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After parting ways in 2013, Legendary and Warner Bros. are back in business.
The Burbank studio is taking over distribution duties on Legendary’s upcoming Pokemon movie Detective Pikachu from Universal. In addition, Warners is taking a stake in the film that features Ryan Reynolds as the titular character.
Sources say the move is a precursor to Legendary’s moving its distribution deal back to Warners. For months, speculation has swirled around the fate of the the four-year-old Universal-Legendary deal that expires Dec. 31, with the expectation that Universal would not renew the partnership. Universal declined to comment.
The Universal-Legendary relationship had sputtered over the past year, culminating with Legendary’s Dwayne Johnson starrer Skyscraper, which sources say will ultimately be a money loser. Legendary also has put up large chunks of the budget for most of the films in Universal’s slate over the past four years, including summer hit Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which has earned $1.2 billion to date. Legendary has a stake in BlacKkKlansman, a film from Universal’s Focus Features label. That would mark its final film with Universal.
Detective Pikachu is not expected to move from the May 10 date that Universal had carved out.
Since former lawyer Josh Grode took the reins at Legendary in March, he has put his stamp on the studio and last month inked a $1 billion senior secured revolving credit facility led by J.P. Morgan. And one of the first orders of business was locking down a distribution partner. Though other studios are said to be in the hunt, Warners would be something of a natural fit. Legendary and Warner Bros. called it quits after an eight-year marriage in which the company founded by Thomas Tull backed such Warners films as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel.
Warners’ previous arrangement with Legendary allowed it to cherry-pick the movies it financed. As Grode continues talks with Warner Bros. for a deal that would extend beyond Detective Pikachu, it is unclear whether it would resemble the previous Legendary-Warners arrangement.
For its part, Legendary is ramping up under Mary Parent on the film side and Nick Pepper on the TV side and focusing its attention on the studio’s Chinese partners like Wanda to maximize distribution opportunities and profitability in the growing Asian market. Though Skyscraper was not embraced domestically, it has earned $49 million so far in China.
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