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 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.