Amazon and Apple join race for James Bond distribution rights


Rights valued at up to $5bn are considered to be underexploited and deal with either could also involve global TV broadcasting

Amazon and Apple have emerged as contenders to take on the multibillion-dollar distribution rights for the James Bond film franchise and could provide a new TV home for 007.

The rights, valued at between $2bn and $5bn (1.5bn-3.8bn), according to Hollywood Reporter, are considered to be underexploited in a world where blockbuster global intellectual property is in high demand.

Disney paid $4bn for Marvel in 2009 and the same amount for Lucasfilm, the home of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, in 2012, while Netflix last month acquired the comic book company Millarworld, the developer of Kick-Ass and Kingsman.

The joint James Bond rights holders MGM and Eon, the latter of which produces the films, have been on the hunt for a new distributor since Sonys deal expired after Spectre came out in 2015.

The contract, which includes co-financing and distribution, is being pursued by the usual Hollywood suspects including 21st Century Fox, Universal, Sony and the frontrunner, Warner Bros.

But the emergence of Apple and Amazon, which bought the US book rights to Ian Flemings James Bond novels in 2012, suggests MGM and Eon are considering a wider deal.

The TV rights are sold to broadcasters around the world, with Sky the first to get Bond movies in the UK, but an agreement with Apple or Amazon could change that, according to analysts.

Richard Broughton of Ampere said: If Warner wins, it will be business as normal, theyll sell on to other players in each market. If Amazon or Apple take the deal, they may not then sell on TV rights, instead using them themselves globally.

David Hancock, a film analyst at IHS Markit, said: We know that Bond works in cinemas, but [with] the way people consume films and the way the market is moving, there is merit in MGM/Eon looking at distribution and potentially a wider deal in a different way.

The emergence of Apple and Amazon suggests that an online or digital element of the deal is being considered far more seriously than it was two, three or five years ago.

For the makers of Bond, which is based and filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, theatrical releases remain the focus. Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, earned $880.7m globally.

Last month, Daniel Craig confirmed that he would return as James Bond in one final film out in 2019.

Last week, it emerged that Apple is looking at taking space in Californias Culver Studios, known for films such as Gone with The Wind and The Matrix, as it looks to underline its move to become a major player in TV and film.

Apple stunned Hollywood in June by recruiting Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony as its new TV chiefs. The pair have been responsible for striking a 100m co-production deal with Netflix to make The Crown, and have overseen production of hit shows including Breaking Bad and The Blacklist.

Amazon, which paid up to 150m to lure the former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, is estimated to spend about $4.5bn a year on its Prime Video service.

Netflix has committed $6.6bn to buying and creating TV programmes, and makes about 1,000 hours of its owns shows annually. HBO, the Sopranos and Game of Thrones maker, spends about $2bn a year.

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Apple cancels its London music festival


Apple Music festival formerly iTunes festival comes to an end after 10 years, as the company focuses on original TV and music content

Apple has axed its yearly London music festival, which has hosted Foo Fighters, Elton John, Alicia Keys and Ed Sheeran amongst others.

Inaugurated in 2007 as the iTunes festival and rebranded as the Apple Music festival in 2015, the event was held at the Roundhouse for much of its tenure. An ambitious lineup of A-list stars was assembled each September, with a free daily concert for prize-winners. In 2015, the festival was scaled back to 10 shows.

The cancellation comes as Apple focuses on creating its own content, as well as hosting music, TV and films to stream and buy. It recently launched the TV series Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps, and is expected to start creating music-themed content. Apple recently hired two former Sony television executives, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, to help develop shows. Meanwhile, Apples online radio station, Beats 1, has been on air since 2015.

The company is also gearing up for a launch event on 12 September at its new campus in Cupertino, California, where they are expected to announce the eighth iteration of the iPhone.

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The Disaster Artist review James Franco’s ode to bad film-making is a riot

The story behind cult movie The Room is brought to life with affection and painstaking detail and features a staggering transformation from the lead

One of the overriding questions one has while enduring a particularly awful film is, with all of the talented out-of-work film-makers in Hollywood, just how on earth did this get made? Did no one take the time to really read the script? Couldnt someone spot the signs during production? Didnt anyone try to burn all available copies of the film before it limped onto the screen? Theres a certain sadistic pleasure in not only watching a so bad its good movie (a hobby thats grown in popularity in recent years) but also to explore the tortured story behind the scenes.

Its especially fascinating when the finished product emerges in total earnest, seemingly produced by a team of people blissfully unaware of the horrors they have inflicted on an audience. Not many films conjure up this playful curiosity quite as much as 2003 oddity The Room. Its a small budget drama that developed a cult status for its stilted acting, nonsensical plotting and indefinable central figure Tommy Wiseau. It was released in just one theater in LA, with a two week extension paid for by Wiseau himself to ensure that it qualified for Oscar consideration. The compellingly strange details of its production were turned into a book The Disaster Artist which has now made its way to its inevitable resting place: the big screen.

Greg (Dave Franco) is a 19-year-old struggling actor living in San Francisco. He struggles not just because of the impossibly competitive nature of the industry but also because, well, hes not that good. In acting class, hes finding it hard to lose himself in a scene, a problem that is quite notably not shared by boisterous classmate Tommy (James Franco). The pair begin to bond, Greg envious of Tommys apparent confidence and Tommy jealous of Gregs baby face looks. Tommy is a frustrating enigma, his age, place of birth and source of income all remaining a mystery but his enthusiasm compels Greg to stick with him.

After the two move to Los Angeles, they both try plotting their individual routes into the industry but Tommys eccentricities and Gregs stiffness mean that their careers fail to take off. After yet another rejection, they hatch a plan: why not make their own movie? Tommy heads to his typewriter and before long, The Room is ready for production with himself playing the lead and Greg nabbing a major part. But as the cameras start to roll, Greg discovers that hes underestimated Tommys quirks and overestimated his talents.

While its not entirely essential to have seen The Room before The Disaster Artist, it does elevate the experience, the script answering long-standing questions hardcore fans have had for years. Franco, who like Wiseau also acts as director here, has crafted a loving tribute to the film, its fans and also film-making in general. Theres a tendency to cast aside unfathomably bad movies, the belief that their lack of quality then dictates a lack of respect but Franco has assembled a painstaking recreation and a detailed exploration into a story that might never have been told.

In the past few years, Francos career has turned into something of a joke, his constant, tiresome need to provoke and unfounded belief that he is a master of all trades meaning that its all too easy to forget his talent as an actor. But he is staggeringly good here, almost unrecognizable as Wiseau, nailing his strange mannerisms, unusual voice and awkward laugh while also delving a bit deeper to inhabit a man whose deep-rooted insecurities are messily papered over with bravado. Its easy to laugh at Wiseau, and unavoidably the film does, but its harder to make us actually care about him. Its an affectionately handled portrait of a difficult man and we share both the frustration and sympathy of other characters. As director, he does solid work but peppers his film with some bizarrely picked pop culture references. Despite the film being set in the late 90s/early 00s, the music is all from the early 90s and, clumsily, a number of posters in the background of scenes are of films released years after.

As the film starts to cover the meat of the story, the production of The Room itself, it becomes giddy, often hysterically funny entertainment. We follow Gregs increasing horror as he realizes just what hes got himself into and theres a sustained series of ludicrous, crowd-pleasing set-pieces in rapid succession. Franco has also recruited a strong cast of actors for the many small roles in the film, including Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Megan Mullally, Hannibal Buress, Judd Apatow, Bryan Cranston, Zac Efron and Ari Graynor.

But the dazzle of the cast and the targeted in-jokes never take away from the films core messaging about the importance of believing in ones own ability as an artist. Rather like last years Florence Foster Jenkins, the finale shows that even a really unarguably bad performance can bring unabashed joy to a crowd and with awards buzz already circulating around The Disaster Artist, Wiseau might be heading to the Oscars after all.

  • The Disaster Artist is screening at the Toronto film festival and will be released in US cinemas on 1 December with a UK date yet to be announced

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Home invasions, melting glaciers and Humpty Dumpty is VR finally coming into its own?


The Venice film festival has dedicated a section to cutting edge virtual-reality features, suggesting that the format may be about to take off as mass entertainment

Lazzaretto Vecchio is a small ruined island in the Venetian lagoon, an arrangement of crumbling brick barns a short boat ride from the Lido. In its time it has been a leper colony, a plague quarantine and a dumping ground for stray dogs and cats. Thousands of corpses, animal and human, are believed to be piled beneath the buildings foundations.

Now Lazzaretto Vecchio has been reborn as the home of Venice VR, a pioneering section at this years Venice film festival. Abandoned structures have been refashioned as airy, minimalist galleries showcasing new work from the virtual-reality industry. Inside are a range of immersive installations and standalone exhibits, plus a 50-seat cinema. Visitors totter across the cobbles wearing Oculus headsets and lightweight earphones, thrilling to sounds and visions only they can experience. There are dramas about sea monsters and jewel thieves, home invaders and Holocaust survivors. Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises.

The irony is that Venice, the oldest film festival in the world, is by far the most forward-thinking in terms of recognising new art forms, says Liz Rosenthal, co-programmer of Venice VR. Its the first festival that has properly recognised virtual reality and made it part of the official programme, with a competition and a jury and prizes.

The 22 films in competition are an eclectic bunch. Strictly speaking, many are not films at all. The assortment roams from the animated La Camera Insabbiata, a whimsical celebration of storytelling by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-chien Huang, to Edward Robles Dispatch, a hardboiled cop serial that puts us inside a suburban house as a murderer comes calling. Some of the films are escapist fantasy; others come with more serious intent. Greenland Melting is a campaigning climate change documentary that puts the viewer on the deck of an Arctic research ship to observe the glaciers in retreat.

At the far end of the barn sit the immersive installations. Jordan Tannahills Draw Me Close, developed in collaboration with Londons National Theatre, is a powerful elegy to the directors late mother. Here we essentially play the role of Jordan, spirited from his mums deathbed and cast back to his childhood. An actor leads you through the stage-set, instructing you to open the window or draw with crayon on the floor, and then gently tucks you up in bed at the end of the day. I havent been tucked up in bed since I was about 12. The experience is unsettling and moving in about equal measure.

Next door to this, Alice provides light relief. This is a freewheeling virtual-reality play, sending the participant scurrying on a fraught 20-minute trip into Wonderland, where they try to catch Humpty Dumpty and chase after a crown before being yanked out through the curtains as if from a dream. I reeled back into the daylight, giggling like an idiot.


Beguiling … Ardens Wake: The Prologue Photograph: Penrose Studios
Traditionally, VRs two main references are cinema and video games, says Antoine Cardon, Alices co-producer. Whereas for us it has always been immersive theatre. So I think VR can mean a lot of different things. Its not exactly cinema, its not games or theatre. Its its own thing. We are rapidly reaching the point where the old comparisons lose their meaning.

Ardens Wake, by Eugene Chung, conjures up a beguiling diorama of a flooded planet inhabited by a plucky Pixar-esque heroine and her gruff seafaring dad. Chung has been hailed by Forbes magazine as the DW Griffith of VR but even he feels that such movie parallels risk becoming a constraint.

Drop the film analogy, he says. Its an obvious point of reference but you have to know where to apply it. The idea of a feature-length story means something different in VR. The grammar is different. Back in the 1850s, opera was seen as the ideal art form. Then in the 1890s we saw the first moving pictures. Weve had 120 years with cinema at the top of the pile. Its probably about time we had something new emerging.

Where VR goes next is anybodys guess. Thats what were all wondering, Chung says. Its a nascent industry. Its a new language. You could say that the VR industry is in a similar place to the film industry was in the 1900s the time of the first three-act narrative features. Although I think were a bit beyond that already. Plus technology moves a lot faster than it did a century ago. No one really knows where this will be in five years time.

At the Venice film festival, sceptics joke that a former leper colony is the perfect home for an industry still finding its range and fighting for mainstream acceptance. But over 3,000 visitors have made the crossing this week and the Venice VR section is widely judged to have been a success. The artists on Lazaretto Vecchio, then, arent exiles or pariahs. Theyre pioneers who colonised a ruined island and proceeded to build a new world.

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Why The Oscars Do Not Matter, or: A Look Back at 1975

Do The Oscars Really Matter to the TV watching or Cinema going Public on a Whole or it it all just a big fantasy set for only the celebs to moan and groan about how high up the Superstar echelons they have climbed in an attempt to reach the very TOP of the ‘FAME TREE’!!!

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Hollywood in Retrospect


Voting has closed.  Price-Waterhouse is counting the ballots.  On Sunday night, we will find out who won the 86th annual Academy Awards.  On Monday, most people will forget who won, except for the people who make it their business to never forget (Harvey Weinstein, I’m looking at you.)  And given the hurt feelings, rivalries, and “How-the-fuck-could-they-ignore-XYZ-but-award-ABC” reactions that will become inevitable over time, I need to remind you guys of something really important:


That’s right.  You heard me.  I, the person who in fifth grade memorized every winner in just about all the major categories, am here to remind you all that these awards do not matter.  Sure, they matter in that it’s fun, and that getting them means you’ll be king/queen for a day, and you have a beautifully designed trophy to put on your mantle.  But seriously, whether or not the person…

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