×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Thomas Tull Says ‘No Road Map’ For Partnership with China’s Dalian Wanda

The blockbuster announcement of Dalian Wanda’s $3.5 billion cash acquisition of Legendary Entertainment was billed as the “largest cross-border cultural acquisition to date” between China and the U.S. It also marks a striking watershed for Legendary founder and CEO Thomas Tull, who always previously appeared to be master of his own universe, despite substantial slate deals with big American studios.

Tull told reporters that he jumped at the merger, and being absorbed into the Chinese conglomerate, as an opportunity to build an entirely new international company. He and his new partners, while making clear Tull will continue to lead Legendary, declined to detail his stake in the newly formed partnership created by the merger. A lawyer who worked on the deal said only that Tull would “have a significant incentive tied back to the performance of the company.”

Tull appealed to the media to have patience in letting the new alliance congeal, adding that details would emerge “in the coming days and months.”

“This is brand new,” Tull said. “This has never happened before. There is no road map for this.” Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin had echoed those thoughts in an earlier statement, saying the transaction would turn Wanda Film Holdings Co. into “the highest revenue-generating film company in the world.”

During the brief Q&A with American reporters, Tull stressed that the company he created more than a decade ago “will continue on and to be front and center and to be bolstered by Wanda.” He added that he would have “a meaningful rooting stake in making sure the company is successful and we will elaborate more in the future.”

Jack Gao, head of Wanda Film Holdings Co., also sounded a vote of confidence for Tull, saying that the Legendary boss will remain “very central and very important in the overall Legendary in the future,” adding: “We will support him by all means. He is the one to run the show.”

More specifically, Tull said he and Legendary’s leadership would continue to lead day-to-day operations and to have responsibility for green-lighting film projects. He added that “it would behoove us to take advantage of the vast resources Wanda has especially in China….with direct access to consumers [and] theater chains. Those are some of the things I will be more focused on” from the partnership, going forward.

A Tull confidante previously had said that it was important for Tull to gain the financial and strategic partnership with the Chinese concern and the rapidly-growing Chinese market, while maintaining his leadership role with Legendary. The confidante said Tull felt the deal accomplished that.

The Wanda investment helps Legendary further defray the risk inherent to the sort of high-budget fantasy and hero pictures that the company specializes in. Legendary lost tens of millions of dollars on its October release “Crimson Peak,” which it self-funded, while Universal handled marketing and distribution. Other setbacks came with “Seventh Son,” triggering an $85 million write-down in 2013 and this year’s “Black Hat,” the thriller that took in just $18 million on a production budget of $70 million.

Tull said he did not expect any immediate impact on the kind of films Legendary would produce, noting that the company is already making the big-budget “The Great Wall” and other films. He said: “Our films have done well in China and connected with Chinese audiences before.”

Legendary has been luckier with its co-financing arrangements, most recently with Universal. A particular bright spot last year came with its 25% investment in “Jurassic World,” which collected $1.7 billion in receipts worldwide. Legendary also fared nicely with its share of “Straight Outta Compton,” which took in more than $200 million worldwide on a modest $28 million production budget.

While other companies have made noise about deals with Chinese firms, then failed to close them, Legendary has sealed a number of the pacts. The Chinese exhibitor Golden Harvest bought and then quickly sold a small minority stake (3.33%) at a small profit. Legendary also got China’s Tencent Pictures to take an equity stake in the American company’s “Warcraft,” based on the video game “World of Warcraft.” It is set to debut June 10.

The company also started a Legendary East subsidiary to enhance production in China. The subsidiary is in post-production on the $150 million “The Great Wall,” from acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. It’s pegged for a November 23 release.

More Biz

  • Hollywood celebrated the individuals redefining "on-screen

    Media Access Awards Honors Individuals Increasing Representation for Disabilities

    Hollywood celebrated individuals redefining “on-screen representation for the disability community” with the Media Access Awards, in partnership with Easterseals, at the Beverly Hilton Thursday. Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel kicked off the event, which featured Camryn Manheim, CJ Jones, Coby Bird and “The Peanut Butter Falcon” actors Zack Gottsagen and John Hawkes presenting awards along [...]

  • 'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With

    'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With Columbia

    Hotly tipped singer-songwriter Arizona Zervas, whose viral hit “Roxanne” is in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100,  has signed with Columbia, Variety has confirmed. Since the release of the track on Oct. 10, “Roxanne” has reached nearly 50 million streams on Spotify. The single topped Spotify U.S. top tracks chart for an uninterrupted [...]

  • Jax Media at Variety New Leaders

    Jax Media Accepts Variety's Creative Leadership Award at New Leaders Cocktail Party

    This year’s Variety New Leaders event, presented by City National Bank, honored innovative visionaries in entertainment. The cocktail party was hosted on a chilly Thursday night in Lower Manhattan’s Jimmy Rooftop Bar at the James Hotel. Patrick McCarthy, senior VP and head of marketing for City National Bank, kicked off the event highlighting the new [...]

  • taylor swift, scott borchetta and scooter

    Rage Against the Big Machine: What's Driving the Taylor Swift Showdown

    The latest Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun-Scott Borchetta kerfuffle involves the sort of music business minutiae that doesn’t commonly interest the general public — in fact, it’s probably safe to say that untold thousands if not millions of people are suddenly familiar with the concept of re-recording old masters. But in blasting Braun on social media and [...]

  • Redbox

    Redbox Settles Disney Suit, Agrees Not to Sell Download Codes

    Redbox has settled its litigation with Disney, agreeing not to resell codes that allow customers to download movies. Redbox has traditionally offered DVDs for rent through its distinctive kiosks. In October 2017, the company also began offering download codes at a considerable discount compared to the price on iTunes, Amazon or other services. Redbox did [...]

  • Shari Redstone: ViacomCBS 'Can Compete With

    Shari Redstone: ViacomCBS 'Can Compete With the Best of Them'

    Shari Redstone is emphatic: ViacomCBS has plenty of resources and the scale to compete in the new world order for media giants. “We absolutely have enough scale,” Redstone said Friday morning during her Q&A held as part of the Paley Center for Media’s International Council Summit in New York. “We have an incredible library. We [...]

  • Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift Denies Big Machine's Claims Over Song Use, 'Millions' in Debt

    In the latest salvo in a rapidly evolving media battle that has evolved over the past 15 hours, Taylor Swift refuted Big Machine Records’ claim that the company did not try to block her from using material from her early albums, which are owned by the label, in forthcoming television specials. Swift had leveled those [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content