While fans are still wondering whether or not Daniel Craig will return as 007, the James Bond franchise faces another big change. Sony Pictures' distribution and marketing agreement with MGM and Eon Productions ended after the divisive 2015 film Spectre, with the rights now currently up for grabs. A new report claims that Sony is one of five studios who are vying to get the rights for one of the longest-running franchises of all time.
The New York Times reports that Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures is now in the running, with both Disney and Paramount bowing out of the proceedings. On Tuesday, Sony brought in CEO Kazuo Hirai to help with the studio's pitch, which emphasized their decade-long tradition of 007 movies. Their pitch was even made on a soundstage, on a set re-created from the very first James Bond movie, Dr. No, which was released in the U.S. in 1963.
While no specific details were given regarding the deal, this report claims that it will pay the studios, "surprisingly little," with MGM and Eon only offering a one-movie deal at this time. Sony's deal covered four movies, 2006's Casino Royale ($599 million worldwide), 2008's Quantum of Solace ($586 million worldwide), Skyfall ($1.1 billion worldwide) and Spectre ($880.6 million worldwide). MGM is owned by private equity firms like Anchorage Capital Partners, and the studio reportedly wants to keep its options open as they consider either selling the studio, or going public. While casting hasn't been discussed at these meetings, the hope is that Daniel Craig will return as 007 for at least one more movie.
A report surfaced last year that Daniel Craig was offered a whopping $150 million by Sony Pictures to star in two more James Bond movies, but that was never confirmed. Daniel Craig has starred in the past four Bond movies, but if he stars in a fifth movie, he will have secured the third longest tenure in franchise history, behind both Roger Moore, who starred in seven Bond movies, and Sean Connery, who starred in six. Still, his place in franchise history is quite secure, starring in the four highest-grossing movies in franchise history, including the only one to crack $1 billion worldwide, Skyfall.
This new report claims that under Sony's previous agreement, the studio paid 50% of the production costs, with MGM and Eon picking up the other half, but Sony would only get 25% of the profits. Sony also had to pay tens of millions of dollars to market the movies, which were not recouped. As for the new Bond movie, if Daniel Craig does agree to return as 007, the actor does have an opening in his schedule that would allow him to start production presumably sometime this year. We also reported last week that Jeffrey Wright, who played Felix Leiter in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, teased on social media that he may be returning to reprise his role in James Bond 25, but that has yet to be confirmed. Once the studio has a new distribution home, hopefully we'l find out more about this long-awaited 007 movie.