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Amazon takes over James Bond, Stargate and more genre franchises in $8 billion merger with MGM
No, Mr. Bond... I expect you to Prime! Amazon Prime, that is. The 007 film franchise is now under new management, thanks to a massive $8.45 billion merger between Amazon and MGM, the former announced Wednesday. Bond is just one of the many iconic film and TV titles the company will gain access to –– The Pink Panther, Tomb Raider, Silence of the Lambs, The Handmaid's Tale, Poltergeist, Stargate, and Vikings are also on the list of over 20,000 properties between the two mediums.
With such a prolific library at its disposal, Amazon vowed in a statement to "help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films," which have brought in nearly 200 Oscars over the decades. Moreover, the collection also includes a number of projects that are currently in development like Hail Mary (Ryan Gosling is attached to star in the big screen adaptation of Andy Weir's sci-fi novel of the same name).
“We’re looking forward to reimagining and developing the deep catalog of MGM,” said Amazon founder, chairman, and CEO Jeff Bezos while speaking today at the company's annual shareholders meeting (via Variety). “The acquisition’s thesis here is really very simple: MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much-loved intellectual property. With the talented people at MGM and Amazon Studios, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21s century… People who love stories are going to be the big beneficiaries.”
“It has been an honor to have been a part of the incredible transformation of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. To get here took immensely talented people with a true belief in one vision. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank the MGM team who have helped us arrive at this historic day,” said Kevin Ulrich, Chairman of the Board of Directors of MGM, in a statement. “I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision. The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination."
"Amazon and MGM share a culture of content. This shared culture will serve the acquisition well," Investis Digital CEO Don Scales (a Harvard Business School graduate and veteran of over 40 corporate mergers) tells SYFY WIRE. "Amazon cares about creating a powerful content library for Amazon Prime Video and MGM has content in spades through its titles. But more importantly, since entering the streaming business, Amazon has consistently shown that the company is a steward for good-quality content, having developed Oscar-caliber entertainment."
Of course, the crown jewel here is Bond, but Amazon won't be given total free reign over the series, whose rights are co-owned by Eon Productions. As such, the company will need to be in agreement with longtime executive producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson on major decisions relating to casting, marketing, and distribution.
So, if Amazon is thinking of sending the next franchise outing, No Time to Die, to the world of streaming, that'll need to be approved by Broccoli and Wilson, both of whom remained committed to the theatrical experience. “We are committed to continuing to make James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience,” the producers said in a joint statement provided to Variety.
"Amazon has a reputation of wanting to manage the entire content creation and distribution process," Scales continues. "But MGM does not own creative control over James Bond, even though MGM owns many James Bond titles. Eon Productions has creative control over how the James Bond brand is used. We could see some headwinds because of these two cultures needing to manage the franchise."
While many studio tentpoles have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic via streaming or hybrid release models, MI6's super-spy has stood pretty firm on an exclusive theatrical rollout (it was one of the first major Hollywood projects to delay its release date at the onset of the global health crisis).
MGM briefly flirted with the idea of selling the Cary Fukunaga-directed No Time to Die to Netflix or Apple TV+ last summer, but neither reportedly wanted to shell out for the studio's steep asking price of $600 million. As of right now, Daniel Craig's 007 swan song is set for a theatrical release on Friday, Oct. 8 (almost two full years after its intended debut of April 2020).
This could also signal some movement on the long-gestating rumblings of a Stargate revival — though obviously it's far too early to make any assumptions on when, or if, something might happen. But Amazon didn't drop $8+ billion to let all those IPs sit on the shelf, so it stands to reason geeky favorites like Stargate and Robocop could be back in action soon-ish as Amazon starts mapping out what it wants to do next with this big box of new toys.
Still subject to government approval, the Amazon-MGM deal is one of the biggest and most notable entertainment business transactions of the last several years, recalling Disney's historic acquisition of 20th Century Fox for $71.3 billion in March of 2018.
"The Disney/Fox deal was about Disney acquiring a brand," Scales concludes. "Amazon and MGM is about Amazon making a more pinpointed content acquisition (the MGM library). Therefore, Amazon/MGM may proceed faster and simpler."