Apple, Amazon Now in the Mix for James Bond Rights; Is a Cinematic Universe in the Offing?

     September 6, 2017

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It’s been well over two years now since MGM and Eon’s distribution deal with Sony Pictures for the James Bond movies came to an end, and while the search for a director is heating up, the sweepstakes to see which studio will land Bond continues to take even more twists and turns. Sony, Universal, and Fox had been pursuing the property, with Warner Bros. and Sony moving the most aggressively, but now two new suitors have entered the mix that could change things up considerably: Apple and Amazon.

Per THR, Amazon and Apple are in hot pursuit of landing the James Bond distribution rights, throwing their hats into the ring alongside traditional studios like Warner Bros. and Sony. Amazon has certainly proved a formidable force in the film distribution world, partnering with Roadside Attractions for considerable theatrical runs as opposed to Netflix’s day-and-date model, and Amazon’s found box office and critical success with films like Manchester by the Sea and The Big Sick. But obviously Bond would be their biggest get yet. Apple, meanwhile, is just gearing up to become another major force in the original content world as the company just announced that it plans to invest $1 billion in original TV shows and films—a good chunk of which may be spent on Bond if MGM and Eon take a liking to their proposal.

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Image via Sony and MGM

Additionally, sources familiar with the bidding process make mention of Lucasfilm and Marvel to THR, noting the untapped potential of the James Bond franchise. Indeed, Apple, Amazon, or another suitor could be pitching a cinematic universe of sorts or even a TV component to the long-running franchise, which would fit with their model and certainly would appease shareholders. Indeed, the Bond movies themselves aren’t massive moneymakers for the distributing studio given the cost of producing the film, the marketing, and the various rights distributions (profits have to be shared between MGM and Eon, which own the property outright, and the studio that’s essentially “leasing” James Bond to distribute it). It’s the valuation of the property that then becomes valuable, and if a studio with an established digital distribution/streaming system such as Apple or Amazon landed the rights, one imagines the digital library of the Bond movies may also be in the offing and would be very lucrative, as well as the aforementioned potential TV component or and “cinematic universe” ideas.

Nothing is set in stone, obviously, as this lengthy bidding process is ongoing, but another source tells THR that Eon’s producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson—by all accounts the shepherds of the James Bond franchise—maintain a traditional outlook on the franchise going forward, with an emphasis on the theatrical movies rather than spinoff or TV potential.

Everything’s on the table though, and it’ll be interesting to see where this lands.Yann Demange (’71) and Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) recently emerged as frontrunners for the directing job and Daniel Craig announced that he’s coming back for at least one more outing as 007, so clearly even though the character doesn’t yet have a studio home, Eon and MGM are making moves on the creative front.

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