Bond, ‘Survivor’ and Those ‘Apprentice’ Tapes: 5 Burning Questions About Amazon and MGM’s Mega-Deal
In a perfect symbol of our times, James Bond and Whole Foods will soon have the same owner.
Tech giant Amazon on Wednesday officially announced plans to merge with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the 97-year-old studio that’s home to the 007 franchise, Rocky Balboa and “Thelma and Louise.” The eye-popping $8.45 billion sale is the second-biggest acquisition in Amazon’s history following its $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods in 2017.
Does the pending marriage mean future Bond installments will see the suave spy refuel at the Whole Foods hot bar in between deadly missions? (Probably not, but more on that later).
Still, the mega-merger — intended to help Prime Video compete in the streaming wars — leaves plenty of questions about the state of entertainment. Here, Variety attempts to answer any lingering inquiries:
MGM had produced classics such as “Gone With the Wind” and “Legally Blonde.” Will those films be heading to Amazon Prime Video?
Not all of them. The early MGM library has been heavily picked over, meaning iconic titles like “The Wizard of Oz,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Gone With the Wind” won’t be making the pilgrimage to Prime Video. Because of a deal brokered with mogul Ted Turner’s Turner Broadcasting in 1986, those titles — and MGM’s entire slate prior to 1986 — belong to WarnerMedia. So if you’re looking to watch the exploits of Dorothy and a certain Yellow Brick Road, an HBO Max subscription will cost you $15 per month.
What is included in the 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV shows in MGM’s vault?
Rest easy, fans of using legal jargon in everyday life. “Legally Blonde” will eventually be available to stream on the Prime. Buying MGM gives Amazon access to famous faces like James Bond, Rocky Balboa and “Pink Panther,” as well as a range of films such as “The Silence of the Lambs,” “RoboCop” “12 Angry Men,” “Basic Instinct,” Moonstruck,” “Poltergeist,” “Raging Bull,” “Stargate,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Tomb Raider” and “The Magnificent Seven.” On the TV front, “Fargo,” “Vikings” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” will also belong to Amazon. Blessed be the fruit.
With all due respect to Hannibal Lecter, James Bond is the crown jewel of the MGM empire. Will “No Time to Die” premiere on Amazon Prime rather than in movie theaters?
It’s not likely. Even with the acquisition, Amazon will only own 50% of the franchise. “Bond” producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have unprecedented creative control over the property, including final say over everything from the film’s marketing strategy and distribution plans to potential spinoffs or TV shows and even Daniel Craig’s eventual successor. (“We take that responsibility seriously,” Broccoli once told Variety.)
Bond is one of Hollywood’s longest-running and most commercially successful film franchises. The first 24 entries have racked up billions upon billions at the box office, so Broccoli and Wilson have long nixed any plans to move the movies to streaming platforms. After the merger was announced, Broccoli and Wilson were quick to remind that Bond is best seen on the big screen. “We are committed to continuing to make James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience,” they said in a statement.
What remains unclear, though, is how long it’ll play exclusively in theaters before eventually landing on Prime Video. In any case, the deal likely won’t go through before “No Time to Die” debuts on the big screen on Oct. 8. However, the rollout for future Bond installments, starring Richard Madden, Rege-Jean Page — or whoever replaces Craig, could be shaken and stirred in other ways due to Amazon’s involvement in the action-packed franchise.
Since Amazon now has the rights to Mark Burnett’s production company, does that mean Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the infamous “Apprentice” tapes?
Because Variety is a journalistic institution, we are obligated to say there’s no definitive proof that such tapes exist. However, for years allegations have surfaced about inappropriate behavior from Donald Trump while on the set of “The Apprentice,” the entrepreneurial-themed reality show that made the former president a household name. Those allegations, coming from “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Tom Arnold, include claims of outtakes in which Trump freely uses the N-word and the C-word and calls his son Eric Trump “retarded.”
While the existence of such tapes have never been confirmed, Amazon could be the new owner of the show’s likely unflattering archival footage. However, it’s not clear whether Bezos, who does not get along with Trump, could actually release cut footage from “The Apprentice.” In 2016, MGM and Burnett said neither MGM nor Burnett had the right to do so — perhaps because Trump reportedly owns a 50% share of the series.
That hasn’t stopped late-night host Stephen Colbert from using his platform to urge Bezos to release the Trump Cut. “Someday soon, Bezos may release the most racist thing in the MGM catalog, other than ‘Gone With the Wind,’” Colbert said Wednesday on “The Late Show.”
Does this mean every season of “Survivor” will be available to watch on Amazon Prime?
Cue the Beach Boys singing “Wouldn’t it be nice?” When it comes to unscripted television, including “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “Shark Tank,” it’s a bit more complicated. CBS co-owns the U.S. version of “Survivor” with MGM, which entered the picture when it purchased Mark Burnett’s production company. Warner Horizon holds the U.S. rights and ITV holds the international rights to “The Voice,” which is executive produced for NBC and Warner Horizon by Burnett’s shingle and then through MGM. Sony Pictures TV has ownership of “Shark Tank,” while Burnett is an executive producer. MGM, through its ownership of Evolution, is the production company for “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” “Vanderpump Rules” and “Botched,” but doesn’t have an ownership stake in those shows.
For “Survivor,” certain seasons have been siphoned off to Hulu, Paramount Plus and other platforms, which continues to make it tough to binge the reality behemoth all in one place. In this case, the tribe is not spoken for.
Michael Schneider contributed to this report.
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