MGM Ramps Up Theatrical Distribution & Pacts With Annapurna; Easy Set Up To Roll Out Next Bond Film

Alex Berliner, Annapurna

MGM — one of the most recognizable brands in the world — is starting to roar. First they relaunched Orion Pictures and now this: MGM and Annapurna Pictures have formed a new joint venture for theatrical distribution in the U.S. With MGM moving back into distribution, it seems like the natural set-up to distribute the next Bond film. Although no one would comment on that, by joining together, they are actually bringing back a team into MGM that has a history in marketing and distributing a number of Bond films.

The studio noted in their announcement today that distribution for the 25th installment of Bond franchise, produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, will be announced at a later date, but clearly MGM has — with this latest move — decided to exert more control over its own product. In addition, it allows both MGM and Annapurna to share the distribution and marketing overhead. Smart for both companies.

MGM Chairman/CEO Gary Barber and Annapurna’s CEO and founder Megan Ellison began talking about this deal awhile ago and it started to gel over about six months time.

Deadline heard an inkling of this deal a few months ago when Annapurna and MGM paired on the remake of Death Wish. What was going to be a single pic distribution pact then spilled over to a joint pact on many films. So, it’s been in the works probably since around January; the relationships between Annapurna’s marketing and distribution execs and MGM’s Barber go back decades. Together they have worked on multiple franchises like Bond and Jump Street as well as more modestly budgeted films going all the way back to Memiors of a Geisha (the latter, when Barber was running Spyglass).


In the meantime, let’s talk about Annapurna. The company launched its own marketing and distribution arm earlier this year with distribution head Erik Lomis and president Marc Weinstock who have long known Barber. Lomis actually worked at MGM while Bond marketed and distributed. Weinstock worked with Barber on Skyfall as well as the 21 Jump Street franchises.

While Annapurna and MGM will share funding for the joint venture’s operations, each studio will retain creative control over their individual projects. The marketing and distribution team established at Annapurna will facilitate campaigns for all MGM titles, which will be distributed under the MGM banner. Annapurna produced films will continue to be distributed under Annapurna’s already established label.

As part of the agreement, MGM and Annapurna have also formed a releasing entity called Mirror, to pursue theatrical releasing opportunities for third party films supported by marketing, publicity, and distribution, while allowing creators and investors to maintain individuality and their brands.

Where does this leave Orion Pictures? MGM’s recently relaunched stand-alone U.S. theatrical marketing and distribution company, will be releasing its first film under their new label, the young adult romance Every Day, based on David Levithan’s New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, starring Angourie Rice, Maria Bello and Debby Ryan on April 27, 2018. That label will remain on its own.

Through this new joint venture with Annapurna, MGM expects to release a slate of approximately six to eight films per year beginning with Eli Roth’s re-imagining of the classic 1974 revenge thriller Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis which will be released March 2, 2018; the musical adaptation of the 1983 romantic comedy Valley Girl, directed by Rachel Goldenberg and starring Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse and Mae Whitman, will be released on June 29, 2018; Fighting With My Family, a comedy-drama written and directed by Stephen Merchant, based on the true personal story of WWE Superstar Paige and her family of professional wrestlers, starring Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson, will release in U.S. theaters on September 14, 2018; Creed 2, a continuation of the Rocky saga, starring Golden Globe Winner and Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, will be released in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures on November 21, 2018.

Take a breath. Next year, MGM will also theatrically release Nasty Women, based on the original 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Rebel Wilson, Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway and Tony Award winner Alex Sharp, as well as the thriller Operation Finale, directed by Chris Weitz and starring Golden Globe Winner Oscar Isaac and Academy Award Winner Ben Kingsley.

Annapurna expects to release a slate of approximately four to six films per year including, Richard Linklater’s film adaptation of Maria Semple’s dramedy best-selling novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette; Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from the beloved James Baldwin novel; The Sisters Brothers, based on Patrick deWitt’s acclaimed novel of the same name and Jacques Audiard’s follow-up to his Palme d’Or winning Dheepan; and Adam McKay’s Untitled Dick Cheney Project, which details the career of Dick Cheney and his rise to becoming the most powerful vice president in history.

Barber said in a statement: “We could not be more excited about the start of our new partnership and look forward to working with Megan and the incredibly strong management team that she has built. 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. This efficient distribution model enables us to retain more distribution rights to our feature film releases and create additional revenue opportunities for MGM.”

“We are thrilled to expand our relationship with Gary and the entire MGM team,” said Ellison, also in a statement. “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.”





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