Legendary Entertainment is exploring the sale of a majority stake in its Applied Analytics division, a data-driven arm of the company whose research has driven greenlight, casting and marketing decisions around the company’s film and TV slate.
The company founded by Thomas Tull and sold to China’s Dalian Wanda Group in 2016 has hired investment bank AGC Partners to help facilitate the sale of around 70% of the unit, which is led by Matthew Marolda. In addition to crunching numbers for Legendary, the group has started working with outside companies, including Sony and Procter & Gamble.
In a 2016 interview, Marolda detailed the formation and operations of Applied Analytics, which he said employs about 60 people–“or, as I like to say, 59 more than anyone else in Hollywood.”
Tull, who is known for his passion for sports along with entertainment, crossed paths with Marolda when the latter was running a software company specializing in data and analytics in the sports business, the kind of tactics depicted in the book and film adaptation Moneyball. In 2012, Marolda recalled, Tull called and asked, “‘Do you want to come and do Moneyball in Hollywood?’ And I said, ‘Sure.'”
The game plan, Marolda said, was to break paradigms in Hollywood, such as the approach to marketing he derided as “spray and pray.” Movie marketing “was broken badly” before Applied Analytics was formed, he said. “The approach was inefficient and expensive.”
While the unit guided decisions on hits like Jurassic World and Straight Outta Compton, it also determined that Matt Damon “over-indexed in search” in China, Marolda said, leading to his casting in The Great Wall. That co-production with China flopped in the U.S., grossing just $45.1 million earlier this year. Kong: Skull Island, Legendary’s other major 2017 release, fared better Stateside and took in $566 million worldwide.