James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM

Amazon’s appetite for movies became ravenous during the pandemic. It paid $125 million for the rights to “Coming 2 America,” $80 million for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” and $200 million for “The Tomorrow War,” a Chris Pratt adventure that will arrive on Prime on July 2. Amazon also has Oscar ambitions, buying the rights to “Sound of Metal,” which was nominated for best picture and other top awards at the most recent ceremony.

When it comes to making its own hit films, Amazon has long struggled. MGM managers could help: Michael De Luca, MGM’s movie chairman, has a track record that includes, at various companies, the “Rush Hour,” “Austin Powers” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchises.

MGM also has a television studio that makes “Vikings,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and various “Real Housewives” shows. In 2014, MGM acquired Mark Burnett’s production company, One Three Media, which holds rights to competition series like “The Voice,” “Survivor” and “Shark Tank.” Mr. Burnett, a contentious figure in Hollywood because he helped shape Donald J. Trump’s image with “The Apprentice” and remained close to him during his divisive presidential term, serves as MGM’s television chairman.

Anchorage Capital, a New York investment firm, has been the majority owner of MGM for more than a decade. Before that, MGM was tossed between owners and, bitten by falling DVD revenue, eventually ending up in bankruptcy. It was worth about $2 billion in 2010, according to analysts.

Kevin Ulrich, Anchorage’s chief executive and MGM’s chairman, formally put the studio on the block late last year. Anchorage has been under pressure from various stakeholders to exit the investment, with some agitators complaining that Mr. Ulrich was overly enamored with Hollywood and should have sold years ago.

The end of MGM as a stand-alone company adds to a vast reshaping of the media business as the big seek to compete by getting even bigger. Last week, AT&T announced a deal to spin off its WarnerMedia group and combine it with Discovery Inc., a move meant to strengthen WarnerMedia’s struggling HBO Max streaming service and a nascent streaming platform owned by Discovery. In a counterattack against the tech companies that have aggressively moved into Hollywood over the last decade, Disney paid $71.3 billion for the bulk of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment assets in 2019.

Such megadeals have left smaller studios like MGM, Lionsgate and STX Entertainment looking for lifelines. (STX, known for comedies like “Hustlers” and “Bad Moms,” merged with the Bollywood studio Eros International last summer.)

Karen Weise contributed reporting.

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