Legendary will commit up to $350 million a year to make movies at Universal
Thomas Tull may have found his next creature feature.
The producer of monster movies like “Godzilla” and “Pacific Rim” is wasting no time in choosing which films he wants to make at Universal Pictures, with “Dracula” poised to become the first high-profile project his Legendary Entertainment will co-finance with the studio. The film, directed by Gary Shore and starring Luke Evans (pictured above) and Dominic Cooper, is already in production and slated for release Aug. 8, 2014. Legendary is in discussions with U executives about coming aboard the project.
Spokespeople for Legendary and Universal declined to comment.
Legendary is combing over Universal’s slate for a number projects it will help fund under its new five-year co-financing and distribution pact with the studio. Tull and his team will also consider co-funding the fourth installment of Universal’s planned reboot of the “Jurassic Park” franchise, which like “Dracula” is an offering that would fit well with his fanboy interests and his company’s DNA.
“Jurassic Park 4” — which is expected to begin production next year — is the first of several new big budget tentpoles that Universal is giving the greenlight, including the seventh “Fast and the Furious” installment. The racing franchise, however, as well as animated movies from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment, are excluded from Legendary’s deal with Universal, according to several individuals familiar with the arrangement.
According to several people with knowledge of the agreement that the parties inked this summer, Legendary is committed to invest, on average, $275 million annually in U’s films and its own properties within the first two years of the deal. For the remaining three years, Legendary will invest $350 million a year, these people said, declining to speak on the record because the financial terms are confidential.
For its part, U is committed to invest at least $175 million in a specified handful of Legendary’s films.
For the projects that Legendary and U co-finance, the production company will pay the studio a 10% distribution fee. Legendary’s fee drops to 8% for homegrown movies that it fully finances.
Legendary will have a plentiful number of U monster movies to chose from, including “Van Helsing” and the upcoming “Mummy” sequel, both of which would seem natural co-financing vehicles for the company behind next year’s “Godzilla” and “Pacific Rim.”
“Jurassic Park” would also seem a natural for Legendary, which will make a decision about co-financing pending final review of the script and the project’s other elements. Although Steven Spielberg won’t be directing the next “Jurassic Park” movie, his hefty gross participation in the VFX franchise will take a significant bite out of the pic’s profits.
Tull, who has never wanted to be a passive financier, moved his longtime deal from Warner Bros. to Universal after his desire for more creative control over tentpoles like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and “Man of Steel” created tension with several Warner executives. Universal parent Comcast Corp. was heavily involved in negotiating Legendary’s deal with the studio.
So far, Legendary’s already brought one film, the fantasy epic “Seventh Son,” from Warner Bros. to Universal, while it still has “Godzilla,” the sequel “300: Rise of an Empire” and Guillermo del Toro’s horror pic “Crimson Peak” set up at WB.
Tull and his team are also busy developing a number of in-house, big-budget Legendary projects including adaptations of videogames “Warcraft” and “Mass Effect,” supernatural action thriller “Spectral” and comic book adaptation “Brilliance.”
Universal wanted to be in business with Legendary because it needed an injection of tentpole fare for its release slate, much in the way the studio added family-friendly films through its co-ownership of Illumination (which produced the “Despicable Me” franchise). U has also been interested in offsetting risk through third-party financiers like MRC, which has backed pics including “The Adjustment Bureau” and the “Ted” films.
But unlike Warner Bros.’s DC Comics which provided Legendary with superheroes to play with, Universal has little to choose from other than its classic monster properties like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy and the Invisible Man.
It’s not surprising that Legendary would eye “Jurassic Park,” one of the studio’s few runaway franchises which is being rebooted next year. The first “Jurassic Park,” released in 1993, grossed a whopping $920 million worldwide. The second installment, in 1997, took in $614 million, and the third film generated just $363 million. This year, Universal released a 3D version of the original “Jurassic Park,” which recently debuted to huge numbers in China. So far, the re-release has sold more than $90 million in tickets worldwide.
Universal is eyeing “Jurassic Park 4” for a summer 2015 release that will be directed by Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), from a script by Derek Connolly and Trevorrow. No cast has yet been hired.