Legendary Pictures gets rights to iconic monster

Durable special effects juggernaut “Godzilla” will return to the bigscreen in 2012, with Legendary Pictures producing.

Legendary will co-produce with Warner Bros., which is co-financing.

The “Godzilla” project’s been something of an open secret in recent months after Legendary execs began talking with potential directors. Legendary held off on making a public announcement until it closed its rights deal with Japan’s Toho Co., which has overseen more than 25 “Godzilla” films.

Legendary said it’s planning to announce a director shortly, and indicated that its “Godzilla” will pay respects to the original pic rather than follow up on Sony’s 1998 “Godzilla.” In the 1954 original “Godzilla,” the fire-breathing monster, mutated due to atomic radiation exposure, wreaked devastation on Japan but then defended the nation in later films from attacks by other monsters.

Godzilla is one of the world’s most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise,” said Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary. “Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has.”

Though Legendary won’t say so publicly, its execs are described as being particularly keen to avoid duplicating the look and feel of Sony’s 1998 “Godzilla,” a contempo update with state-of-the-art special effects centered on the chaos and destruction accompanying the monster’s arrival in New York City.

That incarnation, starring Matthew Broderick and co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich, carried a then-astronomical price tag of $130 million and fell short of expectations. The domestic cume hit only $136 million, though the pic’s foreign performance was more solid with a $242 million international cume.

Toho will release the new pic in Japan. In addition to Legendary, producers on the new film will be Dan Lin (“Sherlock Holmes”), Roy Lee and Brian Rogers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira and Doug Davison will exec produce.

Legendary noted Monday that “Godzilla” will fall under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Legendary’s productions with Warners have included “The Dark Knight,” “300” and “The Hangover.” Lynn Harris is overseeing for Warners.

Speculation about a new “Godzilla” has been active since last summer, with the Bloody Disgusting web site reporting in August that the project was in development. No Warners films are yet dated for 2012.

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