×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Legendary, Warner Bros. Near Distribution Deal (EXCLUSIVE)

Legendary Entertainment will likely leave its distribution and co-financing pact with Universal Studios early, according to multiple insiders. The company behind “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” is decamping for Warner Bros., its former home. A deal has yet to be signed, but the two entertainment players are in exclusive negotiations and are expected to come to an agreement shortly.

However, the deal will be much different than previous pacts that Legendary has signed, signaling a larger strategic shift that’s taken place at the company following a series of box office flops and the departure of its founder Thomas Tull in 2017. Namely, the Warner Bros. alliance will be a straight output deal, meaning that the studio will release Legendary’s films for a fee. It will not be a slate financing partnership, which was the kind of alliance that Legendary had at Warner Bros. during an eight-year relationship that ended in 2013. Warner Bros. could invest in certain Legendary films and vice versa, but neither company is be obligated to take equity stakes in each other’s films.

Legendary was previously motivated to leave Warner Bros. in part because of bad blood between Tull and former studio chief Jeff Robinov. But both companies have new leadership — Toby Emmerich has taken the reins at Warners and Josh Grode, a former entertainment lawyer, has been in charge at Legendary since early this year. The two men have been hammering out a new deal in recent weeks. The company’s decision to move “Detective Pikachu,” its Pokemon adaptation, to Warner Bros. from Universal was widely reported to be a signal it was eyeing the exit door. Legendary no longer has any movies set up at Universal. It had originally been linked to the Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot action-thriller “Red Notice,” but it will no longer back that picture. The company’s deal with Legendary was originally slated to end in December. Legendary does not have rights to future installments in ongoing franchises such as “Jurassic World” that it previously invested in when its deal was in place at Universal.

Popular on Variety

When Legendary migrated to Universal, it did so with grand ambitions. The companies announced that as part of the deal Legendary’s franchises and intellectual property could be turned into rides at Universal’s theme parks. In return, Universal said it viewed the deal as a chance to collaborate with Legendary on projects in China. Legendary is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda and has long had a presence in the Middle Kingdom through Legendary East, a joint venture film production company based in Hong Kong. The alliance didn’t pay off. Universal came to believe that it would have been better off if it had financed films such as “Jurassic World” without Legendary, because the studio was forced to share the profits on movies that were wildly successful and arrived without a lot of risk attached to them. In turn, many of the films that Legendary produced, such as this summer’s “Skyscraper” and “Crimson Peak,” turned out to be box office misses. “Kong: Skull Island,” a hit for Legendary, was released by Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. and Legendary reunited at this year’s Comic-Con to show footage from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the latest entry in the soon-to-be partners’ monster franchise. In June, Legendary announced it has closed a $1 billion senior secured revolving credit facility led by J.P. Morgan.

Spokespeople for Warner Bros., Universal, and Legendary declined to comment.

More Film

  • The Island

    ‘The Island,’ ‘Calamity,’ 'Piano Player' Highlight Cartoon Movie 2020 Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

    BARCELONA – Rémi Chayé’s “Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” Anca Damian’s “The Island,” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal’s “They Shot the Piano Player,” and Enrique Gato’s “Tad the Lost Explorer and the Curse of the Mummy” are among the sixty-six projects from twenty countries to be pitched at the 22nd Cartoon Movie, Europe’s [...]

  • Kirby Dick Amy Ziering

    'On The Record,' Russell Simmons #MeToo Doc, Charts Course to Sundance After Oprah Exit

    Update: A spokesperson for Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering says the filmmaking team will participate in print and broadcast interviews at the Sundance film festival. The accusers featured in the film are weighing press options at this time. Earlier, a spokesperson for the film “On The Record” confirmed to Variety that only photo calls would [...]

  • Ariel Winograd'TOD@S CAEN' film premiere, Los

    Viacom International Studios Signs First Look Deal with Ariel Winograd (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Adding to a powerful and still growing talent roster, Viacom International Studios (VIS) has clinched a first-look deal with Argentine writer-director Ariel Winograd whose latest movie, “The Heist of the Century,” has just become one of the biggest Argentine openers in history. The multi-year pact takes in the development and production of not [...]

  • William Bogert Dead: 'Small Wonder' Actor

    William Bogert, Who Appeared in 'War Games,' 'Small Wonder,' Dies at 83

    TV, film and theater actor William Bogert, who appeared in a recurring role on 1980s sitcom “Small Wonder” and in films such as “War Games,” died Jan. 12 in New York. He was 83. On “Small Wonder,” which ran from 1985 to 1989, Bogert played Brandon Brindle, the Lawsons’ neighbor and Harriet’s father who became [...]

  • 1917 Movie

    Why '1917' Is the Last Film That Should Be Winning the Oscar (Column)

    There’s a feeling I always get at the end of a long Oscar night when the movie that won isn’t a terrible choice, but it’s the safe, blah, MOR predictable choice, the one that conforms to the dullest conventional wisdom about the kinds of movies Oscar voters prefer, because in the core of their being [...]

  • Civil Rights Drama 'Praying for Sheetrock'

    Civil Rights Drama 'Praying for Sheetrock' in the Works as Feature Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Enderby Entertainment is developing a feature film based on Melissa Fay Greene’s civil rights drama “Praying for Sheetrock,” Variety has learned exclusively. The non-fiction book, published in 1991, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, Georgia Historical Society Bell Award and the ACLU National Civil [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content