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MGM finds distribution partners for films

The independent movie studio signs a deal with Sony Pictures and is about to officially renew one with 20th Century Fox.

April 15, 2011|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times
  • Daniel Craig plays James Bond in a scene from Quantum of Solace, the 22nd film in the series.
Daniel Craig plays James Bond in a scene from Quantum of Solace, the 22nd… (Sony )

The reconstituted Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. has found the distribution partners it needs to restart business.

The independent studio, which emerged from bankruptcy in December, is on the verge of announcing a renewal of its agreement for 20th Century Fox to release its films worldwide on DVD through 2016. The extended arrangement also for the first time gives Fox the right to sell MGM titles on digital platforms such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes.

On Wednesday, MGM signed a deal with Sony Pictures to co-finance and distribute in theaters around the world the next two "James Bond" sequels and potentially future pictures.

The agreements together provide certainty to MGM in home entertainment — the biggest revenue generator for film studios — and for its most important movie franchise, "James Bond."

MGM's new chief executives, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, have over the past few months talked to most of the big Hollywood studios about theatrical and home entertainment distribution deals. Since the downsized MGM doesn't have the capability to release movies, it needed assistance on both fronts.

In addition, MGM's financial resources are limited to a $500-million credit facility and the diminishing returns from its library of about 4,000 films and 10,000 television episodes, making business partnerships critical.

The renewed home video pact calls for Fox to continue releasing MGM's catalog titles on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as new releases including the "Bond" sequels.

Fox and MGM's current distribution contract was set to expire in September.

The extension has yet to be announced, but people familiar with the matter confirmed that it has been finalized.

On the theatrical distribution front, Barber and Birnbaum had initially considered signing an overall pact with one studio. But they ultimately limited the Sony partnership to select pictures.

Sony will pay for half of the production budget of the 23rd "James Bond" movie, set for release Nov. 9, 2012, and a follow-up. In addition, Sony and MGM said they will explore opportunities to co-finance other pictures over the next five years.

People familiar with the matter said MGM will likely co-finance Sony's remake of the Swedish hit "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," now being shot by "The Social Network" director David Fincher, and is discussing investing in the remake of "Total Recall" for release in 2012.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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