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Working Title Films and Universal: The Integration of a British Production Company into a Hollywood Studio

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JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Feb 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2018
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2018
Issue number2
Volume15
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)179-203
Early online date1/03/18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Working Title Films is arguably the most successful and well-known production company in Britain today. For over 30 years, it has produced a diverse range of critically and commercially successful British films including romantic comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), family films like Bean (1997) and Nanny McPhee (2005) and dramas including Atonement (2007) and The Theory of Everything (2014). For the majority of its history, however, Working Title has been defined in business terms by its status as a subsidiary of one of two multinational media conglomerates, PolyGram (1992–8) and Universal (1998–present). The transition between the two began when PolyGram, and its film studio, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (PFE), was sold to Seagram, the parent company of Universal. This article examines Working Title’s integration into Universal and the evolving media ecology which shaped the processes of development, green-lighting, production, marketing and distribution at play within and between both companies between 1998 and 2006. In these respects, Working Title’s transition between parent companies is a narrative of both continuity and change. Significantly, three key stages of gatekeeping remained common to both the PFE and Universal eras: development, green-lighting and distribution. The institutional perimeters within which these points of decision-making occurred, however, changed considerably. The article concludes by considering the impact of such structures and processes on the films which Working Title produced, particularly their various representations of Britain and ‘Britishness’.

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    Research areas

  • PolyGram Filmed Entertainment; UIP; Universal; UPI; Working Title Films.

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