The Boat That Rocked (2009)
• Case Study Information
Context: Pirate Radio!
"Pirate radio" in the UK first became widespread in the early
1960s when a number of pop music stations, such as Radio
Caroline started to broadcast to the UK from offshore ships or
disused sea forts.At the time these stations were not illegal
because they were broadcasting from international waters.The
stations were set up by entrepreneurs and music enthusiasts to
meet the growing demand for pop and rock music.
By 1968 21 pirate radio stations were broadcasting to an
estimated daily audience of 10 to 15 million.
The 1967 Marine Broadcasting Offences Act officially outlawed
Tony Benn, Postmaster General attempted to have Radio
Caroline shut down.
Although this clash comes to a dramatic head in the film, this
never actually happened!
The BoatThat Rocked is Curtis's first non-
romantic comedy, inspired by his own
childhood memories of listening secretly
on his transistor radio to the broadcasts
of pirate stations such as Radio Caroline,
anchored just outside British territorial
waters before it was shut down by the
Marine Broadcasting Offences Act of
Released 1 April 2009. Running time: 135 mins
Directed by Richard Curtis for WorkingTitle.
Produced byTim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Hilary Bevan Jones, with
Richard Curtis, Debra Hayward and Liz Chasin as executive
Principal Photography begun 3 March 2008 and continued until
It stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost,
Katherine Parkinson,Tom Sturridge,Talulah Riley, Kenneth Branagh,
Jack Davenport, EmmaThompson, January Jones, Gemma Arterton
and Sinead Matthews
The film cost £30 mill to produce, but only took £6.1 mill in the
U.K. in its first 12 weeks of release, with film critics
complaining the film was too long.
Total earnings in UK $10 mill approx.
Total Earnings $28 mill
It was rereleased in the US as ‘Pirate
Radio’, in November 2009
Opened in 882 theatres and was #11 that
week. The next week in was only in 502
It earned $5 mill in the first two weeks
Total US earnings $8 mill
Lasted 8 weeks in the theatres
On the 16th March,
The Sun promoted
‘The Boat that
Rocked’ through a
the winner tickets to
the premier as well
as a night in a
London hotel and a
copy of the sound
The Sun ‘This prize will make
On the 28th March,The Mail online
offered readers free MP3 players in
connection with the film. For one week
consumers were also offered free
downloadable music and interviews from
the cast and crew.
In a bid to further the marketing of the
music in ‘The Boat that Rocked’ Universal
signed up Spotify (the peer-to-peer music
streaming service).The site created playlists
for the main characters which were available
on a microsite, with a competition mechanic
involving the playlists thrown in to increase
click incentive. Fans could download the
playlists for all the different DJs and had the
chance to win posters and props from the
The tourism bodyVisit Britain under the
headline ‘Become a Superstar DJ’ offered
fans the opportunity to take a trip aboard
the only surviving pirate radio ship,The Ross
Revenge that broadcasted Radio Caroline.
Winners were also invited to participate in a
broadcast. Radio Caroline celebrated its
45th anniversary broadcast over the Easter
weekend (11- 12th April 2009) and so this
happy coincidence tied in nicely with ‘The
Boat that Rocked’ release date.
Cinema and DVD release
‘The Boat that Rocked’ premiered in
London on 24th March.The cast were met
by many fans dress appropriately in 60s
The film was released nationwide at the
cinema on 1st April
The DVD was released on 7th Sep 2009
Post release merchandising
It was a traditional British film that stuck to
posters and trailers, despite these drumming up
initial interest in failed to live up to its budget
retaking only a quarter of their production budget.
Unlike American movie companies British ones
just want to get the film made and are not known to
worry about marketing until post production.
However in America throughout the production of
the film they are always thinking about how to
market the end product.
British films are traditionally not well known for
being highly technical or up-to-date in their filming
methods or marketing methods.