Studio Distribution Rights to James Bond Up for Grabs After Spectre

In a cover story for Variety, newly-minted Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman has spoken candidly about the battle over rights to distribute the James Bond movies which will ensue once his studio’s claim to co-produce the films alongside Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) runs out after this November’s Spectre.

“The reality is that Sony’s had a fantastic run with the Bonds,” said Rothman. “Sure we’re going to compete for [the rights], but let’s be honest, so is everybody in the business. This Bond is going to be great and hopefully we’ll do as good a job as we did on the last one. ‘Skyfall’’s box office was by far and away the highest that any Bond had ever done.”

According to the article, the inside word is that the friendship between MGM chief Gary Barber and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara could give WB the inside track to land the crown jewel of franchises, which Sony has carefully crafted into a viable 21st century property with Daniel Craig in the lead. Starting with 2006’s gritty Casino Royale and continuing through Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, Sony’s 007 movies took a less cheeky approach to the super spy, bringing Bourne-esque grit as well as far greater continuity between installments than had existed in previous incarnations. Unfortunately, script leaks and word of a budget blowout on Spectre have led many to question if the 53-year-old Bond franchise might be slipping through Sony’s fingers. 

If Sony were to lose the Bond rights, that would put them in an even more tenuous position than they’re in already after last year’s North Korean hack attack, the derailing of their Andrew Garfield-led Amazing Spider-Man franchise and several high-profile misfires that have placed the studio in seventh place among its competitors. Besides Bond and Spider-Man (for which it is now partnered with Disney/Marvel Studios), Sony is currently attempting to combine its 21 Jump Street and Men in Black series and has high hopes for Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot and third Robert Langdon movie, Inferno

This summer’s Ghostbusters-esque Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels could provide a fresh IP to exploit, and Valiant Comics adaptations Bloodshot and Harbinger might open up a new cinematic universe, but Rothman has his eyes set on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series (which just landed director Nikolaj Arcel) as his big gamble, which could be Sony’s Lord of the Rings… or its Golden Compass. With so much of their core IP untested, growing moribund or, in the case of Spider-Man, being shepherded more by Kevin Feige’s Marvel team, James Bond is one ever-popular secret agent Sony can’t afford to let out of its crosshairs.

In the November 6 release Spectre, a cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE. Also starring Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott and Rory Kinnear, the new 007 installment is produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, from a script by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.