This may come as a shock to some, but movies are expensive to make. Especially big action movies like the James Bond films. That's why more and more studios are turning to "brand partners" to help get their movies made, as director Morgan Spurlock explored in his recent documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (check out our review and our interview with Spurlock).
But can too much product placement ruin a movie? What happens if corporate brands invest so much money into a film that the filmmaker loses control of the finished product?
No film will answer these questions better than the as-yet-unnamed new James Bond film, Bond 23, which will set new records in product placement spending. According to a new report from The Australian newspaper (via TheFilmStage.com), Bond 23 will get an eye-popping $45 million in funds from product placement agreements. That amount equals one-third of the film's production budget.
To put that figure in perspective, the film that held the record previously was Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, which received $20 million from product placement agreements. For the math haters out there, Bond 23 is getting over twice as much money from big brands.
With the exception of one long action sequence that took place in a Lexus factory (and conveniently ended with the construction of a sleek Lexus car for Tom Cruise to drive away in), I recall Minority Report being pretty good about hiding product placement in the context of the story. The more recent Bond films, on the other hand, have fallen into the trap of lingering on brand names in shots and other ostentatious product placement, which can be very distracting to audiences.
I'm a Bond fan, and I'm pleased that Bond 23 is finally going into production after the MGM bankruptcy saga. I'm also very excited to see what director Sam Mendes brings to the venerable franchise. However, I won't lie and say that the product placement figures don't bother me.
The James Bond franchise is highly recognizable and, thus, is also easily marketable. It's no wonder that big brands want to be involved in the next film. One has to wonder, however, just how much influence $45 million buys. In a profit-driven town like Hollywood, I'm betting it's a lot more than Bond fans would like.
What do you think of this news? Is product placement nothing to worry about, or is it risky to receive one-third of your budget from sponsors?