In his first appearance at a major Wall Street conference and in a rare presentation for a private company at an investors confab, Legendary Pictures founder and chief Thomas Tull said he doesn’t think he could pull together a company like his today given shifts in capital markets and film financing trends.
“I’m not sure, at the amount of money that we did it, that you could do it today. The debt capacity, the appetite from the banks, and the hardest piece to get, the equity,” would all be tough to wrangle now, he told investors at the Goldman Sachs media conference in Gotham on Wednesday.
The proclamation came amid speculation that the financing and production entity housed at Warner Bros. is mulling an initial public offering next summer. Legendary has been exploring options and the timing for an IPO could be fortuitous. The banner is still sizzling from “The Dark Knight Rises” and is preparing to release a record seven pics next year, up from its target four to six.
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Those include the return of Superman to the bigscreen in “Man of Steel,” the sequel “300: Rise of an Empire”; and “The Hangover Part III.” Tull said he hopes Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” next summer would become another big franchise. Legendary just announced “Godzilla” for 2014.
Tull revealed new footage from several of those upcoming projects at Comic-Con in San Diego this summer during another presentation overseen by the exec — another high-profile first for Legendary’s typically behind-the-scenes topper.
Legendary’s current co-financing and distribution deal with Warner expires at the end of 2013.
It’s been “a very fortunate and fruitful relationship,” Tull said. The two co-produce and co-finance films, although development stays separate.
“Mostly we do it on our own and invite them in, and visa versa. (But) it’s very collaborative,” he said. Warners and Legendary share copyright on pics in perpetuity.
Tull said his priority is to stay authentic for the studio’s fanboy base, which “can sniff out phonies from a mile away.”
“We aspire to be financially prudent but to make films that will be cutting-edge and commercial, but with fiscal responsibility, and so far it’s worked out well for us,” he added.
While its film slate grows Legendary recently backed away from TV development.
“We were very open with (Warner Bros. TV Group topper) Bruce Rosenblum,” Tull said. “They do a great job at Warner Bros. Television, (but) we had to learn and figure out where the television business was heading. It’s a place we want to be, but we want to make sure we are allocating time and money appropriately.”
Tull is fully committed to Legendary East, a joint venture in China, because “not having a plan in China for us is irresponsible.” It’s starting with one film (“The Great Wall”) and moving to two or three pics per year directed at global markets but with particular appeal in China.
“I think that when China matures as a consumer of entertainment, it’s going to be nothing like the world has ever seen,” Tull said.