The blockbuster deal is worth $3.5 billion.
Such a move has been widely speculated about since late last year, when Variety broke news of deal talks.
Wanda made an announcement of the deal on Tuesday morning (local time) in Beijing, describing the Legendary acquisition as a “merger,” though Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin made it clear that his company will have an outright majority.
“Together, Wanda and Legendary will create a completely new international entertainment company,” said Legendary CEO Thomas Tull, who will remain chairman. “There is an ever growing demand for quality entertainment content worldwide, particularly in China, and we will combine our respective strengths to bring an even better entertainment experience to the world’s audiences.”
Producer of such films as “Jurassic World” and “Godzilla,” Legendary already has a Chinese offshoot Legendary East which is now in post-production on its first movie “The Great Wall.” Directed by China’s Zhang Yimou from a story idea originally hatched by Tull, the $150 million picture is straight out of the Legendary playbook, targeting a global fan-boy audience with a high concept fantasy pitch and copious CGI.
“Legendary is a diversified company with activities in analytics, digital and publishing. All of these will be fortified by the new relationship with Wanda,” said Tull from the podium at the ceremony.
The deal is one of the largest moves yet into Hollywood by a Chinese company, and follows a year of moves involving Lionsgate and STX.
“Legendary’s products are indeed legendary and will certainly boost our tourism and cultural businesses.” said Wang. “We have much to learn. The Chinese film industry is 30-50 years behind that of the U.S.”
“Wanda already has an important position in the Chinese film industry, but we need a global position. Maybe we will acquire a larger company [in Hollywood],” said Wang. He said that Wanda has eyed acquisitions in Europe, but said that asking prices are too high. “We will wait.”
“For this deal to happen Thomas Tull, who is a major shareholder in Legendary, needed to trust us. We plan some IPOs for our film businesses. it is a great time for him to join us.”
Wang ducked questions about China’s soft power ambitions. “This deal is about making money,” he said. “We will be involved in Legendary’s movie productions. We can co-produce, we can get better than 25% [the proportion of revenue remitted to Hollywood for imported movies].”
Those attending the ceremony included Wanda chairman Wang, Wanda VP Jack Gao, Tull and Legendary East CEO Peter Loehr.
Advisors on the deal were Joshua B. Grode Partner, Irell & Manella LLP who advised Wanda, and Marty Willhite Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Legendary Entertainment who advised Legendary.