The films being held up by MGM’s financial woes

It’s not just The Hobbit and James Bond that are caught in limbo due to MGM’s funding problems…

It’s been widely reported in recent months about the debt mountain at MGM, which has run up nearly $4bn of red ink. Now, as it seeks to refinance the company and find a new owner, it’s got to the point where not only is MGM unable to greenlight movies, but it can’t afford to market the ones that it’s already made.

Here’s an overview, then, of the projects that have been affected thus far…

The Hobbit

One of the two highest profile casualties thus far of the MGM financial meltdown, if all had gone to plan, by this stage the shoot for the two planned Hobbit movies should be underway by now. Guillermo del Toro would be directing, Peter Jackson producing, and we’d know who was filling the clothes of Bilbo Baggins too.

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However, that’s not the case. Instead, Guillermo del Toro has walked away from the project after constant delays put back the start of production, and even as we write this, it’s not entirely sure when exactly The Hobbit shoot will begin. Heck, the identity of the new director hasn’t been revealed either, although the smart money appears to be on Peter Jackson wielding the megaphone.

It’s certain that The Hobbit movies will press ahead, not least because Warner Bros is co-financing the films (and it’s also in the bidding to buy MGM). Furthermore, it’s believed that the security of the The Hobbit films – a prized asset in the MGM sale – is secured as part and parcel of whatever deal presses ahead.

However, right now, The Hobbit is still stuck in limbo. The shoot for the two films is likely to take a year, and that means that, even if production begins in December, we’re looking at a Christmas 2013 release date at the earliest.

It’s believed that pre-production and preparatory work is continuing, but the official green light? Right now, it’s nowhere to be seen.

James Bond 23

Much of the story of The Hobbit can be replicated with the other prime project on the MGM slate, the twenty-third James Bond film. This was well into development up until earlier this year, when Eon Productions announced that it was stopping work on the film indefinitely. Again, this is down to the fact that MGM simply can’t afford to make it in its current state.

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The project had Daniel Craig returning, with Rachel Weisz widely believed to be joining the cast in a villainous role. Meanwhile, American Beauty director Sam Mendes was down to direct.

However, since it hit development hell, there’s been no sign of movement on the next Bond movie, nor is there any chance that it will be shooting at the end of this year as planned.

The original thinking was that a winter 2010 shoot would lead to a November 2011 release, but again, even if everything was fixed at MGM quickly, it’s hard to see the return of James Bond on the big screen before the end of 2012.

That said, the rumours circulating that the twenty-third Bond movie was dead recently are just that. There’s no chance at all that the James Bond franchise is dead.

Robocop

Just before it the current chapter of its financial crisis, MGM was digging through its back catalogue to work out what titles it could remake. Robocop has been on the roster for a couple of years now, with Darren Aronofsky linked with the director’s chair.

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However, the project has been stuck in development for a while now, and there appears to be more than just money at the heart of that. For it was reported at the start of the year that a disagreement over taking the project 3D was also causing ructions.

However, ultimately, the fact remains that MGM couldn’t greenlight a new Robocop movie if it wanted to (and the original plan was to have it in cinemas for this year), and while there may be other factors where this particular project is concerned, it’s still the lack of green that’s the biggest obstacle.

Red Dawn

Unlike pretty much every other project on this list, Red Dawn has actually already been produced. The film was shot last year, with Dan Bradley directing, and the reported cost of the negative came in at around $40-45m. The original plan was to release the film in the US on November 24th, but it seems that MGM’s financial woes are so deep now that it can’t raise the funds to release a movie it’s already shot.

Red Dawn stars Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas, but the chances of us seeing them anytime soon in the picture are remote. Instead, Red Dawn is likely to linger on the shelves until the MGM financial situation is finally resolved.

Cabin In The Woods

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Another film that’s already completed and in the can, Cabin In The Woods is the horror thriller that’s been produced by Joss Whedon. Directed by Drew Goddard (who wrote Cloverfield, with he and Whedon writing the script to this film), the film actually should have been released right at the start of the year, although MGM elected to delay the film to convert it to 3D. Also, the thinking at the time of the delay was that it would allow the studio to generate some money to market the film.

As it stands, however, there’s not even a trailer been shot, and just as with Red Dawn, the film has been indefinitely delayed. Either a fresh release date will be found under the MGM banner, or the completed negative will be sold lock, stock and barrel to another studio.

Again, it might be a while before we find out for sure.

The Zookeeper

This was another MGM project that was completed, it being a new comedy with Kevin James in the lead role. However, The Zookeeper was a co-production with Sony, and MGM has subsequently sold its half of the picture.

Thus, Sony now owns it outright, and it’s scheduled the film for release in summer 2011.

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The Three Stooges

MGM got to the point where it was putting the cast together for its brand new The Three Stooges movie back at the start of 2009. Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Jim Carrey were all reported to be in talks to star in the film, and The Farrelly Brothers had been linked with directing the film.

Originally, the intention was to have the film released on November 20th 2009, although MGM did announce that it was delaying production to 2010. And you can pretty much guess the rest from there.

MGM’s chances of getting that cast together again if it does eventually get The Three Stooges movie again are slight, but again, there appear to have been other reasons on top of finances that have stopped this one pushing forwards.

The Matarese Circle

MGM paid $3m for the rights to Robert Ludlum’s The Matarese Circle back in 2008, and screenwriters were brought on board to pen the script too. This one got to the point where stars and a director were mentioned too. In this case, David Cronenberg was reportedly interesting in helming the film, while Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington were strongly linked with the project too.

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However, nothing had been heard of the project since April of 2009, until it emerged in the last week that, as you probably guessed, the project was on hold.

Again, MGM’s finances have kyboshed further progress.

We’ll keep you posted as and when we hear more on any of these projects…