The latest James Bond movie, “Spectre,” should cross $200 million in domestic box-office on Thursday.
It’s taken the suave spy nearly four months to get there, and Sony raised the theater count from 47 to 340 last weekend to make sure it did. But the wait for the bigger news — who will handle U.S. distribution on future 007 films — has been nearly as long.
MGM and the London-based Eon Productions, which is run by Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, the original producer, will make the decision. They have received — or will soon — a pitch from every Hollywood studio, including Sony Pictures, the current rights-holder. It’s not just Bond realities that will be on the table; the winner will almost certainly have to do some horse trading with MGM, which lives by the co-production.
They can all make a case. Twentieth Century Fox is on a roll and for years had a home entertainment alliance with MGM; Paramount and MGM co-produced this summer’s “Ben-Hur” remake, they’re home entertainment partners and the studio and Viacom chairman Philippe Dauman could use a big play to ignite a comeback.
Lionsgate needs an anchor franchise to replace “The Hunger Games” and has significant Chinese investment backing; Universal proved its prowess globally with three $1 billion-grossing films last year and Disney has gobbled up nearly every other major film property available over the past decade.
There’s no guarantee the assignment will change hands, since Sony did a great job with “Spectre” and the top-grossing 007 film “Skyfall,” but few see that as enough to seal a deal.
Warner Bros. was at one point seen by some as a front-runner due to its history of handling high-profile franchises, including the “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” films, and the friendship between MGM chairman and chief executive Gary Barber and Kevin Tsujihara, who holds a similar post at WB.
But the time the talks have extended suggest otherwise, and as one studio executive put it, “no one is going to make a billion-dollar decision based on who their barbecue buddies are.”
Actually, $5 billion is more like it, if you are talking the worldwide grosses of Hollywood’s longest-running film franchise, and “Spectre” has taken in nearly $800 million globally.
The next entry, the 25th in the series, will likely again star Daniel Craig, despite his remarks to the contrary. Whether he’s in or out will likely not hurt Bond at the box office; the franchise has survived and thrived through eight of them: Barry Nelson, David Niven, Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig.