Much online e-ink has been e-spilled over the question of which actor will take up the mantle of international superspy James Bond for the 25th installment of the perennial franchise. Will incumbent star Daniel Craig return for another go-round as 007, or will he be replaced by the likes of new challengers Tom Hiddleston, Dan Stevens, Emily Blunt, or Idris Elba? Who knows (not us), but as the mission to secure a star has been playing out, another big change-up has unfolded largely in the background.

The New York Times ran an illuminating item today about the recent scramble among studios to secure the creative rights to the James Bond property and the handsome paydays that go with it. Sony fronted the last four Bond flicks, steering the franchise into its commercially and critically fruitful Craig era, but their rights to Ian Fleming’s creation expired after 2015’s Spectre. Now, five different distribution outfits are all jockeying for the favor of rights-holders MGM and Eon Productions, making elaborate presentations all throughout this week.

The NYT‘s item states that Tuesday saw Sony make their case, attempting to dazzle the MGM folks by staging their big pitch in a recreated Dr. No set. Similar offers have been made by competitors Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and the wild card of the bunch, Megan Ellison’s new-boutique-distributor-on-the-block Annapurna. (After a rocky 2016, Paramount’s concentrating on getting their act together, and has refrained from throwing their hat into the ring. Disney’s focusing on family films for now, though a family-friendly James Bond would certainly be... something?)

A change in distributorship could mark a major change in the shape of Bond to come. Sony put their distinct stamp on the franchise, ushering in a tougher, more brutal Bond. Surely an Annapurna-fronted 007 would zag where the franchise has historically zigged.

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