Bond, James Bond Under Apple Control?

September 7th, 2017

To realize how much influence the James Bond film franchise has had, consider that the first film of the theatrical series was released in 1962. But it wasn’t the first time there was a visual interpretation of one of Ian Fleming’s best selling novels. A version of Casino Royale was produced as part of the TV anthology series Climax! in 1954, starring Barry Nelson as 007.

You don’t remember? I don’t either, and I was alive at the time.

For all practical purposes, Bond actually debuted with “Dr. No,” one of the few films that actually had a passing resemblance to the novel of the same name. After all these years, the most famous — and arguably the best — Bond was the star of that film, Sean Connery. After a procession of actors, the character is currently being played by Daniel Craig, who has decided to do one more film after evidently holding out for a bigger bundle of cash.

But rather than worry about the history of the franchise, the future may be more interesting, because Apple may be involved. And no wonder. Including price adjustments for inflation, the franchise has so far grossed over $14 billion in box office revenues.

So there is a published report that Apple has joined the bidding war to take over the film rights, which would include streaming. The previous deal for 007 expired in 2015, and Apple is said to be competing with Amazon and Warner Bros. to assume the rights.

Now anyone who has followed the long procession of rumors and speculation about anything Apple might just wonder whether Bond, James Bond is actually under consideration. But this story comes from no less than The Hollywood Reporter, a respected trade paper, which conveys an extra degree of credibility.

Regardless of who gets control of the rights, the next Bond film is due for release on November 8, 2019, when Craig will be 51. While that might seem a tad old for a 007, the late Roger Moore played the character well into his 50s. On the other hand, Craig is the sort of actor who does many of his own stunts, whereas the upper crust Moore was said to use a stunt double even to walk across the room. He was also said to be averse to handling guns, so when he conveyed the impression of being above the battle, it appears he didn’t have to do much more than read his lines.

But that’s me. I suspect some people out here cut their teeth on Bond when Moore was involved and might prefer his portrayal.

Is this report about Apple entering the Bond bidding war even possible? Well, the franchise is reportedly valued at between $2 billion and $5 billion, which is little more than a casual expense for Apple. It’s not just about the money, however. It is reported that the long-time 007 producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, would have to be persuaded to embrace Apple’s focus on digital content. They still evidently believe in traditional movies and traditional movie theaters.

I suppose it’s also possible that Apple’s rumored presence in these negotiations may also be designed to convey the impression that the company is really serious about content. Recently Apple hired former Sony TV executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to manage content creation. These executives are best known for such programs as ‘The Blacklist” and “Better Call Saul,” the spinoff to “Breaking Bad.”

Another four hires, also former Sony TV executives, have been added since then. Clearly things are ramping up.

Now as a practical matter, if Apple does take over the Bond franchise, they will also take over distribution of the existing 24 movies in the series, plus future films. Other than the traditional theatrical releases, how would you see them? I presume via iTunes, and perhaps via Apple Music or whatever medium Apple develops to present its new video projects.

Does that mean that Apple Music is destined to become Apple Music and Video and thus became an all-encompassing medium to present a wide variety of streaming content? If that’s the case, it would put Apple in quite a different category than Spotify, which has been, up till now, basically a music medium.

Remember, this is not a casual enterprise. It was already reported that Apple plans to spend $1 billion to acquire new or existing TV-related content. The move would still put the company way behind Netflix, which is reportedly spending $6 billion this year, and $7 billion in 2018 to develop or buy up the rights for new shows.

But if Bond has suddenly entered the picture, Apple may just have a wider aspirations in content creation than previously suspected. But this isn’t the first time Apple has been named in negotiations to buy an entertainment property. In the past, a possible purchase of Warner Bros. — all of it — has also been mentioned without any direct confirmation.

On a practical level, though, I just wonder when there will be a surfeit of good stuff to watch. There are more quality scripted dramas to watch than ever before, but you need to sign up with an increasing number of streaming services to watch them all since many are exclusive to a single service. Even if you have cable or satellite for your daily TV diet, you need these extra services to get the full range of content.

At some point, I suspect many people will come to realize that cutting the cord may not save any money, so there may be some level of cutting back. When will the saturation point be reached? For me, it’s already there. There’s too much good stuff for me to watch, or even afford, right now. I have to decide what to give up, or what to avoid, and I can’t be alone in being put in that position.

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