Annapurna Pictures is close to reaching a deal with MGM that will allow them to domestically distribute James Bond 25. Daniel Craig will once again portray the iconic spy in the anticipated sequel, which is set to reach theaters in November 2019. However, before the ball really gets rolling on the film, some major questions needed to be answered. In addition to finding a new director for the franchise, there was also the matter of the Bond film rights, which were up for grabs following the release of 2015’s Spectre. The property had called Sony home since Casino Royale in 2006.
Annapurna’s interest in Bond first became public over the spring, when it was said they were bidding against major studios such as Fox, Sony, and Warner Bros. for the distribution rights. It was also reported the likes of Amazon and Apple were in the running, but in the end, Megan Ellison’s prestige studio came out on top and will release the next installment.
Related: Denis Villeneuve Not Directing Bond 25
This news comes courtesy of Deadline, who say the partnership (which is part of MGM and Annapurna’s recently announced joint venture) should be finalized some time this week. However, it’s important to note that the upstart studio is only handling Stateside distribution, meaning the international rights are still on the market. WB, Sony, and Universal are said to be the top contenders for the overseas rights, which are extremely valuable. Bond is a franchise that earns 70 percent of its box office total in foreign countries, so there’s a lot of money to be made here.
It’s somewhat surprising that Annapurna managed to secure the U.S. Bond rights, seeing that they primarily specialize in smaller, Oscar-contending dramas. As a production company, they’ve been behind Best Picture nominees such as Zero Dark Thirty, American Hustle, and Her. Lately, they’ve made the jump to distributing, which began earlier this year with Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. Next year, they’ll also distribute Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic starring Christian Bale and Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, so this is clearly an area of great importance for Annapurna. Snagging 007, one of cinema’s most iconic series, is a huge step forward and indicates Annapurna is an emerging power worth keeping an eye on. On the flip side, this is a big loss for Sony, whose four Bond pictures (including the smash Skyfall) are also the four highest-grossing Bond films of all-time, unadjusted for inflation.
With this issue now settled (and the international rights to follow soon), MGM can focus on rounding out the Bond 25 supporting cast and finding the right director for the job. Denis Villeneuve has already taken his name out of the running, but there are plenty of names being considered at this point in time, so all the pieces should fall into place in the near future. With the blockbuster around two years away from its premiere, a filmmaker will have to come on board quickly to keep the project on track.