While Thomas Tull had also been in talks with 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Lionsgate for a new co-financing and distribution deal, Universal wound up offering Legendary more attractive opportunities as it looks to produce more films that it finances itself and expands into the TV biz.
Financial terms of the new partnership were not disclosed, but sources say it will be close to Legendary’s deal at Warner Bros., with the company co-financing films with Universal.
“I wish him well,” Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes said of the Legendary chief’s exit on Tuesday, although he did not comment on where Legendary was headed.
Multiple sources, including those attending this week’s Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, were knowledgable about the forthcoming announcement. Tull is attending the “Pacific Rim” premiere in Hollywood and plans to arrive at the conference on Wednesday.
In late June, Tull said he would decide whether to re-up with Warner Bros. or leave for another studio within 60 days, or by the end of the summer. Move wound up coming faster than many had expected.
Tull has said that any studio it decided 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. Its “Pacific Rim” bows this weekend. Variety first reported that Legendary was officially ending its relationship with Warner Bros.
New NBCUniversal deal comes less than a week before Legendary makes the trek to San Diego Comic-Con to tubthump “Godzilla,” “300: Rise of an Empire” and “Seventh Son” with Warner Bros., which is distributing those films. Nerdist Industries is promoting “Pacific Rim” as it runs its “Star Wars”-themed “Course of the Force” lightsaber relay race from George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to the fanboy fest this week.
Although Legendary’s deal with Warner Bros. is over, the two will still work together to release “Godzilla,” “Seventh Son” and the “300” sequel next year.
NBCUniversal has long been considered the frontrunner given its strong film distribution pipeline around the world and the TV networks it owns — from NBC to Syfy. Company also provides access to the company’s theme parks which could easily house attractions based on Legendary’s upcoming pics that include “Pacific Rim” and “Godzilla.”
In addition to attractions based on tentpole titles, Legendary will also provide Universal with a new co-financing partner for its slate of films after outside production coin 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.
Finding a strong TV partner has been key to Legendary’s talks as it develops new series under former Warner Bros. Television chief Bruce Rosenblum, who joined Legendary as president of TV and digital media last month.