Legendary Hires Bankers to Sell Analytics Business (Exclusive)
Run by Matt Marolda out of Boston, the Applied Analytics group advises Legendary execs and other entertainment clients on how to market their films.
Legendary Entertainment is exploring spinning off and selling the data analytics division that it built to help market its films, sources familiar with the company tell The Hollywood Reporter.
The studio is looking to sell a majority stake, or around 70 percent, in the Applied Analytics group and has hired the investment bank AGC Partners to help facilitate a sale, per sources.
A spokeswoman for Legendary confirmed that the company is seeking a partner.
Legendary first began building its data business in 2012 under former CEO Thomas Tull. The studio acquired software company StratBridge in 2013 and put its founder, Matt Marolda, in charge of finding new ways to leverage data in its film marketing. The resulting software, Eddington, is able to zero in on the behaviors of different moviegoing audiences. It was first used on 2014's Godzilla, which grossed $529 million worldwide, and has also been leveraged to market Warcraft in China, where it made over $220 million despite flopping in the United States. Marolda, who serves as Legendary's chief analytics officer, and his Boston-based team are also involved in helping the studio make key decisions throughout a film's development, including offering data that will help in casting decisions.
The Applied Analytics group now sells its services to other studios and entertainment partners. Its clients are said to include Paramount Television, Disney, Sony and P&G.
It is in part because of the analytics group's growing client roster that Legendary is looking to sell a majority stake in the business. Executives had planned to eventually spin out the business once it began offering its services to clients in the entertainment industry, sources say.
The decision to sell the division comes more than a year after its $3.5 billion sale to China's Dalian Wanda Group. Legendary has been searching for a permanent CEO since Tull stepped down from the position in January this year. THR previously reported that attorney Josh Grode is being courted for the role, which Wanda CEO Jack Gao had been filling on an interim basis until his departure from the conglomerate in October. Wanda Film Holding Co. head Zeng Maojun is now serving as Legendary's interim chief.
In recent months, Wanda has signaled that it will pump the breaks on its push into the entertainment sector following new regulations in China that have put a limit on Chinese companies' investments abroad. In July, Wanda sold its theme park and hotel business for over $9 billion, though Zeng is said to have visited Wanda's Hollywood partners in September to mitigate concerns about its retreat from the U.S. film market.
Legendary released two films in the U.S. this year. The Great Wall starring Matt Damon was a box-office flop, bringing in $45 million in the U.S. Kong: Skull Island performed better, topping the North American box office in its opening weekend and bringing in a worldwide gross of $567 million. It is currently in postproduction on Pacific Rim: Uprising, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Dwayne Johnson's Skyscraper.