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'I don't' miss the glamour of Hollywood: Legendary Entertainment founder

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Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Entertainment, joins 'Influencers with Andy Serwer' to discuss his experience in the movie business and the future of big budget films.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: To build a new company from scratch must be an incredible accomplishment or feel like an incredible accomplishment for you.

THOMAS TULL: Well, I think that when I first went out to raise capital and put it together, I think that there were a lot of folks that I met with and thought it was straight up crazy. I had zero experience in movies and television in that arena. And my thought process was at the time, it was a $30 billion industry, give or take.

Just the film side, it was, I believe, the country's second biggest export. And yet, there was no institutional capital around the business, which was highly unusual for a business of that size. There were a lot of the German tax funds and sort of these unusual structures.

And so I thought if I could build a company that was adjacent to that ecosystem-- use the global distribution that after studying the financials, there was a way through if you made great content. I was very fortunate to have partnered with Warner Brothers. They were great to me.

Alan Horn, who was running at the time and is now at Disney, was an incredible mentor and still a dear friend. And sometimes you just get lucky. We met a young director named Chris Nolan who turned out-- was pretty darn good. And-- but it was definitely different in terms of business and understanding how things worked and why they worked and et cetera. But it was definitely an interesting journey.

ANDY SERWER: I have to ask about Christopher Nolan. I mean, he really is some kind of genius. What was it like to work with him?

THOMAS TULL: You know, I always used to say I wasn't joking. I just say, can we get your catering order right? Like how do we-- Their film is a collaborative process. And you make a movie, or you're about to make a movie. And the studio gives their notes. The producer gives their notes. We certainly give our notes.

And with Chris, I'm not kidding. We would just say thank you so much for-- we're very glad that we're financing your movie. And we'll see you at the premiere. I mean, he really, I think, is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. And it was evident very early "Batman Begins" was our first movie. And he's just incredibly talented and continues to go on and make amazing things.

ANDY SERWER: Have you thought about the business much since? I mean, you look at what-- the business has gotten completely turned upside down with COVID. And maybe there's some inefficiencies ripe for innovation?

THOMAS TULL: So a couple of things. I think COVID is impacted all of us in so many ways. I think it's accelerated what was already happening. One of the reasons that I thought it was the right time at least for me to exit the business is when you look at the theatrical exhibition business and you look at the way-- making a movie, putting it out, getting your theatrical run, then getting paid and secondary windows and so forth-- all of a sudden when you have the streaming services whose multiples and market caps are completely different, right? They're based on completely different metrics that are media companies is able with almost unlimited resources to make movies.

I would hear some people in the business say, yeah, but the biggest, most talented actors and directors aren't going to go work for, Oh, I guess they did, because the size and scope of some of the things that are being made is jaw-dropping.

I mean, you look at "Game of Thrones." Or you look at some of the big series that Netflix is doing or Amazon. They're compelling, right? They're big cinematic experiences.

Now, as someone that as a fan loves movies, there are certain films going and sitting in a cinema in that sort of venue and scope I think is important. I love doing that growing up. And I don't pretend to know exactly what's going to happen.

But I think people are also getting so used to watching, listening, experiencing things on demand when they want to watch and experience them that things by appointment are harder and harder to pull off because it's a fundamentally different experience.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, and, of course, that home entertainment gets better and better and better. And movie theaters didn't really keep pace. I mean, there is IMAX. And some of them try to have better seats and stuff. But on the whole, the advances in your living room much accelerated much faster than the advances in the movie theaters.

THOMAS TULL: Yeah, and it's tough. Look, when you talk about completely changing, you have thousands of venues, right? What that coordination-- what that bill-- what that looks like-- it was tough on them. So I have every sympathy for theater owners and especially now and what they're going through. I just think that change is inevitable. And we're just seeing the acceleration of that change through this period of time.

ANDY SERWER: You made blockbusters, like "Godzilla" and "Jurassic World." Are blockbusters the thing of the past?

THOMAS TULL: I don't think so. I mean, look, the thing that to me is compelling and amazing is, used to be something was a two-ish-hour movie or a 13 series-- 13 episode series on television. And some small variations now, you can do almost anything. The duration of the story is not contained within one of those boxes.

But no, I think there is still something special about collectively going and seeing something that is bigger than imagination. And sort of everyone in the world is buzzing and talking about it. I was always in awe. When we would put something out that would capture the imagination for a moment, it was kind of surreal.

So I hope that that doesn't happen. I mean, you have filmmakers, like besides Chris Nolan, you have Jim Cameron, Steven Spielberg-- all these incredible storytellers. And I think at the heart of this that it's part of our cultural fabric. And we're going to continue to see great storytellers come to the forefront. It's just, I think, going to be viewed and experienced slightly differently.