Universal has Working relationship

Bevan, Fellner with studio for seven more years

Working Title heads Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have reached new pacts that will keep the duo with Universal for seven more years.

No major changes at Working Title are planned, though Fellner said he’d like to expand its production slate to around five movies year, up from two to four in recent years.

“Nothing is different other than we’re hungry to make five films a year and they’re hungry for us to do that,” he said. “The beauty of Working Title is there is no grand strategy. We can make a movie in any genre, with any cast, in any country.”

U has owned Working Title — one of its biggest suppliers of pics — since 1999, and Bevan and Fellner have been with the company since 1993. Last year’s slate included “United 93” and “Catch a Fire.”

As U launches its Universal Pictures Intl. arm, studio toppers Marc Shmuger and David Linde sought to keep Working Title and its valuable relationships with filmmakers in the U.K. and Europe and in the foreign distribution arena.

“Their creative and global sensibilities make them a uniquely powerful production force,” Shmuger said. “For us, a long-term alliance with Working Title has always been a critical cornerstone of building the strategy for the future of our company.”

Linde called Working Title a three-in-one package, citing its ability to produce worldwide hits like “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Notting Hill,” along with films geared to its local market that have crossover potential in the U.S. and American films for the worldwide marketplace, such as “Smokin’ Aces.”

“They’re accomplishing a breadth of movies that would take a studio three different deals to accomplish,” Linde said. “We are a worldwide distribution company, and just like all the other studios, we’re looking at the world and trying to figure out a way to participate in the world in a bigger way.”

Fellner and Bevan said that their relationships with U execs including Shmuger, Linde and Universal Studios prexy Ron Meyer was their prime consideration in reupping.

“The truth of it is we have an excellent working relationship with Universal,” Bevan said. “Universal understands that we fish in a different pond. But in our experience, that’s a difficult thing for Hollywood to do. We’ve been lucky enough to make enough money for Universal to allow us to continue.”

Though Working Title is wholly owned by U, it operates with a degree of autonomy within the NBC U family. Fellner acknowledged it is “an aberration” in the business but added, “It’s a great thing for the people we work with. They can have all the resources of a studio in terms of financing and distribution without having to get into the machinations of the politics of a studio.”