In 2013, Legendary Pictures ended their relationship with Warner Bros. and inked a five-year deal with Universal. Together, the production company and studio are behind some of the year’s biggest hits — “Jurassic World” and “Straight Outta Compton” — and have an Oscar contender in “Steve Jobs.” But it’s not all roses behind-the-scenes. Recently, Universal declined to pair with Legendary for “Kong: Skull Island,” and that’s an inkling of deeper troubles happening between the two companies.
THR has taken a look at what’s going on with the slate of upcoming projects from Universal/Legendary and there seems to be some serious conflicts. In terms of ‘Kong,’ Universal passed, believing the project was not thought through well enough to resurrect the character, let alone tie him into the “Godzilla” franchise, while Legendary thinks they can make it work. And then, there’s Guillermo del Toro.
Two of the filmmakers’ projects are sources of contention between Universal and Legendary. First, there’s next month’s “Crimson Peak,” with Universal leaving Legendary to foot the entire bill, because they believed the budget was far too high for an R-rated movie (it appears they would’ve preferred PG-13 for the price). As for “Pacific Rim 2“? It’s been “halted indefinitely.” The picture wasn’t a huge box office hit (though it was big in China, an important market for Legendary), but it seems the brakes are being put on the movie, the 2017 release date is off the table, and it’s not clear if the project will press forward. Ever.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the pricey video game adaptation “Warcraft.” It’s apparently being viewed as a “problem movie,” though what that means isn’t exactly clear. The picture has a big, juicy summer release date next year, and hit Comic-Con this summer, so there must be some confidence. Perhaps there are concerns, like much of the above, about the risk/reward ratio.
What all this means for the future of the Universal/Legendary partnership remains to be seen, but I don’t expect it to end. The studio is having a great year, sure, and they could get cocky about micromanaging the projects with their production partner. However, they are likely just being smart, making sure they are making the right investments for the next couple of years, rather than blindly jumping into franchises and sequels without thinking it through first.