Thomas Tull may end up making a fortune on “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” but the Legendary Entertainment founder and CEO admits that he had far more primal ambitions for backing the monster mash-up.
“I’m juvenile,” Tull said at Business Insider’s Ignition conference on Tuesday. “I wanted to see them fight.”
Holding on to his inner-fanboy is central to the 45-year old Tull’s success. Legendary has pushed its way to the top of the Hollywood heap by investing in films like “Jurassic World” and “The Dark Knight” and developing pictures like “Kong: Skull Island” that are engineered to allow filmgoers to get their geek on. The company has a distribution and financing partnership with Universal, and plans to release five to six pictures annually, most of which Tull said are “home-grown.”
Some films, like “Jurassic World” and “Godzilla,” have worked spectacularly, others, like “Seventh Son,” have been costly misfires, but Tull has continued to plunge ahead with a goal of being a content creator, not just a check writer.
At the same time, the company has expanded beyond movies. It has a television business and is moving into emerging technology such as virtual reality. The latter is a profitable passion for Tull, who was an early investor in Oculus Rift, the virtual-reality start-up that Facebook acquired for $2 billion in 2014. At Legendary, the company is making virtual reality games based on movies it produces, such as “Pacific Rim” and the upcoming “Warcraft,” but Tull admits that it is very early days.
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“It’s exciting and we want to hang around the rim and make sure we’re a part of it,” he said.
Tull is diving into new technology in other ways, as well. He’s launched a Boston-based analytics division filled with “Harvard and MIT PHDs” to mine data in a way that allows him to cut back on marketing costs. Tull was mum on the particulars of the process besides saying that the methodology relied on far more than mining social media for information on potential customers. But he did say that the research has allowed him to cut his advertising expenses by 15%.
“There has to be a better model,” said Tull. “We’re spending as much money to tell an 80-year-old woman about ‘The Dark Knight’ as [a teenage boy].”
“We want to look at people who are persuadable,” he added.