‘Boat’ sailing toward Focus

Working with Richard Curtis to create leaner pic

Focus Features is taking over domestic distribution of Working Title’s “The Boat That Rocked” from parent studio Universal and is working with filmmaker Richard Curtis to create a leaner version for American auds after the film’s mixed run overseas.

U was set to release the ensemble comedy in the U.S. on Aug. 28. Focus, more adept at marketing less commercial fare, has pushed back the release to some time in November.

The film’s so-so performance at the international box office this spring marked a rare disappointment for Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner’s Working Title. Pic, which cost upward of $50 million to produce, was expected to play like a broad comedy.

But it drew poor reviews and came in below expectations in the U.K., where it cumed $9.1 million. International gross to date is $25.1 million. It did show promise in France and Australia, indicating that there’s a specialized audience for the film.

Focus prexy James Schamus said his team is working with Curtis to trim about 20 minutes from the film, which originally ran 129 minutes. A chief complaint from critics was the film’s length.

“It will be a shorter, leaner version. We think it is a real crowd-pleaser. We love a challenge, and we love working with Working Title,” Schamus said.

“The Boat That Rocked” borrows a page from British history in telling the story of a pirate radio station that beams rock ‘n’ roll into the U.K. in the 1960s. Station operates from a tanker on the high seas. Cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh and January Jones.

Curtis has penned several of Working Title’s most popular titles, including both “Bridget Jones” movies, “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually.” After “The Boat That Rocked,” his only other directing credit is “Love Actually.”

Focus has worked with Working Title on several other projects, including “Atonement” and “Pride and Prejudice.”