Studios vie for distribution of next James Bond film

Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:58pm EST
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By Kim Masters

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Now that MGM has announced a start date for the next James Bond film and set its release for November 2012, the remaining question is which studio will distribute the latest installment of the most venerated, if not most lucrative, of franchises?

At this point, the lead player would appear to be Paramount Pictures, which--thanks to a close relationship between the studio's top brass and new MGM co-chairmen Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum--has informally gotten a first crack at the negotiation.

The other contender is Sony Pictures, which successfully released the last two Bond films and is said to be on good terms with the Broccoli family, owner of the Bond rights.

Despite that, a knowledgeable source says the Broccolis have approved Paramount as a prospective distributor and that preliminary talks have begun.

Whether Paramount seals the deal--which is likely to be sorted out in the next couple of weeks--will depend on what is sure to be a hard-ball negotiation. Given that Barber and Paramount's Rob Moore enjoy tough bargaining, this exchange should be worthy of study at business schools.

Obviously Bond is a jewel in the MGM crown and Birnbaum and Barber will seek to wring more out of this opportunity than just the distribution of one film.

Sources speculate that MGM will seek a potentially precedent-shattering distribution fee for Bond and other future films, which could cause Paramount to balk.

The most favorable distribution fees run about 8%; that is the rate, for example, that Paramount collects for releasing films from DreamWorks Animation.   Continued...