Even more Legendary Pictures

Extends WB pact with extra $1 bil

Legendary Pictures has acquired more than $1 billion in new financing and extended its co-producing and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.

The new arrangement props up Legendary's initial deal, made in 2005, that called for the company to invest $600 million over five years in a slate of 25 films that included "300," "Batman Begins" and "Superman Returns."

The newly announced pact sees Legendary essentially re-upping midway through that agreement, extending the deal to 2012, and could see it co-finance up to 45 films during the entire term. The movies under the deal include a mix of homegrown as well as Warners projects, including the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight," now in production.

Other projects include the adaptation of DC-Vertigo's gritty comic book "The Losers," a feature adaptation of the cult TV series "Kung Fu," a feature based on the successful Blizzard Entertainment online game franchise "World of Warcraft" and a remake of the 1981 fantasy "Clash of the Titans." Those join the already announced "10,000 B.C.," "Trick 'r Treat" and "Where the Wild Things Are."

"Our relationship with Warners has been positive enough that we wanted to re-up, and we think that if you're going to be in the business, you have to have enough of a war chest to get you though good and bad," Legendary chairman and CEO Thomas Tull said.

"It's really a testament to how great Warner Bros. has been to us. (Warners executives) Alan Horn, Jeff (Robinov) and Barry Meyer and the whole crew have been very honorable. You find out more about your partner when you have tough times, and you're invariably going to have films that don't work, and we've experienced that, and they've been fantastic throughout."

Said Warners president and COO Horn: "We couldn't be happier with the way our partnership with Legendary Pictures has evolved. Thomas Tull and his team have become great collaborators, and we are impressed by the way they operate their company -- from both a business and a creative standpoint."

"This transaction is a steppingstone toward further developing a long-standing relationship between institutional investors and proven professionals of the film industry," said Laura Fazio, head of media and entertainment for the Americas at Dresdner Kleinwort.

Dresdner Kleinwort, an investment bank specializing in arranging partner financing for the film industry, is adviser and sole lead arranger in the deal. The bank anticipates that the partnership will co-finance -- through a mixture of new equity, junior equity and debt line -- more than $2.5 billion in production costs. Participating in the junior equity portion is Columbus Nova, a leading investment management firm based in New York.

The majority of the movie financing between Legendary and Warners will be split 50-50, though that percentage could change on certain projects.

Tull said that the new financing would see the company doing more movies per year, which could lead to several new hires, though Tull said the company is "going to try to remain a lean shop."

Scott Mednick, who was the company's chief marketing officer, left the company this year, but president William Fay and CFO Larry Clark remain. On the development side, Jon Jashni is the chief creative office, Alysia Cotter is vp creative affairs and Dennis Bakriges is the creative exec.

"John and Alysia and Dennis have been doing a good job on development and hopefully we'll see some payoff for that soon with 'Kung Fu' and 'Warcraft' and things like that," Tull said.
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