Why Isn’t ‘The Hobbit’ Shooting Yet?
In case you were sleeping off the three-day weekend and missed it, director Guillermo Del Toro withdrew from The Hobbit, announcing in a press release leaded to The One Ring that MGM’s inability to green light the production forced his move. Del Toro has an extensive deal with Universal Studios carrying him through 2017 and his window to direct the two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel was rapidly closing.
You sit there wondering why on Earth such a no-brainer of a decision isn’t just handed down. And there hangs a sad tale.
The Hobbit’s rights are controlled in part by MGM which currently is considering bids for a sale given its bleak financial outlook. The once mighty studio that proclaimed it had more stars than were in the heavens has floundered and day to day operations have been virtually halted with the exception of its television unit, which recently sold a 12-episode series to MTV.
By not having the funding to mount big budget films to replenish its coffers, not only has The Hobbit been stalled but work on the studio’s one perennial cash cow, James Bond, has been suspended. EON Productions’ Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced several weeks back that all work on the 23rd installment of the series had been halted, which means Daniel Craig’s tenure as the spy may prove short-lived. The hedge funder holders who now control the studio’s fate began soliciting bids back in the fall of 2009 and today the sole bid outstanding is $1.5 billion from TimeWarner. The debt holders, who bought the outstanding obligations of about $3.7 billion for sixty cents on the dollar, had anticipated reaping $2 billion for the studio and its assets.
Those assets not only include 007 but an extensive film library that hungry media outlets need to fuel the future demand for entertainment on mobile devices and beamed straight to televisions.
Lionsgate dropped out in March and Access Industries withdrew their bid
in mid-May, leaving TimeWarner the remaining entity with the cash and
appetite for the debt-ridden studio. MGM’s debt-holders are now looking
at strategic partnerships to find fresh cash to keep their doors open
while finding a suitor who will meet their stringent criteria.
At present, MGM has only one film scheduled for 2010 release, the remake
of Red Dawn that has drawn withering criticism from China, which
replaces Russia as the invading country in this preposterous tale.
While New Line, now a small division of Warner Bros., shares the rights
to The Hobbit with MGM, they cannot proceed without clearance
from the studio. By losing del Toro, the previously announced December
2012 and December 2012 release dates are in jeopardy. Peter Jackson
responded in part to Del Toro’s announcement by saying, “Guillermo is
co-writing The Hobbit screenplays with Philippa Boyens, Fran
Walsh and myself, and happily our writing partnership will continue for
several more months, until the scripts are fine tuned and polished” says
Jackson. “New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to
ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director
for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing
MGM also controls United Artist, another once-great company that fell on
hard times through mismanagement. Since November 2006, Tom Cruise and
his partner Paula Wagner were placed in charge, being given a piece of
the studio, a step approved by the creditors. After several box office
disappointments, Wagner left to become an independent producer. UA is a
name listed as co-producer on last fall’s disappointing remake of Fame
and this spring’s Hot Tub Time Machine.
Whoever purchases MGM gains their famous logo, a library of some 4000
movies and television episodes (although the studio’s pre-1986 releases
are already owned by TimeWarner), James Bond and a half-share of The
Among the properties now controlled by MGM includes their post-1986
library, most of United Artists’ post-1952 catalogue. Additionally, with
some exceptions, the holdings include the post-1981 Orion Pictures
library, the Filmways television series, and libraries from former
production entities American International Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn
Corporation, Motion Picture Corporation of America, ITV Global
Entertainment (the entity that was once Granada International and ITC
Entertainment), Cannon Films, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment Nelson
Entertainment and Embassy Pictures, Atlantic Releasing Corporation,
Scotti Bros. Pictures and Hemdale Film Corporation.