SoftBank, the Japanese telecommunications conglomerate that recently flirted with buying Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation Studios, appears to have found another monster opportunity in Hollywood. Sources confirm that the company is in talks to acquire a stake in Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment.
The deal would involve a sizable investment, but would not be for a majority share in the company, according to an individual with knowledge of the discussions.
The source said that the Legendary talks, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, have been ongoing for weeks and were not a result of any potential fallout between SoftBank and DWA.
SEE ALSO: Report: SoftBank May Not Buy DreamWorks Animation After All
SoftBank, which owns Sprint, may still broker a content deal with the toon studio. Acquisition talks could also begin again, those close to the companies say.
But the interest of SoftBank in Legendary clearly indicates the Japanese player is getting serious in Hollywood.
Legendary recently scored with the reboot of “Godzilla,” with the film earning more than $525 million worldwide. The film is now selling well on homevideo, as well.
Last year, Legendary moved its distribution deal to NBCUniversal after eight years co-financing and distributing films at Warner Bros., where it released “Godzilla,” along with “Pacific Rim” and the “300” pics, and co-financed the studio’s Batman and Superman films.
Analysts have valued Legendary at around $3 billion, due not only to its box office successes but its expansion into new media and television, as well.
Other reasons why SoftBank might be interested in Legendary:
— A long-awaited greenlight in China. In April, China Film Co. agreed to co-finance Legendary’s “Warcraft” and “Seventh Son,” investing at least $10 million in the tentpoles. Deal was made with Legendary East, Thomas Tull’s Chinese film arm. The deal marks the first time China Film Co. has taken a stake in Hollywood films. If the Legendary productions are approved for Chinese release, China Film Co. will distribute the films there with distribution and marketing support to be provided by Legendary East and Universal Pictures. The fantasy film “The Great Wall” will be Legendary’s first film to be produced in China, with “Hero’s” Zhang Yimou set to direct. When NBCU brokered its deal with Legendary, the move was seen as a way for Legendary to provide Universal with an open door into China, through a three-year co-production pact with China Film Group.
— Expansion into new media. In addition to owning Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Industries, Legendary acquired Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry to bolster its online fanboy cred and develop TV shows with Day. Legendary launched its in-house digital division in 2013, most recently buying rights to produce a digital series based on Capcom’s videogame franchise, “Dead Rising,” for Crackle and Content Media (the “Mortal Kombat” web series).
— An active TV division. Last year, Legendary tapped former Warner Bros. TV chief Bruce Rosenblum to start its own TV operation, which has sold a number of pilots to networks including CBS, USA Network, Syfy and Netflix.
— Theme parks. Through Universal, Legendary will get to expand its brand through its partner’s theme parks in Hollywood, Orlando, Japan and Singapore, with discussions already taking place on the first attractions.
— Tentpoles. And the company’s film slate continues to grow with an impressive roster of projects, including sequels to “Godzilla” and “Pacific Rim;” the Gothic horror film “Crimson Peak,” from Guillermo del Toro; “Warcraft,” based on the popular game franchise; a “Hot Wheels” movie with Mattel; and “Skull Island,” based on the world of King Kong. It’s also co-financing a number of Universal releases like “Dracula Untold” and next summer’s “Jurassic World.”