Polygram wraps WTF buy

Polygram Filmed Entertainment completed its buyout of Working Title Films last week as the London-based subsidiary wrapped its top-level restructuring, bringing aboard new co-chair Eric Fellner.

Polygram’s decision to buy out the remaining 51% of WTF comes nearly four years after the purchase of its original stake of 49%.

Polygram Filmed president Michael Kuhn said the delay was a matter of thoroughly reviewing the company’s books, setting up essentially an indie producer first-look deal for former WTF exec Sarah Radclyffe at the company and untangling Fellner’s legal ties to his former job at London-based Initial Television & Film.

Fellner’s entrance meant Radclyffe’s exit. Both Kuhn and WTF co-founder Tim Bevan said she was always a bit “on the fence” about retaining a top management post at the growing indie.

“This restructuring means that we have made a change in our focus,” said Bevan. “We have been known more for arthouse films in the past. Now, with the full-backing of Polygram, we will pushing for bigger-budget, more commercial fare. Sarah likes the more intimate film.”

Radclyffe couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Eric and I have been working in parallel for the last 10 years — making musicvideos, forming our own companies, producing similar types of product,” Bevan continued. “Now he has joined us. Andthe company, which has been known for making films in the $ 10 million range, will be making films that fall between the $ 20 million-to-$ 40 million range.”

Bevan backed off from specifics on the company’s latest project, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” to be directed by Mike Newell (“Enchanted April”) and set to begin production in April.

Script is penned by British comedy writer Richard Curtis. The ro-mantic comedy revolves around a group of old friends set against the backdrop of a wedding and a funeral. It will distributed by another Polygram subsidiary, Manifesto Film Sales.

Among the other projects on WTF’s eclectic film slate are: Mario Van Peebles black western “Posse”; Peter Medak’s drama “Romeo Is Bleeding” starring Gary Oldman and Lena Olin; Danny Cannon’s cop-thriller “Young Americans” starring Harvey Keitel; and Ethan and Joel Coen’s 1950s comedy “The Hudsucker Proxy,” starring Tim Robbins, Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

In March, Manifesto will release Vincent Ward’s “Map of the Human Heart” starring Anne Parillaud, Patrick Bergin and John Cusack and produced by Bevan.

WTF is known for such films as 1991’s “Bob Roberts,” 1990’s “Drop Dead Fred,” 1986’s “Wish You Were Here” and 1985’s “My Beautiful Laundrette.”

WTF also plans to expand its involvement in television productions. It is currently involved in a co-production with Propaganda Films called “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.”

But the TV side is one area where Kuhn said WTF experienced cuts in its recent restructuring.

Bevan said the restructuring meant staff was cut from 28 to 19, with four employees working out of L.A. and 15 working in London. The one constant that remains in the restructuring is that WTF will always be based in London.

“We are the only Polygram label that is based in Europe and we have an absolute commitment to making films in Europe,” said Bevan. “We have to have an office in Los Angeles because it is the center of the moviemaking world. And either Eric or I will be here (in L.A.) most of the time.”

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