'Bond' Studio MGM Forms Key Distribution Venture With Megan Ellison's Annapurna

Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
Gary Barber, Megan Ellison

Neither company is saying yet whether the next James Bond installment — set for release in summer 2019 — is part of the alliance, but it would make for an easy solution.

Claiming more control over its future, MGM is launching a joint distribution venture with Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures in the U.S.

The key partnership puts MGM back into the distribution business, versus having to rely on third-party studios to handle its movies. The joint venture was announced Tuesday by MGM chairman-CEO Gary Barber and Ellison, founder and CEO of Annapurna, now a full-fledged studio.

MGM declined to comment on whether the arrangement includes the next James Bond film, set for release on Nov. 8, 2019. "Worldwide distribution plans for the 25th installment of the long-running James Bond franchise, produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, will be announced at a later date," said the statement.

MGM has been looking for a new Bond partner since its deal with Sony expired after Spectre in 2015. There has been no shortage of suitors, with several studios in the mix, including Warner Bros. And earlier this year, reports surfaced that Ellison was interested.

For MGM, one advantage of the joint venture with Annapurna means that its movies won't have to share credit and that only the MGM logo will appear onscreen. For Annapurna, the pact means that its pipeline is more robust.

While Annapurna and MGM will share the cost of overhead, each studio will retain creative control over their individual projects. The marketing and distribution team established at Annapurna, led by president Marc Weinstock and distribution chief Erik Lomis, will facilitate campaigns for all MGM titles. Similarly, Annapurna-produced titles will only have the Annapurna banner.

“MGM has successfully grown its operations over the last seven years, but we have been reliant upon our co-production partners to theatrically release our films. The time has come for MGM to regain control of its own destiny and return to U.S. theatrical distribution," Barber said in the statement.

Added Ellison, “MGM’s distinguished legacy and library of films has made them a pillar in the industry, and I couldn’t be more proud and confident in our team’s ability to collaborate on the distribution of their upcoming slate.”

As part of the new agreement, MGM and Annapurna have also formed a releasing entity called Mirror that will support-third-party films.

The two companies aren't strangers. Earlier this year, MGM struck a deal for Annapurna Pictures to distribute all of its films in select international territories, including Germany, Scandinavia, Latin America, central Europe, pan-Asia and the Middle East.

MGM plans to release six to eight films per year, beginning with Eli Roth's reimagining of the 1974 revenge-thriller Death Wish on March 2. That will be followed by Rachel Goldenberg's musical adaptation Valley Girl, starring Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse and Mae Whitman, on June 29; Stephen Merchant's dramedy Fighting With My Family, starring Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson, on Sept. 14; and Creed 2, starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, on Nov. 21 (the follow-up, which Stallone is directing, will be released in partnership with Warners).

Several 2018 MGM titles will go out through existing studio partners, including Tomb Raider (Warners), the animated Sherlock Gnomes (Paramount) and Overboard (Pantelion Films).

The joint venture with Annapurna doesn't impact Orion Pictures, MGM’s recently relaunched stand-alone U.S. marketing and distribution company intended to highlight smaller films.