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Legendary takes fanboy brand to Universal

Ryan Nakashima, AP Business Writer

This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, left, and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Kerry Hayes)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Legendary Entertainment, the big-budget movie producer that helped bring to the screen such franchises as "The Dark Knight" and "Man of Steel," is moving its fanboy brand to Universal Pictures.

The move ends an eight-year run with Warner Bros.

Under the deal, Universal will market, co-finance and distribute Legendary films for five years starting in 2014.

Legendary will have the opportunity to have some of its movie characters appear in Universal theme parks, while Universal plans to collaborate with Legendary on films in China through Legendary's relationship with China Film Group.

Legendary-funded films distributed through Universal will also get advertising and TV show tie-ins with programs on NBCUniversal's bevy of pay TV channels such as USA, SyFy and Bravo. NBCUniversal is a division of cable TV giant Comcast Corp.

"The partnership is a perfect fit for both companies," said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, in a statement. "I am confident that together we will be in an even better position to deliver compelling, profitable entertainment content to a global audience for years to come."

Legendary's relationship reportedly grew frayed with Warner Bros. over the years.

At a media roundtable last month, Legendary's majority shareholder and CEO, Thomas Tull, suggested that the company's ambitions weren't finding an outlet with the Time Warner Inc. studio.

"For us, it's about the future, and making sure that whether we stay or whether we end up somewhere else, that the company that we want to build, and the goals we have, that partner helps us in those ways to achieve that vision."

Legendary's ambitions include building a TV studio, and last month it hired former Warner Bros. TV executive Bruce Rosenblum to take charge of it. However, no TV tie-up was mentioned in Wednesday's press release.

Also not included were which future movies Legendary and Universal will pair up on, although they will be ones that are believed to help both partners.

Legendary faces one big test of its taste-making prowess this weekend with the opening of "Pacific Rim," a film directed by Guillermo Del Toro that features giant robots facing off against giant monsters.

It continues to have several projects that were co-financed and will still be distributed by Warner Bros. until the new partnership takes effect. Among the films still to come out under the old deal are "300: Rise of an Empire," set for release next January, and "Godzilla," due out next May.

"We have the utmost respect for Legendary and will continue to work with them on a number of projects," Warner Bros. said in a statement. "We wish them well in their new endeavors."