The big news in the entertainment this morning was obviously that Sony Corp. has agreed to put-up roughly $5-Billion to buy MGM. MGM had basically been on the block for a while, and as recently as a few weeks ago, Time Warner was thought to be the front-runner. I was looking forward to a Time Warner purchase because that would have meant TCM would then have access to the entire MGM library. (It already retains much of it.) But the price became apparently too high, TW dropped out, and Sony will now fold two other classic Hollywood studios into their Sony Pictures Entertainment banner.
SPE basically evolved out of Sony's purchase of Columbia and TriStar Pictures. They moved Columbia Studios from its long-time Burbank home (studios side-by-side with Warner Bros.) to Culver City where they took over the lot belonging to ... hey, how about that? -- MGM. MGM eventually moved out to a brand-spanking-new (at the time) office complex (without lot and production facilities) in Santa Monica. MGM, by the way, had also acquired United Artists, the historic studio that was started by the biggest names in Hollywood of the day in 1919, specifically Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. It was the Dreamworks SKG of its day, except arguably much more influential and important. Today, UA is basically MGM's "classics" division, releasing indie-style and foreign films, and both studios lack the luster and dominance of the film world they each held during the early and so-called "golden age" of cinema.
According to the story in Variety today (sub. req'd), what will happen to both MGM and UA is up for grabs, but with so much crossover among Columbia, Sony Classics and Screen Gems, not to mention an attempt to revise TriStar (already part of the Sony stable) and MGM and UA, Variety indicates that the two studio brands will simply disappear. (And by the way, watch the LA unemployment numbers take a little jump as soon as this is all finalized.) Interestingly enough, the story on the Variety website is missing a paragraph that can be found in the Daily Variety Gotham print edition which indicates that just like the UA label, the MGM banner may disappear after 2005. Obviously I can't link to this, but here's what you'd read on p.17 of today's Daily Variety Gotham:
"Sources said there will be a transition period to accommodate films in the MGM pipeline, but that by next year MGM films will be released through Sony Pictures, though they still will carry the MGM label.
"After 2005, that label and the roaring Lion will be put to rest."(Italics added by me.)
Maybe Variety made a mistake, hence that sentence being gone from the story currently online, but if it's true, that would be a major shame. MGM is possibly the most famous of the early studios, and its roaring lion "Leo" is the one studio card that has basically not changed since its inception. If the Lion disappears, a chunk of Hollywood history says bye-bye with it. To be replaced by what? The boring SPE logo? Or by nothing as Sony just takes hold of the MGM library but all releases continue under the Columbia banner? Either way, it's a shame, and while it may seem like nothing, it would actually be the death of a major movie institution.
Here's hoping the Lion is not forced to rest in peace.