Batman Producer Legendary Moving to Universal From Warner

Legendary Entertainment LLC, co-producer of “The Dark Knight” films with Warner Bros., reached a five-year agreement to make movies and TV shows with Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures.

The deal encompasses financing, production and distribution, as well as theme-park projects, the companies said today in an e-mailed statement. Financial terms weren’t revealed. It starts after Legendary’s pact with Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. expires at the end of the year.

The partnership gives Legendary Chief Executive Officer Thomas Tull new outlets such as television and potentially parks as he develops original projects such as “Pacific Rim,” a movie opening this week. Universal, which has been without a major co-financing partner, gains a well-funded ally in Legendary, which raised $720 million to make films last year.

“Comcast and NBCUniversal’s global assets in film, television and theme parks offer Legendary unmatched breadth and opportunity to grow,” Tull said in the statement.

Legendary, headquartered on Warner Bros.’ Burbank, California, lot, reached the deal with Universal after holding talks with all of Hollywood’s major studios, including Warner, 21st Century Fox Inc. and Sony Corp.

“We have the utmost respect for Legendary and will continue to work with them on a number of projects,” Warner Bros. said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “We wish them well.”

‘Big’ Plans

In a June 18 meeting with reporters, Tull described his plans as “pretty big in scope.” His films, including those co-owned with Warner, have collected $7.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to Legendary’s website.

Universal also will have the opportunity to collaborate with Legendary in planned co-productions Beijing-based China Film Group, the companies said.

“The partnership is a perfect fit for both companies,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke said. “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.”

Tull will continue to work with Warner on movies in production including “300: The Rise of an Empire” and “Godzilla.” They share interests in their existing films.

‘Pacific Rim’

News of the Universal accord broke yesterday as Tull attended the Los Angeles premiere of “Pacific Rim,” the science-fiction/action movie that marks Legendary’s first big-budget solo production. The picture, starring Idris Elba, is being distributed by Warner Bros. and opens in theaters on July 12.

Legendary made its name working with Warner Bros. on films based on comic-book heroes or science-fiction themes. In addition to the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, the company co-produced and helped pay for movies including Nolan’s “Inception” and the Superman reboot “Man of Steel.”

Warner Bros. has an separate funding partnership with Village Roadshow Pictures, which has a $1.2 billion credit facility and helped make “The Great Gatsby” and two “Sherlock Holmes” films.

Warner is in discussions with another production/financing company, New York-based Dune Capital, for $400 million or more in movie financing that would help replace Legendary, publications including Hollywood Reporter said this week.

Tull had a tense relationship with Jeff Robinov, who led Warner Bros.’ film studio, people with knowledge of the situation said earlier this year. Robinov left Warner and will be replaced by a trio of executives who will oversee movie development and production, the studio said on June 24.

Time Warner fell 0.4 percent to $61.01 at the close in New York. The stock has risen 28 percent this year. Comcast, based in Philadelphia, rose 0.6 percent to $42.91 and is up 15 percent.

(Updates with closing stock prices.)
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