Universal Pictures officially announced a five-year deal with Legendary Entertainment on Wednesday morning that begins in 2014.
The two companies will produce and co-finance Legendary and Universal films with Universal distributing Legendary films worldwide, and enable Legendary the chance to leverage the Universal’s film business and theme parks, but also the cross promotional support from NBCUniversal and Comcast assets.
Under the deal, Legendary will continue to create and finance tentpole films based on intellectual property that is uniquely appealing to the coveted fanboy audience, while Universal will market, co-finance and distribute Legendary films. Timing comes as Universal is looking for a new source for film funding after its current deal with hedge fund Elliott Management ends at the end of the year.
At the same time, Universal and Legendary will jointly identify opportunities to expand Legendary’s franchises and intellectual property into Universal’s theme parks. Universal will also collaborate with Legendary on projects in China now that Legendary is set up there through a pact with China Film Group.
“Comcast and NBCUniversal’s global assets in film, television and theme parks offer Legendary unmatched breadth and opportunity to grow our business. We are delighted to be in business with this exceptional team and look forward to a successful partnership,” said Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary, who through the partnership, is ending an eight-year relationship with Warner Bros., that ends at the end of 2013.
The announcement naturally brought out a slew of statements from Universal executives praising the deal.
Even before the announcement, Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, told Variety at the Sun Valley Conference on Tuesday that he looked forward to the type of fanboy fare that Legendary is known for, including superhero pics like Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, “300″ and Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel.”
Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, who is credited with bringing Legendary to the studio, called the partnership “a perfect fit for both companies and I am confident that together we will be in an even better position to deliver compelling, profitable entertainment content to a global audience for years to come.”
“Legendary has demonstrated a keen ability to identify and acquire powerful fresh intellectual property based ideas, match them with strong filmmakers and turn them into blockbuster hits,” said Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson.
And Ron Meyer, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios, said the company was “excited about what opportunities this will bring to our theme parks around the world,” adding “Legendary continues to prove that big ideas are relevant and profitable with our global movie-going audience,” and was “thrilled to embrace the challenges and changing marketplace with Thomas and his team.”