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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Thunderbirds takings 'disappoint'
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Sophia Myles and Lady Penelope's Thunderbirds car
Actress Sophia Myles plays Lady Penelope in the movie
Working Title, the film company behind the Thunderbirds movie, has admitted the would-be blockbuster has done "disappointing" box office business.

The live-action remake of the Gerry Anderson TV puppet series has taken a relatively low worldwide total of about $21m (11m). It cost $42m (22m).

But UK-based Working Title - makers of Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary - rubbished suggestions of a crisis.

It dismissed reports of restructuring and a proposed cut in its budget.

And it said the film was expected to break even in "ancillary" sales which includes DVDs, rentals and TV sales.

Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget Jones's Diary was a big hit for Working Title
"Thunderbirds has had a disappointing run but a break-even in terms of making movies is about as good as it gets for most companies," said a Working Title spokesman.

"We wish it had done better but it isn't going to lose money. There is going to be no restructuring and no budget cut back."

Working Title, set up in 1982 by Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe, is Europe's most successful film production company with box office takings of $2.5bn.

Its other hits include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Billy Elliot, Johnny English and Elizabeth.

Some press reports suggested that Working Title's forthcoming romantic comedy Wimbledon had been delayed for reshooting, and that Bridget Jones sequel Edge of Reason had allegedly received "mixed" test screenings.

Lady Penelope's car from the Thunderbirds movie
Lady Penelope's FAB 1 Rolls Royce is a feature of Thunderbirds
But these reports were "nonsense", the company said.

Its spokesman said Edge of Reason had received a better response than the original Bridget Jones film, and more positive feedback in the US than the hugely successful Notting Hill.

He said Wimbledon, starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany, had always been scheduled for release in September.

The release schedule was designed not to coincide with the UK tennis tournament, and to benefit from Dunst's high-profile summer appearance in Spider-Man 2.

Other upcoming Working Title films include The Interpreter starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, and Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Dame Judi Dench.

'Unrelentingly cruel'

Robert Mitchell, box office analyst at the film industry magazine Screen International, said he did not believe Thunderbirds' poor showing would hit the company hard.

"The reviews were unrelentingly cruel and possibly a bit over-cruel," he said. "It's not that bad. These sort of titles can often find a new lease of life on 'ancillary'.

"Parents may not want the expense of taking the kids to the cinema for a film that reviews have said may not be worth it but a 3-4 rental is a lot cheaper and less hassle, and kids can enjoy unsupervised."

And Stuart Kemp, UK bureau chief of trade publication Hollywood Reporter, predicted that Working Title would bounce back with successes for Edge of Reason and Wimbledon.

"It takes more than one flop to hit a company as successful as Working Title," he said.

"Thunderbirds was high profile and didn't work as well as it should have done at the box office. It came out against some really strong performers during the two days of summer we had this year."

He said it may have failed because audiences who remembered the TV series were too old to watch a children's version.

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