spectre.”