There is really only one test that matters for the re-organized MGM when it comes to their recovery from bankruptcy, and today, we get our first look at how they plan to face that test.
If you haven’t been following the MGM bankruptcy story, or if you’re only aware of it in vague terms, I don’t blame you. I’ve been in Los Angeles for 20 years now, and MGM’s been struggling with bankruptcy for most of that time. I’ve always find it amazing that this titan, this 86-year-old movie icon, could be run so poorly and managed so badly for such an extended period of time. Now that they’ve rejected the takeover bid by Lionsgate and Carl Icahn, they’ve got to prove that they can turn the ailing company around. In order to do so, they filed a pre-packaged plan with a Manhattan federal bankruptcy court that outlines their goals and the ways they hope to accomplish those goals.
And as I said, there’s only really one thing that matters: what do they plan to do about James Bond?
After all, “The Hobbit” is going to happen under the guidance of Warner Bros. and Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films. MGM may have their name on that film, and they may well end up distributing it internationally, depending on how healthy that part of the company is in 2012, but they aren’t really “making” it. They can’t afford to. I’m not sure how they plan to deal with their $275 million “total obligation” to the movie, but my guess is they’ll have no shortage of third party financiers looking to jump in.
With James Bond, they’ve got their one ongoing franchise that is a proven worldwide brand, and they detail their goals to have the first film in theaters November of 2012, with a new Bond movie in theaters every two years after that. They want to split the costs of the first film 50% with someone, with the idea being that later Bond films would be funded entirely by MGM.
It’s an ambitious plan, and they’ve already done some of the development work on what they’re calling Bond 23, with Peter Morgan onboard to write it and Sam Mendes supervising with an eye on possibly directing. All of that was put on hold, though, and with the schedules of guys like that, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to jump back into the movie.
And let’s say they do get everything on track for Bond 23. With the way this company’s been run traditionally, how can they say they’ll have a Bond film every two years like clockwork? Even in the best times, that hasn’t been the case consistently. How many more films does Daniel Craig have in him? How many is he contracted for? When you’re making films on an assembly line schedule, how can you guarantee you’ll have a story worth telling every two years? Or that you’ll have another Bond ready when Craig finally steps aside?
You’ll see a lot of headlines today saying that we’re getting a James Bond film in 2012, like everything’s been magically solved for MGM. At this point, there’s no word from EON Productions about their feelings on this filing, and since they’re just as important to the development and release of Bond films, that seems like a pretty significant gap in terms of information. For now, the most positive thing you can say about this is that MGM knows how important Bond is to their overall success, and they are obviously desperate to renew the superspy’s license to kill.
Whether or not they succeed at their mission remains to be seen.
We will, of course, update you on any new developments in the Bond series right here at HitFix as they happen.