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Business as Usual, as Wanda Deal Spells Expansion, Says Thomas Tull

Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Entertainment, says today’s deal with China’s Wanda is milestone in the development of his company.

While offering the ability to scale up, he says the $3.5 billion deal changes little or nothing of the creative process.

“Nothing editorially or creatively will change. Obviously I’ve been asked this by filmmakers. Wanda has been incredibly specific about this, they don’t want to create extra layers, they want to enhance and not inhibit. Nothing will change in terms of process and control,” said Tull speaking in China.

“One of the core principles for us is to have large properties that get fans passionate and that they can interact with these worlds in any way that they can, whether that is through movies, or by extension television, digital, toys and merchandizing and certainly theme parks,” said Tull.

The notion of “Pacific Rim” theme parks across Asia, Tull described as “awesome.”

“If you look across our franchises there are certainly good candidates for that [theme park treatment]. That is one of the things that is very attractive. You can’t force anything, but would be wise to take advantage of all the ways that fans can connect. We are certainly aware of all Wanda’s vast holdings. When you look at the job that Universal and Disney have done, we can dream. Wanda has an unbelievable track record of success. Hopefully, we can be a part of that.”

Tull told Variety that he is pretty hands on across all of Legendary’s operations “Legendary is a very personal thing. To me this is the start of the journey and the last 10 years of work have got us here. I’m planning on continuing to work on all of it,” he said.

“I’ll continue running daily operations at Legendary. Both the chairman [Wang] and Jack [Gao, VP and head of Wanda’s film operations] have been insistent that we run operations in the way we always have, but now with bigger muscles behind us.”

“If you are trying to make [movies] backwards compatible and make them work in China by design that is not very exciting as a film maker. All we know how to do is make the things we want to see, whether that is giant robots or giant monsters and thankfully our fans here in China respond,” Tull said.

“Fortunately for us, our films from ‘Clash of The Titans,’ ‘Godzilla,’ ‘The Dark Knight,’ “Pacific Rim,’ and ‘ Jurassic World,’ we’ve done a lot of box office and humbly built a brand here. We have a lot more work to do.”

While Wanda chairman Wang openly suggested that a Wanda’s film making and distribution division, enlarged by Legendary, might move on to the capital markets through an IPO, Tull said that there are no changes to Legendary’s key distribution and financing relationship with Universal Pictures.

“I don’t think this changes the relationship with Universal at all. We have a large balance sheet. Universal has been spectacular partner. If anything there are ways for us to look not only at China, but also globally, at things we can do together. [Universal] have been very supportive of this deal [with Wanda]. They just see the family growing and us having the resources behind us.

Nor does the acquisition change the structure of Legendary’s existing production operation in China. “Legendary East has always been wholly owned by Legendary. It doesn’t have separate shareholders or investors. It is just a division that is very seamlessly folded in.”

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