Amazon’s US$8.45 billion dollar purchase of film studio MGM was announced this week, giving the tech company the rights to literally thousands of hours of archive content as well as a number of ongoing feature film franchises. It has led to immediate speculation over the James Bond series of films – commercially MGM’s crown jewel – and how they might change going forwards. Are we about to see forthcoming instalment No Time to Die jump from cinema screens to the Amazon Prime streaming service?
In a word, no. For one thing, Amazon’s purchase won’t be finalised by the time that film hits its scheduled release date. For another, MGM only ever owned half of the rights to the 007 films. The controlling half remains in the hands of the Broccoli family via their company EON Productions, and they are openly committed to keeping Bond in cinemas. Whether the Broccolis are open to Amazon expanding their golden goose to allow for spin-offs or streaming series adaptations remains to be seen. Personally I’m rather doubtful.
Given MGM’s large back catalogue, however, Bond is not the only franchise-worthy property Amazon is getting its hands on. While a historical purchase put everything MGM made prior to May 1986 in the hands of Warner Bros, most of what’s been made since is now Amazon’s to exploit. Here are some of the potential properties about to get a nostalgia-fuelled revival.
MGM distributed a reboot of this popular horror franchise back in 2019, to profitable returns. This franchise is something of a rights nightmare, however, with Chucky creator Don Mancini continuing to hold rights to use the killer doll character in a parallel-yet-unrelated television series. That makes it seem unlikely that Amazon would push the franchise too enthusiastically, but future movie sequels remain possible.
One hugely successful first film but a moderately disappointing sequel is not a lot on which to hang a franchise, but Legally Blonde already has a second sequel in active development with star Reese Witherspoon attached. If that revives the popularity of the Elle Woods character and the Blonde series generally, there are all sorts of opportunities for streaming series and even animation.
The Pink Panther
Whether the live-action comedy about inept police detective Clouseau or the iconic cartoon character, The Pink Panther offers Amazon a wealth of opportunities for streaming and theatrical entertainment. A financially successful reboot back in 2006 starring Steve Martin proved the property still had commercial potential. Perhaps not the most fashionable of brands among film geeks, but the commercial potential here is significant.
Nothing in Hollywood gets rebooted quite so enthusiastically as a horror movie. Already rebooted once, Poltergeist also once inspired a short-run television spin-off. There is a lucrative brand here, and Amazon could easily tie the Poltergeist title to nearly any supernatural horror film or series they created. It is the brand recognition that is valuable here, rather than any story or character elements.
If there was ever a science fiction franchise whose time has arrived, it is surely Robocop. Should a potential Amazon-driven revival bring back the character, it is essentially for it to lean hard into its savagely satirical roots. In an increasingly corporatised world disrupted by Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police, and a runaway 24-hour news cycle where truth and fiction seem thrown into a blender, a Robocop film or series could really do some smart, entertaining stuff. Despite middling sequels, a bland remake, and terrible TV adaptations, the core character remains as popular as ever.
A third Creed feature film is due in 2022, guaranteeing this franchise will continue into the Amazon age. The question is just how much further will Amazon want to dig into this property. Sylvester Stallone has spoken of a Rocky VII and a prequel television series, while potential remains for Dragon spin-offs and other franchise extensions. Of course, Hollywood is Hollywood; the spectre of a remake is ever-present.
MGM invested heavily in this science fiction horror film at the time, going so far as employing Alien conceptual artist H.R. Giger to design its central monster. The film underperformed somewhat, and yet enthusiasm at MGM was high enough to try a big-screen sequel as well as two direct-to-video follow-ups. This is perhaps not the most exciting of propositions, but the IP is currently just sitting around and the streaming services are always hungry for content.
Bond aside, I honestly believe this is the crown jewel in MGM for Amazon. Originally a break-out theatrical hit for filmmakers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, it was later expanded to a television series which ran for 10 seasons and inspired two spin-off series and a cartoon. A small Internet series aside, the franchise has been lying fallow for a decade now. Most of the kids who grew up watching the TV iteration have kids of their own now. A strong central concept with a lot of room for creativity is paired with enormous nostalgia potential; the merchandising revenue here could be huge. Stargate under Amazon could grow as large as there is hunger in the market for it.