For years now, James Bond has been the most bankable action character in the business. We may chuckle a little at Universal Pictures‘ plans to produce 10 different “Fast And The Furious” movies or Disney‘s aggressive release calendar for its slate of Marvel movies, but that’s nothing compared to the success that Bond has seen. Since Sean Connery‘s first outing as the dashing spy in the 1962 film “Dr. No,” the franchise’s hasn’t missed a beat. Daniel Craig‘s previous — and perhaps final — outing as the character in “Spectre” brought in over $880 million at the worldwide box office, and fans have already been speculating wildly for years about who might replace Craig the next time out.
And now’s the time to get on board the Bond train. With Sony Pictures‘ distribution deal concluding with the release of “Spectre,” the New York Times is reporting that studios are lining up for a chance to woo rights holders MGM and EON Productions. It’s primarily a list of the usual suspects, with one surprise outlier: while Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, and 20th Century Fox are all to be expected, the presence of Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures on that list is a bit of a shock, especially when you consider how little money is involved for whoever wins the rights. As the numbers in the piece show, the terms of the previous deal were surprisingly unfavorable for Sony, with the studio paying 50% of the production costs and only receiving 25% of the profits. Not only that, Sony had to give up a portion of its profits on other films, with the article specifically mentioning “21 Jump Street” as film that MGM and EON profited on. All said and done, the studio realized “about $38 million in profit” on “Spectre,” a pretty meager portion of that $880 million total.
So why would studios be interested in the right to James Bond? As the Times piece notes, “bragging rights, mostly.” Studios would always rather throw money at an established product than sink resources into creating their own; even if one of the five studios only makes $40 million dollars the next time out, in their mind that’s probably a safer investment than spending $40 million on a mid-budget film. That’s why this is such an odd proposition for Annapurna Pictures. While Megan Ellison has shown a willingness to finance blockbusters in the past — she once paid $20 million dollars for the rights to the ‘Terminator‘ sequels before pulling out of the eventual production — this seems to be a poor match between studio and project, especially when you consider that the deal would only be for one movie (as opposed to Sony’s previous contract, which allowed them distribute all four Daniel Craig films). But hey, she’s making headlines, and maybe that’s the only thing that matters.