Legendary Pictures was founded in 2000 and has since then formed a fruitful working relationship with such filmmakers as Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, and Guillermo del Toro, while having also released installments in lucrative franchises that range in genre from raunchy comedy (The Hangover) to giant monster science-fiction (Godzilla, Jurassic Park/Jurassic World). The studio has, of course, seen its fair share of costly misfires at the box office too (Jack the Giant Slayer, Blackhat), but for the most part it has been a rewarding sixteen years for Legendary as well as its founder and Chairman/CEO, Thomas Tull.
China’s Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd. (aka the Wanda Group), which is the country’s most prominent theater chain conglomerate, has now officially acquired Legendary Entertainment for the price of $3.5 billion, marking China’s largest cross-border cultural acquisition to date. What does this mean for your average movie fan? Well, this acquisition could not only be the deciding factor where it concerns the future of Legendary-owned IPs that are currently on the bubble (del Toro’s Pacific Rim, to be exact), it could likewise affect the variation in genre fare that Legendary distributes in the foreseeable future.
Wanda Group was advised on its acquisition of Legendary by Joshua B. Grode Partner, Irell & Manella LLP, while Marty Willhite Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Legendary Entertainment advised Legendary. Tull, who is described as having been “actively involved” in the deal-making in the official press release issued on the matter, will remain onboard as Chairman and CEO of Legendary, and has issued the following official statement regarding the deal:
“I am honored to be a part of the Wanda family. Together, Wanda and Legendary will create a completely new international entertainment company. 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.”
While Legendary is moving full-speed ahead with Godzilla 2 and will revive the King Kong franchise in 2017 with Kong: Skull Island (before the two properties cross-over in 2020 for Godzilla vs. Kong), the studio removed del Toro’s Pacific Rim 2 from its release slate in 2015 and the Jaegers vs. Kaiju sequel has been on ice since that time – though never formally cancelled, as del Toro has noted in public. The first Pacific Rim grossed more than a fourth of its $411 million worldwide take in China and did bigger business in the country back in 2013 than Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, and Man of Steel, among other blockbusters. In short: now that Wanda Group owns Legendary, there’s more incentive for the two organizations to give Pacific Rim 2 a green light, based on the IP’s popularity in Wanda Group’s native country.
Legendary will continue to add more titles to its tentpole collection in 2016, with such films as the Blizzard Entertainment fantasy/adventure game adaptation Warcraft and historical epic The Great Wall – a project not only directed by the acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, The Flowers of War), but is also the largest film shot entirely in China for global distribution. However, while Legendary has balanced out its bigger-budgeted offerings with comparatively prestigious dramatic offerings (The Town, Unbroken, Straight Outta Compton) and lower-budgeted genre fare with niche appeal in the past (As Above/So Below, Krampus), Wanda Group’s acquisition of the studio may lead to fewer projects of that ilk being made by Legendary in the future – as franchise and big-budget releases usually perform better in China.
Modestly-budgeted films are being produced less and less by Hollywood studios nowadays in general, in no small part because moviegoers are less likely to see such films in theaters – understandably so given just how expensive a trip to the theater can be – and more likely to catch such titles on Netflix or Redbox, unless they’re an awards season release. Nevertheless, one hopes that Legendary continues to provide a platform for non-mainstream filmmakers such as Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) and their own brands of offbeat storytelling, in addition to films that either have big box office potential and/or are awards season hopefuls.
We’ll bring you more information on Pacific Rim 2 as it becomes available. In the meantime, Legendary will release Warcraft in U.S. theaters on June 10th, 2016, followed by Spectral on August 12th, 2016, and The Great Wall on November 23rd, 2016.
Source: Legendary Pictures/Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd.