A major shakeup just took place in Hollywood, and it has nothing to do with the Avengers lineup or any other cinematic universe. This is bigger: it was announced today that the China-based Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd. has acquired Legendary Entertainment for a whopping $3.5 billion, making this China’s largest cross-border cultural acquisition in history. Thomas Tull, Legendary’s Chariman and CEO, will retain his roles with the company and “continue to be responsible for its day-to-day operations and will significantly participate in the success of the company with Wanda,” with Tull adding:
“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.”
Legendary’s primary focus has been in the feature film world with a knack for genre filmmaking, co-producing Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and films like Watchmen, Sucker Punch, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Dracula Untold. Recently, under its distribution deal with Warner Bros., Legendary had ventured into the realm of producing and spearheading its own projects like Pacific Rim and Godzilla, as well as Tull’s passion project 42—an outlier for the company. The studio cut ties with Warner Bros. in 2013, striking up a new distribution deal with Universal Pictures. However, Legendary recently struck up another new deal with Warner Bros. for Kong: Skull Island, which was set up at Universal before that studio became uncomfortable with Tull’s desire to include Easter Eggs and references to Godzilla in order to lay the ground for an eventual crossover. Skull Island then switched to Warner Bros., which is now producing with Legendary the Godzilla sequel and an eventual Kong vs. Godzilla movie.
But back to today’s news. It’ll be interesting to see how/if Legendary’s output is affected by this acquisition. China is a huge market for Hollywood, and Legendary had laid the groundwork for this deal years ago by opening the joint-venture Legendary East. Legendary recently wrapped filming on Zhang Yimou’s Matt Damon-fronted The Great Wall, which is the largest film shot entirely in China.
So what happens now? Well I doubt we’ll see any more 42’s in Legendary’s future, and a focus on bigger genre content like Godzilla and Legendary’s upcoming Warcraft will probably increase. Moreover, this could give us hope for Pacific Rim 2, which was put on hold by Universal last fall. The impressive performance of Guillermo del Toro’s first film in China was what essentially greenlit the sequel, so under Wanda it’s possible Pacific Rim 2 could gain traction once again. Could this be what del Toro was hinting at earlier today on Twitter?
I do hope Tull is still able to indulge in films that really only got pushed through because of his personal interest—he’s a self-professed geek/fan/nerd like us who wanted to see robots and monsters fight via Guillermo del Toro, so he backed Pacific Rim. It’d be a shame if he lost some of his creative control or if the studio went really heavy into big genre films, leaving behind stuff like Crimson Peak, or even smaller-budgeted films like Krampus. The studio is currently focused on 2016 releases Warcraft, The Great Wall, and the sci-fi pic Spectral, but I’ll be very curious to see what their next big film announcement entails.