The Mouse Click That Roared Soars Into Movie History
The movie Basic Instinct can now be linked with the impulse to purchase virtually anything online and have it delivered within hours via Amazon Prime. Rocky Balboa, Thelma and Louse, The Pink Panther and Dr. Zhivago can be added to your dinnertime guest list, if a “prime time” streaming is planned – of Amazon Prime Video. And where else can you find Raging Bull, Tomb Raider, Poltergeist, James Bond or The Wizard of Oz in the same shopping cart as a Whole Foods market?
The kingpins of King County, Washington, and the reigning monarchy of Internet commerce, Amazon will acquire the movie majesty of Hollywood’s legendary MGM Studios and its treasure trove of entertainment classics for a purchase price of $8.45 billion. Would you like butter on that?
MGM had been one of the last Hollywood holdouts to avoid joining a larger corporation. Disney acquired Fox in 2018. Comcast purchased NBCUniversal in 2013. ViacomCBS has had Paramount since the mid-1990s. And until yesterday, AT&T had control of Warner Bros. as part of an overall deal with WarnerMedia (which AT&T is now in the process of divesting).
The MGM studio has produced iconic Hollywood projects like Ben-Hur, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz and brought us the likes of Annie Hall and The Silence of the Lambs. While the film industry has been struggling, long before the Covid shutdown, the MGM studio had filed for, and later emerged from, bankruptcy. Yet MGM has continued to produce critically adored and commercially successful entertainment since the 1920’s.
“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” said Mike Hopkins, Senior Vice President of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.
“It has been an honor to have been a part of the incredible transformation of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. To get here took immensely talented people with a true belief in one vision. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the MGM team who have helped us arrive at this historic day,” said Kevin Ulrich, Chairman of the Board of Directors of MGM. “I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision. The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination.”
A Dramatic Turn as The Plot Thickens
The news of the acquisition was released on the same day as Amazon’s annual shareholder’s meeting, held virtually in Amazon’s online kingdom. Like another movie title, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, not all of Amazon’s shareholders are Singin’ in the Rain.
Theatrically speaking, the rights to the James Bond franchise are controlled by the Broccoli family, who can veto any 007 decision they disagree with.
Financially speaking, the Amazon-MGM deal is still subject to the approval of federal regulators who have expressed concern over Amazon’s business practices in an antitrust suit filed against the company.
Calls for racial audits have also been a feature at many shareholder meetings recently, falling short of majorities but attracting enough support — nearly 40 percent at both Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase — to put pressure on directors to act.
In the nation’s capitol, D.C. has also weighed in on the question of anti-competitive behavior. In a newly-filed suit, the District of Columbia alleges that the company has effectively prohibited sellers on its site from charging lower prices for the same products elsewhere, which raised prices on Amazon and beyond. “Amazon has used its dominant position in the online retail market to win at all costs,” said Karl Racine, D.C.’s attorney general. It is believed to be the first antitrust suit against Amazon by an American government authority, but because it is based on local rather than federal law, its effect could be limited even if successful.
Lights, Camera, Outtakes
Among the spicier political implications of the media buy-out is the fact that Amazon will take over MGM’s Television Group headed by Donald Trump’s former TV producer Mark Burnett, and including the Donald Trump media vehicle and TV game show The Apprentice.
The ex-president made an adversary of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by criticizing the Bezos-owned Washington Post, and accusing Amazon of not paying enough taxes. The Bezos-Trump feud also involved a tweet by the Amazon boss saying he’d save a space on a rocket to send Trump into outer space. It’s also featured accusations that Trump’s animus was behind Amazon being shut out of a valuable government contract between Amazon and Microsoft, which is the subject of a lawsuit that continues to this day.
A cast member from The Apprentice has claimed that Trump used the N-word repeatedly while on set during the show’s 13-year run which was evidenced on numerous outtakes. Those media asset are the sole property of MGM, and now Amazon. [24×7]