NBCUniversal has closed its deal to partner with Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures, sealing a pact-in-the-making first reported by TheWrap last month, according to an individual with knowledge of the deal.
Tull had been meeting with rival studios in the past weeks following months of tension with executives at Warner Bros. The move ends a highly lucrative, eight-year partnership with Warner Bros. and leaves the major studio without one of its leading financial and production partners.
The news was confirmed at an awkward time, as Tull was on the red carpet at the premiere of "Pacific Rim," (at left with director Guillermo del Toro) a film Legendary produced and that Warner Bros. was distributing as part of their partnership.
NBCU CEO Steve Burke had been deeply involved in the negotiations to bring Tull to Universal, according to multiple individuals. Tull was seeking a partner who could leverage multiple media assets – not just a movie studio, but a theme park and a televison and cable network. NBCU has all of those assets.
Lionsgate and Fox were the other lead studios in the running when TheWrap reported that NBCU was likely to close the deal last month. The deal was completed on Tuesday and expected to be announced first thing on Wednesday.
Legendary and Warner Bros.' eight-year partnership has been a Hollywood success story that has included major films such as the "Hangover" series and the blockbuster Batman franchise — the crown jewel of their partnership. But the relationship soured largely over tension between Tull and then-studio-chief Jeff Robinov, a story that TheWrap broke in February of this year.
Ironically, Robinov has since exited the studio, but the damage had already been done. Tull felt slighted by the way he was treated on the lot, a situation that the new Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara had tried to repair, unsuccessfully.
On June 23, TheWrap reported that Universal was in lead position to take Tull's money and fanboy expertise.
Tull is expected not merely to cofinance movies with Universal, but to use the studio to distribute his fully-financed movies. In addition, Tull has recently launched a televison business, and hired the former Warner Bros. television chief Bruce Rosenblum to run it. He will be able to funnel his television content through the NBC network and its huge cable properties, including USA and SyFy.