Thunderbirds

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  • Directed By: Jonathan Frakes
  • Written By: William Osborne, Michael McCullers
  • Release Date: July 30, 2004
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal
  • Cast: Brady Corbet, Ben Kingsley, Bill Paxton

Box Office Info:
Budget: $65 millionFinanced by: Working Title; StudioCanal
Domestic Gross: $6,880,917Overseas Gross: $21,402,720

“When you make as many movies as we do, there’s going to be a train wreck.  It’s unfortunate it was on one that cost a lot of money.”
Working Title co-founder Tim Bevan

thunderbirds 2004 film
Thunderbirds was a long in development pet project for Working Title heads Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who bought the rights in the early 1990s.  It was in various stages of development throughout the ’90s at Polygram, where Working Title was housed.  In early 1999, Polygram and Working Title were bought out by Universal and the major studio gave Working Title the autonomy to greenlight up to five movies per year with budgets up to $25 million and higher budgets would have to be approved by Universal.  Universal eventually gave the greenlight to Thunderbirds, which would be Working Title’s most expensive production at $65 million.  Financing came from Working Title and StudioCanal.

The movie was based off of the 1965 TV series, which featured marionettes and oddly enough was released shortly before the marionette film Team America: World Police, which drew inspiration from the Thunderbirds series.  This movie version saw little interest from fans of the original work, including the series creator Gerry Anderson who said “it was the biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life.”  After almost a decade in development, Thunderbirds was retooled as a kids pic and ended up looking like a Spy Kids knockoff.

Universal distributed the family film in the US and dated Thunderbirds for July 30, 2004.  The movie was tracking poorly and the studio knew they had a turkey on their hands and gave the film a scaled back marketing push.  It bowed against The VillageThe Manchurian Candidate and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.  Reviews were awful and Thunderbirds posted a miserable $2,766,810 — placing #11 for the weekend led by The Village.  It sank 54.5% to $1,257,785 in its second frame and promptly lost most of its theater count.  Thunderbirds was quickly pulled from release with $6,880,917.

Thunderbirds pulled in a disappointing $10.1 million in the UK, which was the strongest worldwide market and it flopped in every other country.  The overseas total was just $21,402,720.  Universal dumped the film straight to video in Italy and a few smaller markets.  The worldwide gross was $28.2M, returning about $15.5M after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would leave much of the P&A expenses in the red and the budget at a loss.

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