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MGM Struggles Could Threaten ‘Stargate: Universe’

It might be the economy, not ratings, that eventually kill the Syfy program

If MGM is willing to take James Bond off the table, why would anyone think that the Stargate franchise wouldn’t be an easier target?

That’s some of the concern going through the fan community this week following MGM’s announcement that it has put its third Bond film starring Daniel Craig on the backburner while it tries to find a buyer to help relieve it of some $3.7 billion in debt.

“You try to keep your chin up, but it’s hard, it’s really hard right now,” a source involved in the Vancouver production of Syfy’s “Stargate: Universe” told Airlock Alpha this week. “We come in, do the best job we can, but in the end, we could be out of work tomorrow simply because of something that’s totally out of our control.”

Filming has resumed on “Stargate: Universe” for the show’s second season, one of just a handful of projects in production right now through MGM. Stargate has remained a profitable franchise for MGM, even when its shows have struggled in the ratings like “Universe’s” predecessor, “Stargate: Atlantis.” But even turning profits isn’t enough to earn a pardon from the financial gods … something even James Bond is learning the hard way.

But then again, television typically has much faster returns on investment than movies, and that has been one key element that has helped keep “Universe” chugging away while it builds an audience and some critical acclaim, according to another source familiar with MGM’s happenings, but not exactly tied with any of its current productions.

“You put out money for television production, and you usually see returns within months,” the source said, who asked not to be named because of their continued relationship with MGM. “When you do movies, it could take years. MGM was already spending a boatload of money just to develop Bond, and you won’t even see a dime in return for a couple of years. That’s a long time when your books are weighed down in billions of dollars.”

The Stargate franchise has felt some of the purse string-tightening at MGM. Planned DVD movies have been shelved for the past year, despite the phenomenal success of the two “Stargate SG-1” movies “Ark of Truth” and “Continuum.” Executive Producer Brad Wright told Airlock Alpha in Vancouver late last year that plans are still afoot to do more “SG-1” DVD films and even one based on the “Atlantis” series, but financial constraints have kept those projects on the shelf collecting dust.

If MGM can find a buyer in the near future, profitable franchises like Stargate won’t have to worry — as long as they remain profitable. However, if MGM is forced into bankruptcy, a new set of variables can emerge that might either help shows like “Universe,” or could send it out to an entirely new owner — one that might be looking to recoup some of their losses to MGM, and not necessarily one looking to help the franchise continue to thrive.

“It’s better not to dwell on things like that,” the “Universe” source said. “That’s pretty unlikely. MGM has a strong library, and if there was just a way to shrink some of that debt, I bet there are a number of Hollywood companies that would love to gobble us up and keep supporting what we do.”

“Stargate: Universe” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.

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