Could The James Bond Film Franchise Be Distributed By Apple?

james_bondBy James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

The movie distribution game is changing. Again. In fact, one could say that it’s always in a state of flux. But with the large tech companies getting into the streaming game now, it’s starting to look like they want an even larger piece of the theatrical pie. That’s pretty much how it could be if Apple can manage to lock down the distribution rights to the James Bond film franchise.

Next up is Bond 25, and Daniel Craig has agreed to return to the iconic role for a rumored two more outings (but perhaps only one), and Blade Runner 2049‘s Dennis Villenueve said to have the inside track to direct the next one. The scheduled release date is expected to be end of 2019, but as of now, an official distribution deal is not in place.

Even after 40 years and 24 films, many insiders believe that there’s untapped potential in 007, like a cinematic universe that hasn’t been exploited.

“In the world of Lucasfilm and Marvel, Bond feels really underdeveloped,” quotes the Hollywood Reporter of a source familiar with the bidding process. The Bond franchise could have adventures for other members of the “00s,” or even his closest friend in the CIA, Felix Lighter. There’s a lot of untapped potential there. But to be honest, I think when it comes to the Ian Fleming’s suave, jet-setting spy, I don’t know if I want more of that world without Bond in the middle of it.

Don’t forget that many years ago, in what would be Pierce Brosnan’s final turn as Bond in 2002’s Die Another Day, Halle Berry’s character Jinx was going to have her own spinoff until the producers scrapped all plans and started fresh with Craig and Casino Royale in 2006.

Although Warner Bros. is the likely candidate to scoop up the man from MI6 after Sony’s deal expired in 2015, Apple is trying to make it a bidding war. With the next chapter of the Bond film franchise about to be made, MGM is looking for a long term deal, and the all the usual members are in the running.

Sony wants the franchise back, but clearly they aren’t giving producers what they’re looking for, and so Warner Bros, Universal, and Fox are in the loop. In addition to Apple, Amazon is tempted to jump in. You’d think that Netflix would also give it a go, since they’ve gotten into the theatrical distribution game with some low budget and independent films, and recently lost the Disney/Marvel/Star Wars catalog. But so far they haven’t.

“Apple is the biggest digital outlet for movies, so I think they are always present in the conversation whether they’re upfront or behind any other distributor out there that’s turning to them for real control in the digital market.” – Yale Chasin, United Talent Agency

The fact is, that producing the high profile action tentpole is expensive. Big budget stunts and effects are all iconic hallmarks of a James Bond epic, and lately, the franchise is barely scratching a profit. But 007 still seems to have enough interest moving forward. And with over $100 billion in the bank, Apple is looking to land him. Even if they don’t, it’s clear that the mere mention of streaming giants wanting in is causing the other major players to push to stay “in the family” of film studios, as it were, and close the deal before the tech giants can up the ante.

Apple also has an advantage, thanks to the recent hiring of former Sony Pictures TV executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. Granted, they’re coming from the TV side of the equation. But being familiar with Sony’s catalog will certainly give them a leg up in courting one of the most valuable franchises in cinema. So I wouldn’t count Cupertino out just yet. And can you just imagine Q having a laser coming out of an Apple Watch?

But in the end, I’m betting that James Bond goes to familiar territory, though it would sure be ironic if Warner Bros. landed the rights, considering that they also distributed the only James Bond film that wasn’t in the MGM catalog… Never Say Never Again. And couldn’t it be fun to make that canon? Stay tuned for more.

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.