Warner Bros. No Longer in Legendary’s Future

Warner Bros. No Longer Legendary's Future

Universal, Sony and Fox still in the running, while Legendary also talking to Lionsgate

While Legendary Entertainment’s Thomas Tull is still talking to multiple studios about a new distribution and potential co-financing deal for its movies, Warner Bros. isn’t among them. Tull is set to end his production company’s eight-year partnership with the studio as their contract comes to an end.

Legendary and Warner Bros. have opted to part ways rather than continue discussions about extending their deal, sources close to both parties confirm to Variety.

SEE ALSO: Jeff Robinov Out at Warner Bros.

The decision now enables Tull to move forward with more serious talks with the three interested studios looking to lure Legendary to their lots: Universal, Sony and Fox. Tull will also meet with Lionsgate this week, according to Deadline.

Legendary’s goal is to have a new deal in place before the July 4th weekend, according to multiple sources, with Tull saying any studio it decides to partner with would have to agree to “help fulfill the grand vision” he has to build a larger entertainment company that produces not just films, but TV shows, digital content and publishes comicbooks that appeal to fans of genre fare.

SEE ALSO: ‘Pacific Rim’s’ Legendary Marketing Challenge

Talks are said to be moving further along with NBCUniversal, but there is still another meeting set with Fox. That said, at this point Universal seems to be the frontrunner for the studio that offers the best fit for Legendary movies. Company’s theme parks could easily house attractions based on Legendary’s upcoming pics that it’s producing and financing mostly on its own. NBC’s various TV channels would also serve as a good home for TV shows it develops under former Warner Bros. Television chief Bruce Rosenblum, who joined Legendary as president of TV and digital media this month. And Universal is open to new franchises after its “Fast & Furious” films and toons from Illumination Entertainment have scored at the box office.

Universal has a fourth “Jurassic Park” planned for summer 2015. Studio could also use a source for new coin after outside production funding from hedge fund Elliott Management dries up at the end of the year. Legendary also provides Universal with an open door into China, through a three-year co-production pact with China Film Group.

SEE ALSO: Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Likely to Split

Timing is key for Legendary as it looks to broker a new pact. Tull’s company has a lot riding on the success of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim,” a more than $200 million-budgeted tentpole, which is facing some hurdles in exciting moviegoers before its July 12 release despite getting a major promotional push since last summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego.

Early tracking for the film is so far disappointing with audiences showing more interest in Sony Pictures’ sequel “Grown Ups 2,” which also opens that weekend. Some are comparing “Pacific Rim” to Saban’s “Power Rangers” kids franchise or Japanese anime. As a result, expect a last-minute marketing blitz from distributor and 25% investor Warner Bros. to try to turn around those numbers. While the studio is advancing the film’s P&A costs, it risks losing a lot of money if the movie does not perform.

“Pacific Rim” is the first of several big budget tentpoles that Legendary is looking to produce as it attempts to develoop a slate of films it mostly owns. It covered 75% of the costs on “Pacific Rim” and next summer’s “Godzilla,” for example. Its upcoming program includes “300: Rise of an Empire” (which just had its released date moved back to next March from August)’ fantasy pic “Seventh Son;” an untitled cyberthriller starring Chris Hemsworth that Michael Mann is helming; videogame adaptation “Warcraft;” thriller “As Above So Below;” and supernatural actioner “Spectral.”

“We want to grow to a size and want to control as much of our destiny as much as possible,” Tull said at a recent press presentation.

To that end, Tull has been making some innovative moves.

May was a big month for the company, with Legendary announcing it bought marketing shop FIVE33; and brokered a three-year co-production agreement with Beijing-based Legendary East and China Film Co. That markedthe first time the state-backed film venture has inked a long-term, multi-picture production deal with a Chinese or international partner.

In June, Tull hired Rosenblum to run Legendary’s TV division, and tapped former EA Sports executive Christopher Erb to serve as executive VP of brand marketing to focus on growing the company’s brand identity with fanboys and general moviegoers.

Late last year, it rased $443 million in equity through investment firm Waddell and Reed, bringing Legendary’s total capital raised in 2012 to $720 million. At the time, the company said much of the money would be put toward financing its publishing, digital, merchandising and television ventures.

In his media presentation last week, Tull said the company would decide whether to re-up with Warner Bros. or leave for another studio within 60 days, or by the end of the summer.

But during that same meeting, Tull essentially was already bidding farewell to Warner Bros., saying that the two companies are in very different position from when they first paired up in 2005 to co-finance and co-produce tentpoles. Since then the relationship has resulted in films like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “The Hangover” franchise, two Superman movies, a reboot of “Clash of the Titans” and its sequel, and “300.”

Legendary and Warner became bedfellows at a time when the Burbank studio needed money to bankroll its slate of tentpoles and Tull had a lot of it to offer. For Tull, a Warner partnership offered him the opportunity to make the kind of films he wanted to see as a fan boy of superhero, sci-fi, fantasy fare. The first movies two he backed were big screen reboots of Batman and Superman.

Helping Tull make the decision to leave was DC Entertainment.

In addition to new leadership at the studio under the helm of CEO Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. is looking to take more control over films based on DC’s superheroes and not offer the projects up to co-financiers the way it let Legendary back Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “Superman Returns” and “Man of Steel.” Legendary benefited from the success of those hits since it paid for half of their production costs.

Moving forward, however, Warner Bros. would prefer to treat DC titles like its “Harry Potter” franchise (which it funded fully on its own and shared profits with author J.K. Rowling) and own more of the films in order to reap the rewards when they take off at the box office. “Man of Steel” has earned $398 million since June 14, and the Batman films raked in $2.5 billion.

“Whether we’re there or not, they have a bright future,” Tull said of Warner Bros. “We will continue to be friends…I’m going to be grateful for the time we had,” Tull added. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Warner Bros.”

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  1. Sunny says:

    Warner has lost its charm to me post Alan F Horn

  2. Sam says:

    No, actually one of the reasons that Robinov is rumored to have fallen out of favor is because of his sour relationship witu Thomas Tull.

  3. Brandon says:

    GODZILLA will be epic, but Legendary don’t own it. They kicked some of the Japanese producers out which proves how arrogant they are. Glad Warner is doing this, but I wonder what shall happen to Godzilla.

  4. machavilli says:

    Wow I am shocked that this has ended such a good partnership coming to an end it is very surprising buy what can you say .Now that Warners is under new management time will tell if they reap the rewards or crash & burn but the sky is the limit for Legendary.

  5. David Hughes says:

    Legendary had better ink that Universal deal before Pacific Rim falls over like a mecha with no man inside.

  6. Ethan Gentzsch says:

    I guess Legendary doesn’t like that Robinov is out at Warner Bros. and Tsujihara is in. So Legendary decided they’re out too.

  7. Tina Richards says:

    YES! SOON PACIFIC RIM WILL BE NOTHING MORE THAN A BAD MEMORY! AND WITH ANY LUCK GODZILLA WILL NOT EVEN SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY!

    HALLELUJAH!

  8. Jack says:

    Universal will take up Legendary, They only have ”Fast and Furious” franchise as a major player.

    They haven’t been able to get ”Jurassic park 4” off the ground in over a decade. An it’s still not a sure hit.

    Legendary Pictures will bring ”Godzilla” which will be a hit and if very profitable could get a theme park in Universal Studio’s which would be great. Also the ”300” sequel will be another big hit. Pacific Rim will be a surprise hit or miss, unsure at this time.

    Shame Warner Bro’s let them go, Oh well hope the best for both company’s. Tull will do a great thing’s in the future.

  9. David says:

    Kevin Tsujihara, who really is a nice guy despite some of these reports, has now gotten rid of his top TV guy, his top film guy AND his top money guy. In related news, Warners just announced a sequel to its current hit MAN OF STEEL, the sequel to be titled BALLS OF STEEL

    • Kory Stephens says:

      David. Man of Steel was commissioned under Robinov’s watch so that more his baby than Tsujuhara’s.

      Besides Robinov isn’t complete gone just yet

    • Sam says:

      Well, Kevin didn’t get “rid” of Jeff and Bruce…these guys were effin pissed when Kevin vot the job and already had one foot out the door.

    • too bad says:

      I’d like to believe you about Kevin Tsujihara being a nice guy (no sarcasm). But why didn’t he even mention Robinov’s name in the press release today, thanking him for his contributions to the studio? Not one word, completely ignored. That’s really rude.

      • Robert carter (@blkyank) says:

        @Phlegmbot

        Your comparison of the WB/Legendary relationship to the Disney/Marvel is totally off base.The situation between WB and Legendary had been boiling over for months and didn’t just happen after a disappointing week 2 drop for MoS.

        The film over performed against both studio and rival projections and sets a June opening record that you admit to, yet has a bigger drop then expected week 2 when WWZ does the exact same thing.

        The film is performing in line with projections for a 300 million domestic haul and about 700 million world wide. What do you think WB expected MoS to make? 400 million domestic? A billion world wide?

        Its over all drop from week 1 to week 2 domestically was 65%.Steep,but not a disaster and it was still number 1 overseas.

        MoS is one of the success stories this year for both studios not a failure.

        If WB was going to dump Legendary for a bad weekend they would have done so for the Hangover 3 or Jack The Giant Killer not MoS.

      • Phlegmbot says:

        Because what WB doesn’t want to admit, with this CONSTANT spin, is how disappointed they are in MoS.

        In the wake of this purported hit, they’ve dropped Robinov and split from Legendary. Doing what they’ve done in the last week would be akin to Disney dropping Feige & selling Marvel in the wake of The Avengers success…except that Avengers was a huge hit. Heck, the THIRD Iron Man opened in less theaters to about $60M more in its opening weekend, and in its second week, while the auds dropped, it opened SO huge, it was still #1 in week 2. MoS broke a record but definitely fell short of expectations opening weekend; meanwhile, critics tore it apart, and even the fanboys aren’t happy. Then, it got thrashed by the Brad Pitt zombie movie, which everyone thought would bomb. So WB is angry at these results, while this Superman movie will make money (as opposed to the last one), the outright disappointment and hatred this movie has generated amongst auds and critics leaves them with a challenge for either a sequel of other superhero spin off.

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