What a King Kong-Godzilla Monster Mash Means for Warner Bros., Universal

Legendary Pictures swaps studios for great ape prequel as Warner preps for a big-screen crossover with Godzilla

Who says movie studios can’t get along?

Despite the expectation that Universal would distribute Legendary Pictures’ “Kong: Skull Island” as part of the deal Thomas Tull‘s company signed with the studio two years ago, an individual familiar with the situation told TheWrap that the project’s move to Warner Bros. was “very amicable.”

Indeed, multiple sources connected to the companies involved agreed that there was no friction about relocating director Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ King Kong prequel, which is scheduled to start production this fall for a 2017 release.

That’s despite the fact that Warner Bros. is expected to develop a monster mashup movie down the line that would pair the giant ape and the studio’s recently revived Godzilla franchise.

The studio switch was signaled by a trademark filing last week in which Warner Bros. asserted its distribution right over Kong’s ongoing theatrical and TV content — leading some industry insiders to suspect Universal was being strong-armed out of a lucrative franchise.

But according to a second individual familiar with Legendary’s dealings with both studios, “There was no fight.”

“All of the studios, they’re building these universes,” another insider noted. “These two properties obviously make sense at Warner Bros.”

“Skull Island,” which stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson, is set to start shooting in the coming weeks and is currently slated for release on March 10, 2017.

Warner Bros. is also moving forward with “Godzilla 2,” which is expected in 2018 from director Gareth Edwards from a script by Max Borenstein. Edwards successfully rebooted the franchise with last year’s “Godzilla,” which starred Bryan Cranston and amassed roughly $530 million worldwide. 

There is no indication of whether, or how quickly, a crossover movie might occur.

It’s worth noting that Warner Bros. also has a long relationship with Legendary, which left two years ago for a new home at Universal that will continue through 2018.

While the studio switch is not yet official, the prospect of crossover films is a no-brainer in a marketplace rife with similar character constellations, from Disney’s “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero multiverses to Paramount’s plans to expand its “Transformers” franchise.

Warner Bros. already has an impressive stable of franchises, led by its expansion plans for the DC Comics universe beginning with next year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the eventual “Justice League” series.

And Universal still has some oversize monsters in its stable, including the engineered dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” and the underwater creatures known as kaiju from Guillermo del Toro‘s 2013 thriller “Pacific Rim.”