I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting this press release. In fact, when I got it late last night, I had to sit on it for a little bit just to make sure I wasn’t mis-reading something. It’s real, and Legendary Entertainment is now in the hands of Dalian Wanda, making this one of the biggest film industry acquisitions between countries.
Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd. (“Wanda Group”) today announced the execution of a definitive Merger Agreement with US Legendary Entertainment (“Legendary”) at a signing ceremony in Beijing. Wanda Group announced that it has acquired Legendary for no more than $3.5 billion (around RMB 23 billion) in cash, marking China’s largest cross-border cultural acquisition to date. Thomas Tull will remain as Chairman and CEO of Legendary and will continue to be responsible for its day-to-day operations and will significantly participate in the success of the company with Wanda.
Legendary is a leading film production company that owns film, television, digital and comics divisions. Legendary has delivered many of the world’s blockbusters, including the Batman trilogy, Inception, The Hangover, Jurassic World, 300: Rise of an Empire, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, and more. Legendary’s film productions have grossed more than $12 billion worldwide at the box office. Upcoming releases include Warcraft, based on Blizzard Entertainment’s award-winning universe, and The Great Wall, which is set to be the largest film shot entirely in China for global distribution.
Mr. Tull said in a statement, “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.”
Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Wanda Group, commented on the deal. “The acquisition of Legendary will make Wanda Film Holdings Company the highest revenue-generating film company in the world, increasing Wanda’s presence in China and the US, the world’s two largest markets. Wanda’s businesses will encompass the full scope of film production, exhibition and distribution, enhancing Wanda’s core competitiveness and amplifying our voice in the global film market.” After the acquisition, Wanda will help Legendary increase its market opportunities, especially in the fast-growing China market, enabling Legendary to expedite the growth of the Company.
What this means for upcoming projects remains to be seen. While the currently announced slate of films (including sequels and crossovers) are likely to continue as planned, hopefully, I’m curious to see what this means for other projects. Namely, this could give new life to Pacific Rim 2, which was taken off the slate and rumored to be canceled entirely. Maybe the new company will see fit to bring it back. Who knows what the future will bring, but it’s certainly interesting to see Legendary get bought out.