As November 6 2015, the U.S. release of the latest James Bond title Spectre draws closer, so too does the end of Sony’s distribution deal with MGM. Sony initially won the rights to the franchise in a deal brokered by former former Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO John Calley, who’d previously served as President and COO of United Artists and was instrumental in reviving the Bond film franchise with the 1995 title Goldeneye. When it came time to re-up the distribution deal, Amy Pascal was in charge, and though the deal she negotiated did allow her to have some creative input in the subsequent Bond titles, some wonder whether her ardor to keep the franchise may have resulted in Sony giving up too much, financially.
Several blockbusters, including Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and 21 Jump Street, and Skyfall which earned$1.1 billion globally, later Pascal has moved on to a career as film a producer. The new guy in charge, Tom Rothman, founder and former President of Fox Searchlight is known to be “a tough, bottom-line-minded executive who most feel would walk away from a deal that gave the studio market share at the expense of profit.” Meaning, if Sony isn’t going to profit as much as it should from the Bond, it’s unlikely he will fight to keep it as Pascal did before him.
However, in this time where Studios are constantly grasping for franchises with a built-in fanbase, there’s no denying the staying power of James Bond. 50 years after we first saw the character portrayed by Sean Connery on the big screen in Dr. No, 2012’s Skyfall became the highest grossing film in the series. And with Spectre likely ringing in the end Daniel Craig’s run as the iconic British spy and being the last Bond film that he and Skyfall director Sam Mendes work on together, it’s expected that the newest film will at least match, if not exceed the previous in terms of profit.
So while the rights could stay at Sony, they could just as easily go to Warner Brothers, Fox (who currently handles MGM’s home video), Universal, Paramount, or even Disney, who have, in recent years, benefited from buying out whole companies like Lucasfilms and Marvel.
Speculation says the most likely candidate is Warner Brothers, who previously partnered with MGM on the billion-dollar Hobbit trilogy. Reportedly Warner Brothers CEO Kevin Tsujihara recently met with Danjaq producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and with Gary Barber, of MGM, whose job it is to figure out the distribution future of 007.
Frankly, until Spectre is released worldwide, nothing is final. Barber, Wilson, and Broccoli, intend to let it build up some serious box office revenue before they start serious negotiations sometime early next year.
Spectre was released on 26 October 2015 and opens in U.S. theatres on November 6.