Working Titles heads for $300 mil year sans Curtis

It seems superfluous to give a plug to Working Title Films, the one British film company that really doesn’t need it. But good news about the U.K. film industry is in short supply at the moment, so here goes anyway.

One producer of a recent British flop (let’s not name him, to spare his blushes) was unwisely quoted as saying that Working Title’s success was based on its relationship with one writer, Richard Curtis. That perception, if it does still linger, should finally be laid to rest by the company’s boffo 2002.

The recent U.K. opening for “The Guru” — $6.5 million in 12 days — heralded the arrival of yet another hit. Previously this year, Universal-owned Working Title, run by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, has released “About A Boy” ($41 million in the U.S., $54 million elsewhere, with several major territories yet to open) and “Forty Days and Forty Nights” (finished at $40 million in the U.S. and $55 million in foreign).

Low-budget arm WT2 has delivered “Ali G Indahouse” ($15 million in the U.K., $5 million so far from Australia and Holland, rest of the world to come) and low-budget chiller “Long Time Dead” ($10 million from a handful of territories including $3 million in the U.K.). Upcoming is WT2’s cultish “My Little Eye,” which will be released Oct. 4 in the U.K. by indie Momentum Pictures, instead of Working Title’s regular outlet UIP, and is already generating strong media buzz.

All told, Working Title is on course for a $300 million year at the worldwide box office, from six pics with a combined negative cost of just $65 million. Four comedies and two horror movies. Three set in Britain, three in America. But all six have one thing in common: Not a single word of them was written by Curtis.

Eyre, Hampton atone with Fox

Robert Fox is best known as a stage impresario, but his occasional forays into movies haven’t been too shabby: He co-produced Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours” and Richard Eyre’s “Iris.” Now he and Eyre are finalizing a deal to reteam on an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel “Atonement,” to be scripted by Christopher Hampton. Hampton will start work on the screenplay once he has finished directing “Imagining Argentina,” starring Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson, currently lensing in Madrid for Myriad Pictures.

“Atonement” is the story of how one small but terrible lie, told by 13-year-old Briony in an English upper-class household in 1935, has consequences that resonate all the way into the 21st century.

Brit students go inside Hollywood

Inside Pictures, the training scheme for rising Brit film execs, run by Michael Kuhn as a sideline to his new producing career and backed by the Film Council, arrives in Los Angeles Sept. 16.

The 13 handpicked “students” — who all have promising resumes in Blighty as producers, lawyers, marketing execs and the like — will spend a week visiting studios and agencies, absorbing the wisdom of speakers including director (and Film Council chairman) Alan Parker, Sony’s Gareth Wigan, U’s Rick Finkelstein, Par’s Joanna Johnson, Fox’s Tony Safford, HBO’s Colin Callender, former Intermedia honcho Nigel Sinclair, CAA’s John Ptak and Michael Peretzian, and ICM’s Ken Kamins.

From that Limey-laden lineup, they should at least learn how far a British accent can get them in Hollywood.

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