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Grr. Arg.

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | March 30, 2010 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | March 30, 2010 |

MGM, the source of that classic lion’s roar embedded in our cultural consciousness is drowning in debt. There have been pieces of news over the last year that allude to MGM’s financial difficulties, it’s become standard for any news on an MGM film to include some reference to the studio’s hopes that this will be the film to start to turn it all around. Cabin in the Woods got delayed unexpectedly for a year in order to convert it to 3D. Bond 23 and The Hobbit have both been nudged further and further down the pipeline, because there simply isn’t any money available to start work in earnest. The studio only managed to release 3 films in 2009 and 3 are slated for 2010, after releasing over a dozen in one capacity or another in 2008. One begins to wonder if even essentially completed projects are being pushed off in order to make the studio more attractive to potential buyers.

Here’s the basic financial rundown: MGM has over $3.7 billion in debt, and the best offers to purchase the company have come in at just $1.5 billion. Those two numbers are pretty damned far apart.

Just to put things in perspective, here’s a rough rundown of all the films that MGM has put out over the last decade, with budget, revenue and net. This is very rough since the incestuous nature of Hollywood releases means that you’ll often see a half dozen different companies with hands in the mix due to production, distribution, etc. Additionally, this doesn’t include the other dozen things a company like MGM does on the side, like straight-to-video, television series, and money laundering. The numbers are culled from Wikipedia and IMDB and as such shouldn’t be used for any book reports, but they give a good idea of the scale of MGM’s operations. Numbers are all in millions.

2000Return to Me248-16
20003 Strikes3107
2001Original Sin2616-10
2001Josie and the Pussycats2215-7
2001Hart’s War7019-51
2001Legally Blonde18142124
2001Jeepers Creepers25957
2001What’s the Worst that Could Happen?4532-13
2002Crocodile Hunter133320
2002Die Another Day142432290
2003A Guy Thing2017-3
2003Agent Cody Banks285931
2003Anything Else183-15
2003Legally Blonde 24512580
2003Uptown Girls204525
2003Jeepers Creepers 2176346
2004Good Boy173821
2004Agent Cody Banks 226282
2004Walking Tall5646-10
2004Barbershop 2376629
2005Be Cool539542
2005The Brothers Grimm8810517
2005Into the Blue5018-32
2005Yours, Mine and Ours45538
2005The Amityville Horror1910889
2006Nanny McPhee3412288
2006The Pink Panther80182102
2006Basic Instinct 27039-31
2006Casino Royale150594444
2006Harsh Times231
2006Rocky Balboa24156132
2006Clerks II52722
2006School for Scoundrels3524-11
2007The Flying Scotsman111-10
2007Mr. Brooks204828
2007Who’s Your Caddy76-1
2007Death at a Funeral94738
2007Rescue Dawn107-3
2007Lions for Lambs356328
2008Charlie Bartlett125-7
2008Superhero Movie358146
2008The Longshots2312-11
2008Vicky Christina Barcelona159681
2008Quantum of Solace200586386
2008Soul Men4012-28
2009Taking of Pelham 12310015050

Ah, some of those bombs bring back memories, and you can see the blockbuster mentality buried in that profit column. A full 45% of the profits came from the three James Bond films alone.

So they’ve managed to rack up more debt than they even had expenditures in making films, even though the films themselves have made money overall. Just what the fuck are they spending all that money on? Somewhere in the ballpark of $2.7 billion spent making films, and $3.7 billion of debt. It’s largely a rhetorical question, it doesn’t really matter if the money was lost because the MGM Grand fell into a sinkhole or they borrowed money in order to finance their secret underground war with Disney’s cybernetic mice. The point is that one of the big original film companies has managed to detonate its eighty-year-old self by doing stuff other than making films.

They’ve got the rights to the James Bond franchise and the two films of The Hobbit, which is basically a license to print money. Owning the rights to those and going bankrupt is like dying of scurvy when you live in an orange juice factory. There’s mismanagement, there’s incompetence, and then there’s truly epic level stupidity.

(source: The One Ring)

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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