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The Bond 23 delay: Why EON is tied to MGM

With MGM currently in talks to try and save the studio somehow many Bond fans are wondering why EON Productions needs MGM to make another bond film and instead find another studio to work with.

After all, Sony and Columbia have been involved in last two movies with Daniel Craig and so why shouldn’t EON take the Bond franchise to them?

The series has been hugely successful and any studio would jump at the chance to be involved – Sony has actually said that they would like to become involved in any way possible.   However – as with many things in life – it isn’t that simple. To understand why we need to look at the history of EON and their relationship with MGM.

EON Productions

EON Productions was formed in 1961 by Albert R “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman specifically to put James Bond on the big screen. That partnership came about as the result of Broccoli wanting to make a Bond film but finding that Saltzman already had an option on the film rights.

When he arranged a meeting through a mutual acquaintance, Saltzman refused to sell him the rights; however, they did agreed a partnership whereby they would co-produce the films and United Artists soon agreed to finance Dr No to the tune of one million dollars.

In 1962, following the success of Dr No, the pair set up a holding company for EON, which they called Danjaq after their wives (Dana Broccoli and Jacqueline Saltzman); assigning copyright and other commercial interests in James Bond to Danjaq, EON then licensed the film rights from Danjaq.

While the pair worked successfully co-producing the early films, when Saltzman suffered considerable financial difficulties thanks to his other business interests and in 1975 he sold his shares in Danjaq to United Artists.

The result of that deal was United Artists directly owning fifty percent of the James Bond series through its share of Danjaq. That ownership transferred to MGM in 1981 when they bought United Artists and to this day MGM retains that stake.

Most of the time Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson are thought of as being synonymous with EON Productions; the fact is that they share ownership of EON though their fifty percent stake in Danjaq.

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were co-distributed by Columbia Pictures – itself owned by Sony, part of the consortium that bought MGM in 2005. With that investment Sony inherited the right to co-finance and distribute the series with MGM and in fact put up 75% of the finance on Casino Royale. Unfortunately MGM and Sony fell out and Sony lost its right to be involved in future films.

What that means for the James Bond films

 

Whatever form MGM takes going forward it needs guaranteed cash cows like the 007 series to provide strong cash flow for the next few years; the studio will therefore want Bond 23 to go into production as soon as it is in a position to provide finance.

Since MGM owns fifty percent of Danjaq, Broccoli and Wilson are unable to take James Bond to another studio, at least without a lengthy and costly court battle. Since that is unlikely to be an attractive option for them, their remaining choice is to sit it out waiting for MGM to find a solution.

However, while they may not have a direct say in how MGM’s sale progresses, they can make some waves which I believe was their intention by issuing a press release last month stating that work on Bond 23 was on hold indefinitely; the real message to MGM was to either accept one of the deals on the table or sell its shares in Danjaq to someone who can provide finance.

Let’s hope there is some good news soon.

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13 Responses to “The Bond 23 delay: Why EON is tied to MGM”

  • Anthony A. Armor

    Excellenty article thanks for clearing up the mystery behind the delay of Bond 23. Do you have any idea who is going to replace Daniel Craig in Bond 24?

  • M

    Who says Daniel Craig won’t be in Bond 24?

    They won’t even be looking for anyone until he or EON decide that a new Boond is needed.

    M

  • Kim

    Thanks for this nice article, which is most of all very informative. I like that you include the common history.

    sincerely yours…

  • Ap

    Maybe Bond 23, when it finally gets produced, should be called “The Property Of A Lion”…..

  • marty butler

    As with anything in life, once the lawyers get involved all common sense goes out the window.
    I realize the high financial stakes involved but Bond 23 is a guaranteed box office success so why no agree to disagree and make the movie. Contract EON or whoever to make the movie while the lawyers milk the studios of millions?

  • Justin, Sydney

    Thanks for that! I completely forgot about, the whole Saltzman thing. Now I know why the producers are “strumming their fingers waiting for something to happen” so to speak. Very clever indeed.
    Maybe perhaps now that United has been reformed they can take over MGM? Sorta full-circle thing?

  • Bob McAdam

    After Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace failed to live up to expectations (mine anyway).
    I can only hope this problem with MGM can be sorted out and the new Bond film made to a standard that can at least match and just, maybe, surpass Casino Royale, before Daniel Craig gets too old for the role and the fans have given up! – Thank you for an excellent ‘Dossier’ and a most informative article on MGM’s troubles.

  • M

    @Ap – “The Property Of A Lion” – LOL

    @Bob – QoS failed to live up to most expectations. A real pity after CR.

    M

  • Helen

    If Brocolli and Wilson hold out maybe…, maybe they can buy the other 50% stake in the 007 franchise. MGM is not the be all and end all of the film industry these days, there are always bigger sharks than you circling. When someone else finally says ‘jump’ in all likelihood they’ll be obliged to say ‘how high’. As has been pointed out already, the 007 franchise is a massive cash cow that has grossed $11,686,214,000.00 since it hit the silver screen. If No. 23 is ‘put on hold indefinitely’ then MGM will have A LOT to answer for to their creditors.

  • M

    @Helen,

    I guess it’s whether they could raise the finance IF the other 50% were to become available.

    And that might be pretty tricky in the current economic climate.

    M

  • James Allen

    Helen is absolutely right, the pragmatic solution has to be that MGM sells its rights to participate in Bond 23 for hard cash to the highest bidder (not necessarily the Broccoli family).

    The economic climate does affect the financial markets and the cash in our wallets but that should not prevent even a half decent Bond film making a pile of cash for it’s backers.

    If Bond 23 doesn’t get made because of intransigence of the people at MGM then they should be disqualified from business activities for life! But the US system is more benign towards debtor corporations than in the UK…

  • JS Naslund

    I know this is a long time after the fact to post on this, but I was just going through my old emails and stumbled across this.

    This is a great history and is something that is rarely looked at when we deal with entertainment history. As someone (who hopefully soon) will be a history teacher, these are things I am constantly looking for.

    Here is the major question I have: why did Saltzman sell all 50 percent of his share, and why to United Artists? Had he sold even one percent to Cubby (or even kept that one percent for himself), the leverage would have COMPLETELY changed. Why would Cubby allow that sale? (I don’t know what laws are like in the UK, but as co-majority owner, Cubby would have had the power to block such a move.)

    Of course, this isn’t the first time the lawyers have delayed this franchise. Interestingly enough, the last time a gritty Fleming-styled Bond was set to make a third film, there was a delay due to legal action. So after two films, we lost Dalton and got…Brosnan. Oh, dear. Who would follow Craig? Ricky Gervais?

  • Peter

    Excellent article – with one omission – Sony – Columbia was involved in Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace because Columbia originally owned the rights to Casino Royale. Eon won the rights as a result of the legal fight (after the Dalton movies) with a proviso that Sony Columbia c-finance it and its follow up film. I believe they have no further rights unless a new deal is struck as MGM in its current state following their declaration of bankruptsy will exist only as a production company so will now need distribution deals for any and all of the films it will make.

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