EON and MGM own the rights to the James Bond films, but they do not distribute them. They’re production companies, but they need a distributor to get the film into theaters and handle the marketing. Sony Pictures had owned the rights to Bond since 2006, but that ownership expired in 2015 with Spectre. Now the rights are back up for grabs and the New York Times reports that five studios are in contention to make the next Bond movie.
The five studios fighting for the rights to Bond are Sony, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Annapurna (Paramount is out because it’s been struggling and recently hired a new chairman, and Disney is already flushed with family-friendly franchises).
It’s worth noting that right now MGM and EON are only offering a one-picture deal. Per the NY Times, “MGM, which is owned by private equity firms, including Anchorage Capital Partners, probably wants to keep its options open as it considers a sale or public offering.” It’s also a smart play to see who’s a good steward of the franchise. If someone completely botches the release of Bond 25, you don’t want to be tied to them for three or four more pictures.
As for whether or not a new actor will be coming on to play Bond, producers are hoping to get Daniel Craig back for one more movie. There’s reportedly a gap in his schedule where, if things come together, he would have time to make the movie.
It’s worth noting that the value of franchises are outweighed by the particular benefits offered by Bond. According to the Times:
“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 give so much when you’re going to get so little? Because Bond is a guaranteed hit. It generates massive interest worldwide, and it’s one of the few franchises that can be sold on name recognition alone. There’s a reason it’s endured for over fifty years and weathered loads of bad movies. And while Bond would be a nice addition to massive studios like Sony, WB, Universal, and 20th Century Fox, it could be a game-changer for up-and-comer Annapurna, which only recently became a distributor and has stuck mostly to pushing auteur-driven cinema as opposed to blockbusters.
It will be interesting to see where Bond lands and how it affects the studio that acquires the rights.