Sony About To Recapture James Bond #23; UPDATE: MGM Leverages 007 For Deal On Sony’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

2ND UPDATE:  The new MGM brass, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum managed to leverage the James Bond #23 film for a piece of Sony’s in-the-works big movie based on the Stieg Larsson bestseller, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which has already been shooting in Sweden under director David Fincher and starring Rooney Mara. Deadline has learned that Sony Pictures bosses Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton agreed to give MGM a co-financing deal for the big title and possibly other films already shooting, too, to help the reconstituted studio generate quick cash flow. This allows MGM to have revenue which it hasn’t had in a long time, so the books look better, and more funds for production could be forthcoming. (That’s exactly how Birnbaum and Barber built their Spyglass Entertainment in the first place: by investing in films it didn’t make, like the recently rebooted Star Trek.)

UPDATE: We’re told Paramount dropped out of the Bond bidding when MGM insisted on bringing the distribution fee under 8% and when MGM got “grabby” in wanting a piece of a Paramount established franchise that studio didn’t want to give up.

EXCLUSIVE 5 PM: Deadline hears that Sony Pictures is close to landing distribution rights to MGM’s James Bond franchise again, and specifically for the next untitled Bond #23, even though several studios are still very much in the hunt. Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton distributed both Daniel Craig 007 pics, Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, and now have moved into first position to recapture 007. That’s because Sony is agreeing to allow MGM’s new leadership to leverage the next Bond pic, and indeed the Bond franchise, to create more cash flow for the reconstituted studio post-bankruptcy. The new brass, Spyglass Entertainment co-owners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum who are now the Co-Chairmen andCEOs of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, are finishing negotiations to co-finance a number of films with Sony. Deadline has learned that Pascal and Lynton have already found a title on the Sony slate for MGM to co-finance. That’s exactly how Birnbaum and Barber built Spyglass in the first place: by investing in films it didn’t make, such as The Sixth Sense and the recently rebooted Star Trek.

There’s no doubt this is a shrewd move by MGM, but Deadline also learned it wasn’t sitting well with the majors. Top execs at Sony and Fox and Paramount and Warner Bros were increasingly frustrated with the way that the Spyglass duo were playing one studio off another — “and enjoying it,” in the words of one exec involved. Sony at the time even described its strategy to win Bond #23 as ”pleading”. Now it looks like that worked along with agreeing to much of MGM’s negotiating terms.

Even though MGM holds sway on where Bond #23 lands, a 007 return to the Sony fold would please EON partners Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson. Amy Pascal in particular has developed a strong personal and professional relationship with Broccoli when they were making the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig. Broccoli  and Wilson found Craig among a list of possible 007s, and the choice wasn’t popular at first. But Pascal supported Craig. Also Sony has a reputation for spending big to market Bond: for Casino Royale, Sony spent a humongous sum worldwide to introduce the new Bond. MGM was supposed to distribute the 23rd Bond film itself, until the studio was pushed into bankruptcy. Read More »

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Bah, Humbug! MGM Lays Off 50 Employees

Most of the bigwigs left weeks ago, but today MGM began laying off 50 staffers, mostly from the post-production, marketing, and theatrical distribution departments. Once Spyglass Entertainment’s Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum start running the studio when it emerges from … Read More »

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Icahn Makes Offer To Buy More MGM Debt To Expedite Merger

Calling the proposed Spyglass plan a “presciption for disaster,” Carl Icahn on Thursday offered to buy another $963 million of MGM’s debt. He already owns around $500 million of it, so the sum would make him one of MGM’s largest … Read More »

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Bloomberg: MGM Creditors To Vote On Pre-Packaged Bankruptcy Plan This Month

Nellie Andreeva

MGM creditors will be asked to approve a restructuring and pre-packaged bankruptcy plan for the studio within the next week or two, Bloomberg reports. This follows Spyglass chiefs Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber’s signing non-binding letters of intent on … Read More »

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Spyglass Partners Inch Closer To MGM Reins; Battle Royals Looms For James Bond Distribution Rights

Mike Fleming

As expected, the MGM ownership situation is getting closer to being sorted, and it won’t be long before the Lion has a chance to roar again. Or at least emerge from its cage. Spyglass chiefs Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Summit Walks Away From MGM To Go Back Into Acquisitions Mode

“Summit is pulling out because the process has gone on way too long and it’s become a distraction for the business,” an insider tells me this morning. Summit toppers Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger are still in acquisition mode, and the … Read More »

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Screen Gems Makes ‘Vow’ With Spyglass

By | Wednesday July 21, 2010 @ 9:28am PDT
Mike Fleming

rachel mcadamschanning_tatumEXCLUSIVE: Screen Gems will co-finance with Spyglass and distribute The Vow, the Michael Sucsy-directed film that will star Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. The film is based on a true … Read More »

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MGM To Morph Into A Pure Production Play?

Mike Fleming

Can ‘The Hobbit’ Wait For MGM Decisions?

MgmlogosmallEXCLUSIVE: Now that Spyglass has emerged as the favorite to steer MGM’s future fortunes — although Summit insists it’s not out of the running yet and Lionsgate is in merger talks — more details are emerging about MGM’s possible future. Insiders tell me that the Spyglass plan would transform MGM into a pure production company and close down its marketing and distribution divisions. That would certainly cut costs in the short run. Coupled with the equity that Spyglass would bring to the table, a streamlined MGM would lower its debt and have a shot at raising new funding to finance its own pictures. That would let Spyglass partners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum do what they do well, which is to lower risk by making domestic and offshore distribution deals.

SpyglassBut I see the downside of this plan. MGM would have to pay others to distribute and market its films — and those fees could be comparable or higher than the monies saved on overhead. I’m told that rival Summit and Lionsgate proposals would maintain MGM as a studio because both companies have distribution divisions. The Spyglass move would mean yet another morphing of MGM over the recent past. Under Harry Sloan, the revived studio started off as a distribution rental system for films by financiers like Sidney Kimmel and The Weinstein Co, a strategy that didn’t work. Read More »

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WHY NOW? Baffling Resurgence Of Rumor About MGM-Lionsgate Merger Talks

lionsgate_logoI’m being told there’s really nothing new with these explanatary conversations. And, anyway, Lionsgate can’t do any kind of deal with MGM unless the studio management brokers some settlement with 32% shareholder Carl Icahn, who has made it clear he won’t … Read More »

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Spyglass Beating Summit To Run MGM?

MgmlogosmallFor weeks now, we have been hearing from our various sources at studios, agencies and production companies that Spyglass Entertainment is in the lead to run a restructured MGM despite Summit Entertainment also being very much in the mix. But it’s been … Read More »

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