Legendary Entertainment and the Pokémon Company have confirmed they’ve reached a deal to launch the first live-action film franchise based on the Japanese pocket monster game. Deadline revealed on July 12 that a deal was in the offing, after numerous studios chased the rights following the launch of the wildly popular Pokemon Go app. The feature franchise will be built around Detective Pikachu, a character in the Pokemon universe that was introduced through a video game in Japan. The plan is to begin production next year, with Universal distributing in territories outside Japan, through its overall deal with Legendary.
Rumors of a possible Pokemon movie deal have circled for months, and screenwriter Max Landis has been mentioned as a possible participant. The companies didn’t go further than confirming that the movie deal is completed. It is the latest of several high-profile movie deals for Legendary, Thomas Tull’s company that was acquired by Wanda and is being steered by Mary Parent. The company yesterday acquired an untitled project for The Birth of a Nation writer-director-producer Nate Parker, who’ll serve those roles on the project, and the company recently won an auction for Bad Blood, the pitch that Adam McKay will write and direct in the vein of The Big Short, based on the saga of Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos, with Jennifer Lawrence starring and producing with McKay and his Gary Sanchez cohorts.
While Pokemon has been around since 1996 — when it became a sensation with kids through video games, trading cards and an animated series — the franchise has gotten an unprecedented second wind with this month’s launch of the Pokemon Go app, which allows followers to find and accumulate pocket monsters that are scattered all over the place and accessible through walking or driving to find the virtual creatures. It became so instantly popular it spiked part-owner Nintendo’s stock 25%, a rise worth billions of dollars, and it has become a zeitgeist cultural movement that even infiltrated the Republican National Convention activity this week. According to the company, Pokemon has sold more than 279 million video games since its inception, 21.5 billion TCG cards in 74 countries and the animated series has been running for 19 seasons.
The Pokémon Company’s longtime movie collaborator, Toho, will handle distribution of the film franchise in Japan, as it had similarly done in its partnership with Legendary on Godzilla. The deal was brokered by Don McGowan, General Counsel at the Pokémon Company International, with outside counsel Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig. Marty Willhite, Legendary’s COO and General Counsel along with Daniel Feinberg, VP-Corporate Counsel and Mike Ross, SVP Business and Legal Affairs, represented the studio.