It's Official: Legendary Signs Deal With Universal

Thomas Tull Steve Burke Split 2 - H 2013
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Thomas Tull Steve Burke Split 2 - H 2013

Thomas Tull's entertainment company announces a five-year partnership with the Comcast-owned studio that starts in 2014.

Universal Pictures and Legendary Entertainment have officially agreed to enter into a five-year production and co-financing partnership, starting in 2014, in which Universal will market and distribute Legendary's movies worldwide, both companies announced Wednesday.
"Comcast and NBCUniversal’s global assets in film, television and theme parks offer Legendary unmatched breadth and opportunity to grow our business. We are delighted to be in business with this exceptional team and look forward to a successful partnership," Legendary CEO Thomas Tull said in a statement.

Legendary hopes to take advantage of Universal's theme parks and cross-promotional opportunities from other Comcast properties through its new deal. The two companies will explore ways to expand Legendary's franchises and intellectual property into the theme parks, and Universal will be able to collaborate with Legendary on projects in China due to the latter's deal with China Film Group, the companies said. 

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"Legendary continues to prove that big ideas are relevant and profitable with our global moviegoing audience. We couldn't be more thrilled to embrace the challenges and changing marketplace with Thomas and his team, and we are also excited about what opportunities this will bring to our theme parks around the world," Universal Studios COO Ron Meyer said in a statement.

Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley added, "Legendary has demonstrated a keen ability to identify and acquire powerful, fresh intellectual-property-based ideas, match them with strong filmmakers and turn them into blockbuster hits. The Universal team is thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Legendary in turning those ideas into the best and most successful versions of themselves around the world."

The agreement was reached Tuesday night.

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Sources with knowledge of the situation told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday that NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke has been enamored of Legendary -- and Universal was the obvious partner for Legendary given its many outlets, including its roster of more than two dozen national television networks including NBC, USA and Bravo. Having recently hired former Warner Bros. Television chief Bruce Rosenblum, it is clear that Legendary hopes to expand aggressively in that area. Another attraction, says a source, was the fact that Universal has no other financing partner.

Wednesday's announcement, however, made no mention of Legendary's TV plans.
Nevertheless, Burke praised the partnership, saying, "We are very excited to be in business with Thomas and Legendary. The partnership is a perfect fit for both companies, and I am confident that together we will be in an even better position to deliver compelling, profitable entertainment content to a global audience for years to come."

Legendary will officially end its current financing, production and distribution pact with Warner Bros. at the end of 2013. Warners' new CEO Kevin Tsujihara and others had discussed renewing the pact, but it was revealed June 24 that those negotiations had broken down.

It's believed that Legendary wanted to sew up its new deal before this week's release of the costly Pacific Rim, which has not been tracking strongly.

Tull has been using his increased control and funding to shift Legendary away from just financing movies. It has expanded into digital and is building a major TV division headed by Rosenblum.

On the film side, the goal is now to develop and produce what it calls “Legendary” pictures. As part of that, Legendary is increasing its stake in its movies. For example, Pacific Rim, with a negative cost estimated at $200 million, is 75 percent financed by Legendary.

Among the projects in the pipeline are an adaptation of Warren Ellis comic book series Gravel; a film set in the interactive game universe Warcraft; Hot Wheels, based on the iconic toy-car line; and Mass Effect, based on Electronic Arts and BioWare’s video game franchise.

Warcraft and Hot Wheels each reportedly carry production budgets in excess of $100 million.