Amazon, a company of deep pockets and great ambitions, has just bought MGM Studios for a cool $8.45 billion. It feels pretty huge to be reporting this acquisition, but it’s not the silver bullet some might hope for. In fact, one of the frequent topics of discussion is how things might work for the James Bond franchise in the post-acquisition age. It’s a subject worth parsing out, as almost 60 years have passed the 007 franchise first associated with that studio as its default home base. Without further ado, here are six key things to know about the James Bond property after Amazon’s big MGM purchase.
EON Productions Is The Heart Of Power In The 007 Series
First and foremost, it's worth noting MGM doesn’t own the rights to the James Bond series outright. Traditionally the studio has been a partner to EON Productions; the production company that was co-founded by Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, and is currently run by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. As such, the relationship has seen MGM fund the production of the 007 films, as well as domestically distribute them into theaters.
However, EON Productions gets a lot of say in what happens thanks to the fact that they are also in control of the holding company Danjaq LLC. While EON co-owns the copyrights to the James Bond series with other partners, like MGM and Columbia Pictures, it has veto powers on any aspect of the films. As Variety recently pointed out, that also includes casting for the new 007, as well as approval of dialogue and promotional tactics.
James Bond Will Probably Never Become A Streaming Exclusive
EON Productions’ control over the James Bond legacy means a lot of things will not happen under its watch. And one of the largest vetoes we’ve seen in the past year is the decision to reject some rather flush offers that streaming services were allegedly making in the name of luring No Time To Die into a streaming debut. With Amazon purchasing MGM, some may have thought this decision would have been overridden, but again, that’s just not going to happen.
With Barbara Broccoli doubling down in her statement that the James Bond legacy will remain a theatrical experience, No Time To Die absolutely will not be making its grand debut on Prime Video. That doesn’t sound like it could change at all, as Broccoli’s edict doesn’t just single out the 25th 007 adventure in its scope. All James Bond films, under EON Productions’ auspices, will be theatrical experiences.
No Time To Die Doesn’t Look To Be Heading To Amazon Any Time Soon
So No Time To Die won’t be debuting on Prime Video without a theatrical release, as we’ve pretty firmly established. But what about the streaming rights to that film and the rest of the 007 series? Well, there’s good news and bad news, and we’ll start with the good. MGM still maintains the rights to the James Bond series when it comes to theatrical, digital and worldwide television distribution.
However, there’s a big No Time To Die-sized catch when it comes to the home video afterlife of Daniel Craig’s big swan song. A portion of that pie goes to Paramount+, as a new deal with MGM and the upstart streamer has the latest James Bond film heading to its streaming library when the comes. And while Prime Video sounds like it’d be a fantastic home, Variety’s reporting on the matter makes it sounds like the entire Bond catalog, or at the very least the Daniel Craig entries, are up for grabs in that respect.
MGM Currently Shares Certain James Bond Rights With Universal
For the final two aspects that we’ll be focusing on in the world of James Bond, we’ll explore on the non-streaming equation that Amazon has now taken on. As the company now owns MGM, that means that the domestic theatrical release experience will be Amazon’s official responsibility. However, there’s certain responsibilities that the studio will have to share with another party, as Universal Pictures holds key rights to No Time To Die.
Internationally, Universal is the studio that will distribute this film into theatrical release. But additionally, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has the responsibility of releasing No Time To Die, and possibly the entire James Bond catalog, on physical media. So for once, this agreement breaks in the favor of Amazon; which is great, because the company's going to need that money if it's serious about the future of the James Bond franchise.
The James Bond Series Is A Consistently Expensive Franchise
Amazon Studios has typically been known to produce more independent scale movies, with some big budget acquisitions like Coming 2 America making up for the higher end of its cinematic spending. But the $120 million it cost to bring the Eddie Murphy legacyquel is roughly half of what it takes to produce a James Bond movie, and the amount it usually takes for such a film to break even is definitely a concern.
Taking Spectre as an example; the previous James Bond film’s budget came in at roughly $250 - $300 million, and that’s just looking at production costs. With such a huge spend, and all of the various promotional and marketing considerations that are associated with making a 007 film, the break even point for director Sam Mendes’ second outing was estimated at about $650 million. No Time To Die wasn’t any cheaper to make, shelling out around that same budgetary figure.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of caring for the James Bond series is the fact that it an absolute monster of a saga when it comes to actually financing and releasing such a product. That’s what happens when almost 60 years of history leads a fan favorite franchise to try and outdo itself every time it goes to market. Even in the face of a new actor taking over the mantle of Bond himself, the expensive nature of a 007 adventure isn’t going to go away any time soon.
There’s no telling what the Amazon era of the James Bond franchise will look like just yet, as No Time To Die is already in the can and awaiting its fall theatrical release. But if anyone in the offices of Amazon Studios thought it was going to be as easy as climbing into the driver’s seat of the proverbial Aston Martin that is the 007 franchise, and going for a joy ride, let these lessons dismiss such thoughts immediately. No Time To Die hits theatrical venues in the UK on September 30, and in the US on October 8.