Sony and MGM finalize James Bond, co-financing partnership
However, their deal does not call for Sony to be MGM's primary theatrical distributor going forward, as the two studios had expected earlier in negotiations. MGM will not sign an overall theatrical distribution partnership with any studio, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Under the pact announced Wednesday, Sony will co-finance and release the 23rd James Bond movie, set to hit theaters Nov. 9, 2012, as well as a 24th Bond picture. Sony will fund half of the production costs of those films.
Sony will release the films in the U.S. and most foreign countries, with MGM retaining rights in a handful of overseas markets. MGM will also retain worldwide television and home video rights for both movies. The independent studio has been in discussions to extend its partnership with 20th Century Fox to release its library and new movies, including the Bond films, on DVD, but a deal has yet to be finalized.
The Sony-MGM partnership also calls for the two studios to explore opportunities to co-finance other movies over the next five years. Sony's English-language remake of the Swedish hit "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which is currently being shot by "The Social Network" director David Fincher, will likely be their first such joint venture, said people close to the matter. The two studios have also discussed co-financing Sony's remake of the science-fiction tale "Total Recall," which is due out in 2012.
Since MGM emerged from bankruptcy in December and secured a $500-million credit facility, one of the top priorities for its new chief executives, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, has been landing a distribution partner, particularly for the Bond movies.
But with the decision not to have Sony release all of its films, MGM will now have to cut separate distribution agreements for its future movies. It is already working with Paramount Pictures on a "Hansel & Gretel" film for March 2012. MGM is also co-financing two "Hobbit" pictures with Warner Bros., which will release the movies worldwide.
Sony co-financed and theatrically distributed the last two Bond movies, "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace," for MGM. It previously agreed to release the Kevin James comedy "Zookeeper," which the two studios co-financed, this July.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: Daniel Craig and Olga Kurylenko in "Quantum of Solace." Credit: Karen Ballard / Sony Pictures.