Franchises are the most valuable asset for any studio these days, and James Bond is the granddaddy of franchises. After fifty years, Skyfall still managed to net over a billion worldwide, and that’s not to mention all the valuable product placement, tie-ins, etc. It’s a franchise removed from mythology, convoluted rights battles, and even a single actor. It can continue forever, but with which studio is now the question.
Sony had the rights for Bond starting at Casino Royale, but those rights expire after Spectre premieres next Friday. At that point, we can expect a major bidding war between the studios. According to Deadline, the property could stay at Sony, but it could also move to Warner Bros., Fox, Universal, or Paramount. Notice that Deadline didn’t mention Disney, the only studio that isn’t hard up for franchises (Bond also isn’t a character that easily translates to a kid-friendly amusement park).
Among the suitors for Bond, Warner Bros. is being cited as the most aggressive. Per Deadline, “a source sighted Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara at the Montage Hotel recently with Gary Barber, the point person at MGM whose job it is to figure out the distribution future of 007 for MGM and Danjaq producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. According to our source, the chatter seemed more intense than a meet and greet. It looked like they were throwing around numbers.”
Sony hasn’t been a bad steward for Bond, but new CEO Tom Rothman keeps a close eye on the bottom line, and holding onto Bond could be an expensive proposition, especially if Spectre is a Skyfall-sized hit. There’s a reason that Sony is trying to extend its homegrown franchises like Ghostbusters and 21 Jump Street rather than pay a hefty sum to keep re-upping the Bond rights.
There’s no danger of Bond disappearing from cinemas any time soon; it will be a question of what form the franchise takes next. If it stays with Sony, Rothman might try to squeeze the budget down, but if it goes to another studio, they might be more indulgent. Warner Bros. is known for being fairly liberal with their creative talent, so maybe the next Bond movie breaks from the mold.
If it does, part of that will come from whether or not Daniel Craig returns. He recently said he’d rather slash his wrists than come back for another one, but his attempts at blockbusters outside of Bond have all underperformed. People like him as 007, and not much else, so unless he wants to go for smaller films or supporting roles, he may find it in his heart (and his bank account) to put on the tux at least one more time.
We won’t know how the producers will act until Spectre has finished opening worldwide, which means the bidding war will ignite sometime early next year.