Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese media and real estate conglomerate, is in advanced talks to buy the U.S. studio Legendary Entertainment, two people familiar with the matter said.
Wanda, which acquired Leawood-based AMC Entertainment in 2012 for $2.6 billion, is closing in on a deal to acquire a majority stake in Legendary for about $1.5 billion, said one source, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the negotiations.
Legendary’s best-known films include last year’s hit “Jurassic World,” as well as “The Dark Knight” and “The Hangover.”
Legendary already has a significant presence in China, where it has an agreement to co-produce movies with the powerful state-owned China Film Co. The co-productions include the big-budget science fiction movie “The Great Wall,” an upcoming Universal Pictures release starring Matt Damon.
A deal with Wanda would give Legendary a stronger foothold in a market expected to surpass the size of the North American box office by 2017.
At the same time, a deal with Legendary could significantly boost the ambitions of Wanda — China’s largest cinema company — to expand into film production. Parts of “The Great Wall” were filmed in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, where Wanda is building Wanda Studios Qingdao, which it bills as “the world’s largest film and television studio.”
A spokesman for Wanda declined to comment. Representatives of Legendary could not be reached for comment.
Reuters, which first reported on the pending deal, said the transaction values Legendary at $3 billion to $4 billion.
Japanese telecommunications firm SoftBank Group Corp., which owns Overland Park-based Sprint, and Waddell & Reed Inc., based in Overland Park, have also reportedly agreed to sell their stakes in Legendary.