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The distribution rights to one of the movie industry’s highest-profile franchises are about to be up for grabs, leaving Hollywood shaken and stirred.
After “Spectre”—which opened last week overseas and will make its U.S. debut this week —the current deal for Sony Pictures Entertainment to release James Bond movies will expire. Several studios are planning to pursue those rights, according to people familiar with the matter, even though there is surprisingly little profit in releasing Bond films.
For the past decade, Sony has distributed the 007 films under a deal with co-owners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Danjaq LLC, a British company run by the family that has produced 24 of the 26 films in the series since the 1962 original, “Dr. No.” MGM makes movies, but no longer distributes them to theaters, so it needs a major studio partner.
All four Bond films released and marketed by Sony have performed well, with 2012’s “Skyfall” grossing $1.1 billion world-wide, the highest ever for the series.
But not much of the profit has stayed with the studio, thanks to what Sony’s former movie chief described in an email leaked last year by hackers as “a one-sided deal with MGM.” Sony made just $57 million on “Skyfall,” according to another document released by the hackers—a small sum for a movie with such a huge box-office performance.
MGM made about $175 million while Danjaq, headed by producers Barbara Broccoli andMichael Wilson, made $109 million, according to the same document.
Spokeswomen for MGM and Danjaq declined to comment.
Since Walt Disney Co. acquired Lucasfilm LLC, producer of “Star Wars,” in 2012, James Bond has been Hollywood’s biggest movie brand not controlled by one of the six major studios.