Legendary Pictures LLC, the producer behind Batman: The Dark Knight, is getting closer to sealing a partnership with Universal Pictures, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who spoke with the Wall Street Journal. The agreement would see Universal distributing and co-financing movies produced by Legendary.

The producer's future has been hotly discussed in Hollywood given the end of its distribution and financing deal with Warner Bros following eight years of working together - co-financing hits 300, the Batman movies and the recent Superman film Man of Steel.

The speculation is that Legendary chief executive Thomas Tull is looking for more autonomy to produce his own movies and TV shows and establish his company as a brand popular with young male genre-film enthusiasts - or fan-boys. Of course, that ambition clashes with Warner's desire to produce more wide-ranging content for a broader audience. 

The final months of Legendary's contract with Warner Bros will see the release of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim on Friday (July 12, 2013) as well as a reboot of Godzilla, set for release next year. According to the WSJ, Legendary has accumulated $600 million in equity, $150 million of debt and a $700 million credit facility in order to finance its own movies, though a partnership with the hugely powerful Universal Studios will should see it go from strength-to-strength. It's recent hits Despicable Me 2 and Fast and Furious 6 are among the best reviewed - and perhaps more importantly - the most profitable pictures of the year.

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A spokeswoman for Legendary declined to comment, while Universal are also yet to comment on the partnership. Sources say it is still plausible that the talks may fall apart, though confidence is high.

Watch the trailer for Batman: The Dark Knight Rises: