Amazon is reportedly interested in acquiring MGM Studios at a price tag of roughly $9 billion, according to multiple stories in industry publications, from Variety to Deadline. The Information first broke the news late yesterday, but both Amazon and MGM have declined to comment so far.
In a media landscape where a new mega-merger or acquisition seems to occur every few months, this deal would be notable for a few reasons. First and foremost, MGM has been one of the few classic Hollywood studios to avoid joining a larger corporation so far. 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.
But beyond the pure business spectacle, MGM is also one of the oldest film studios around. It dates back to the 1920s. The studio produced iconic Hollywood projects like Ben-Hur, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz. Later, it made the likes of Annie Hall and The Silence of the Lambs. And though the film industry has been struggling for much of this century—MGM filed for bankruptcy (and later emerged from it) long before COVID-19, in 2010—this studio has continued to produce critically adored and commercially successful entertainment. MGM boasts rejuvenated franchises like James Bond and Rocky Balboa (in the excellent Michael B. Jordan vehicle Creed), TV projects like The Handmaid’s Tale and Survivor, and highly anticipated films like No Time to Die and House of Gucci (starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, and… just take our money, OK?).
Of course, we won’t know the specifics of what’s included in any deal until the companies come to an agreement and everything is made public. (It’s worth noting, for instance, Warner Bros. has the rights to many pre-1986 MGM works from a deal back in the 1980s.) But should some deal come to fruition, it would be merely the latest example of big tech companies swooping in to become major players within the traditional film and TV space. Amazon enjoyed 12 Oscar nominations and two wins at the 2021 ceremony, but the company has by no means rested on its laurels when it comes to producing new work for its Prime streaming service or acquiring projects to entice subscribers. Disney and Marvel may win the message boards, yet it’s Amazon’s take on superheroes with The Boys and Invincible that represents the most captivating caped crusaders these days. The company’s Lord of the Rings prequel series may be the most anticipated “TV show” of the last five years. And Amazon just dropped ~$1 billion for the right to air NFL games on Thursday nights.
We may be living in a time when the film community is struggling like never before, but this march toward extreme consolidation for the industry has been in progress for a long time. As Ars noted last August when a federal judge vacated the Paramount Consent Decrees, by 1930, 95 percent of all US film production was controlled by eight studios, which among them managed to take in more than 45 percent of all box-office revenue. Today, fewer than a half-dozen companies control the vast majority of our film and television landscape, as this chart from Recode shows, and the dominance is incredibly pronounced in film distribution.