MGM losing licence to thrill as debts soar
Published 21/04/2010 | 05:00
THE future of the once mighty Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is in doubt and it is being forced to sell off its film assets including the James Bond franchise and a stake in two Hobbit movies.
Also up for auction is a 4,000-title film library and the once prolific studio's logo, a roaring lion, which has been seen at the beginning of some of the most classic films in cinema history including 'Ben-Hur' and 'The Wizard of Oz'.
But with its glory days long behind it, MGM has put itself up for sale having accrued debts of $3.7bn (€2.6bn).
Producers of the forthcoming 23rd James Bond movie have placed it on indefinite hold amid the uncertainty, leading to speculation over Daniel Craig's future as the super-spy. And two planned Hobbit movies have yet to be given the go-ahead for filming also.
Founded in 1924, MGM experienced a golden age through to the 1950s and Louis B Mayer used it to create the Hollywood star system. It became a financial juggernaut and the most successful studio in the world.
The studio tapped into an audience desire for glamour by promoting screen actors like Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow and transforming them into a new kind of royalty.
Its official motto was 'Ars Gratia Artis,' Latin for 'Art for Art's Sake', but its unofficial one was 'More Stars Than There Are In Heaven'.
Perhaps the zenith came with the epic 'Ben-Hur', released in 1959 and starring Charlton Heston, which won 11 Oscars, an achievement not matched until 'Titanic' nearly 40 years later.
Ironically, the success of 'Ben-Hur' sowed the seeds of the studio's demise as it began to focus on producing one big budget epic each year, some of which flopped. Ownership changed hands several times and it is currently in the hands of a consortium which includes Sony and Comcast.
Amid slumping DVD sales and a dearth of hit movies, alternatives that have been considered include merging with another media firm, an asset auction or sale of the company.
Carl DiOrio, of the 'Hollywood Reporter', said: "The existing company cannot just be restructured, the debt load has got too severe and the cash flow has fallen off too severely." (© Daily Telegraph, London)