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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

This Thanksgiving should have featured the premier of the 23rd James Bond film. But it never got made. MGM, which owns rights to the franchise, is in bankruptcy. A restructured studio should emerge in two weeks, but they haven't figured out how they're going to pay for a new 007 film. NPR's Robert Smith assembled a meeting of the world's greatest supervillians to see if they have finally defeated James Bond.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERT SMITH: I see you finally regained consciousness, Mr. Bond. Look around you. I've brought in all your friends to watch your demise. Auric Goldfinger.

(Soundbite of movie, "Goldfinger")

Mr. GERT FROBE (Actor): (as Goldfinger) You have interfered with my plans for the last time, Mr. Bond.

SMITH: Dr. No.

(Soundbite of movie, "Dr. No")

Mr. JOSEPH WISEMAN (Actor): (as Dr. Julius No) There's so much to discuss, so little time.

SMITH: And of course the head of SPECTRE.

(Soundbite of movie, "You Only Live Twice")

Mr. DONALD PLEASENCE�(Actor): (as Ernst Stavro Blofeld) I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong.

Mr. SEAN CONNERY (Actor): (as James Bond) Yes, this is my second life.

Mr. PLEASENCE: (As Blofeld) You only live twice, Mr. Bond.

SMITH: Too bad your movie studio, MGM, can't say the same thing. They have no more money for aging super-spies, Mr. Bond. That's why we've suspended you above this cage.

(Soundbite of lion roaring)

SMITH: Do you recognize your studio's famous mascot, the MGM Lion? He works for us now. And in a few moments he will be digesting you.

(Soundbite of lion roaring)

(Soundbite of movie, "Goldfinger")

Mr. CONNERY: (as Bond) Do you expect me to talk?

Mr. FROBE: (as Goldfinger) No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

SMITH: But first, don't you think that Mr. Bond deserves a gratuitous explanation of how the greatest movie studio in history, MGM, was pushed over the cliff? I've even brought in a reporter to help write the obituary.

Mr. MATTHEW GARRAHAN (Financial Times): Im Matthew Garrahan and I cover Hollywood for the Financial Times.

SMITH: Mr. Garrahan, remind us what it was like in Hollywood during the boom years of the economy.

Mr. GARRAHAN: Markets were awash with money. Raising money to buy companies was easy. Credit was freely available.

SMITH: MGM was bought and sold over and over, the last time for $5 billion. Most of it was borrowed money and hedge fund hocus pocus. They wanted you, Mr. Bond. Or more accurately, MGM's vast library of old movies.

Mr. GARRAHAN: In the MGM library they have "Robocop," "When Harry Met Sally," "Silence of the Lambs" - another big hit from the '80s.

SMITH: Those investors thought that people would buy classic DVDs forever.

Mr. GARRAHAN: And those habits seem to have changed. People have run out of space on their shelves. They don't buy DVDs in the way that they used to.

SMITH: In your final moments, Mr. Bond, I want you to think about that. The great 007 was killed by a lack of shelf space.

It seems like a small thing, but it was crucial. Those DVD sales used to generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year. When the money started to disappear, MGM couldn't finance another Bond film. And since it couldn't finance new films, the library became less and less attractive. The studio was paralyzed by its $4 billion debt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: Oh, yes. And then SPECTRE engineered a global financial collapse.

(Soundbite of movie, "Goldfinger")

Mr. SEAN CONNERY (Actor): (As James Bond) And the value of your gold increases many times. Brilliant.

SMITH: It's so brilliant we're not even going to watch the lion eat you, Mr. Bond. We're going to retire to the next room for a glass of brandy.

(Soundbite of lion roaring)

SIMON: Gentlemen, a toast to the death of...

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

SIMON: What is it? MGM's emerging from bankruptcy? They made a deal with their creditors? Get me Edward J. Epstein. He wrote the book "The Hollywood Economist."

Mr. EDWARD J. EPSTEIN (Author, "The Hollywood Economist"): All the debt is wiped out. MGM has zero debt now, because the people who it owed money to got stock instead. Will they succeed? Probably. Theyll probably get another James Bond movie.

(Soundbite of movie, "You Only Live Twice")

Unidentified Man (Actor): (as character) But Bond is dead.

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (as character) It was in all the newspapers.

Mr. PLEASANCE: (as Blofeld) Rubbish. Bond is alive. This organization does not tolerate failure.

Unidentified Man: (as character) I know, but you see...

Mr. PLEASANCE: (as Blofeld) Go.

SMITH: No, wait. There is one last chance to kill James Bond. Let them make the very expensive film.

Mr. EPSTEIN: If it doesnt click with the youth audience, the franchise is dead. MGM is dead. And so is James Bond. They die or live together, which could be the title for the next James Bond movie.

SMITH: Wherever you are, Mr. Bond, I hope you enjoy your usual post-escape frolic.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (as character) Oh, James.

SMITH: It will be your last.

(Soundbite of James Bond theme)

SMITH: Now all I need is a new alias. How about Robert Smith, NPR News?

(Soundbite of Bond theme)

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