It’s official: Working Title Films is king of the UK box office.
This weekend, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan’s powerhouse production banner became the first British company to earn $1B (£770M) at the UK box office, thanks to the release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, which has so far earned $41.1M in the UK after three weeks at number one.
It’s an unprecedented milestone for the company, which has released more than 100 titles since its inception in 1983 (Fellner and Bevan have been at the helm since 1992), including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Billy Elliot as well as award-winning fare like Fargo, Elizabeth and Atonement.
What makes this particular crown so special for Working Title, is that the company has achieved this number on its home turf largely through original, non-franchise British properties. Not even Eon Productions’ James Bond franchise nor Warner Bros’ Harry Potter films have managed to cross the $1B milestone in the UK.
“When we started, a British film doing a couple of million at the box office outside of Bond was amazing,” Bevan told Deadline. “Four Weddings and a Funeral was a light bulb moment for us where a non-American film could really do big commercial business and it’s great that the audience has come along for that.”
But it’s not just the audience that has joined the company for the ride. Heavyweight filmmaking and acting talent that have continually aligned themselves with the Working Title name: Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley, Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Frears, Paul Greengrass and the Coen Brothers have all repeatedly worked with the production company. People like Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant have become household names across Britain, if not the world, thanks to Bevan and Fellner’s prowess.
“Our relationship with talent is paramount,” said Fellner. “We’ve been very blessed to work with great British writers, directors and actors and that’s a huge piece of the jigsaw puzzle.”
Fellner added the company’s 17-year first-look production agreement with Universal Pictures, has been an integral part to their success. It’s meant Working Title has been able to benefit from the Hollywood studio’s overhead, development and sophisticated distribution network.“We’ve had the Rolls-Royce of distribution in the UK and globally and we couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
What’s more, Bevan and Fellner have increasingly formed strong partnerships with independent third parties, like StudioCanal, a union which saw the release of films such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Ron Howard’s first non-studio film Rush (both UK box office hits). They have also paired with MRC, Warner Bros and Sony. These partnerships have given Working Title the ability to operate across both studio and indie playing fields, meaning they’re able to keep the pedals moving on their diverse and eclectic slate. Upcoming titles include Jo Nesbo adaptation The Snowman, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and Jose Padilha’s political true-life thriller Entebbe.
“What I’m really proud of, and I think it’s still the reason we still do it, is there is such a diversity of movies here,” said Bevan. “I think continuing to work with the talent and work with some great new filmmakers is what excites us going forward. The frustration of a movie is that you are creating a new business every time you go off to make one and in a funny way, that’s what’s exciting.”
Here’s to the next billion.