UDPATE, 2 AM WRITETHRU: With the British film and TV industry in the throes of a capacity crisis, it’s a good — if frustrating — time to be in the studio facilities business. The Pinewood Shepperton group today announced consolidated results for the six months ended September 30th with £36.6M ($59.1M) in revenues compared to £27.1M ($43.8M) in the same period last year. After-tax profit was $5.5M, up from $3.2M in 2012. The Pinewood studio is currently host to Kenneth Branagh’s lavish Cinderella, Hammer sequel The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death, and just had Ridley Scott’s Exodus on the lot which has now gone on location. Lucasfilm has also hung its shingle with the new Star Wars installment gearing up to shoot in 2014. Johnny Depp-starrer Alice In Wonderland 2 is expected to turn up, and Bond will be back with No. 24 next year. Over at nearby Shepperton, Marvel has wrapped Into The Woods and has The Avengers 2 on deck. But I hear its Ant Man had to forgo shooting in the UK due to the lack of space.
With the UK’s new tax break for high-end TV in full-swing, studios are filled to the rafters as big and small screen productions jockey for position. To help meet demand, stages are being improvised in warehouse conversions around the UK. Film London recently said it had “unlocked” an additional 1.25M square feet of alternative stage space this year. Fox’s new reboot 24: Live Another Day is set up in such a warehouse. But often these spaces can be costly to convert and end up taking coin away from studio facilities who have well-established infrastructure. Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy said today, “The UK, and Pinewood Shepperton in particular, continue to be in great demand from international content producers. However, in order to continue growing the UK’s market share, we will need more studios and related facilities.” A public inquiry began on November 19th into the Pinewood expansion project. It’s previously made two bids to expand, but each has been rejected by the local Council, in part because the project is eyeing protected land. Ahead of the Council’s most recent 6-4 rejection last May — which was a better result than the first time around when there were zero votes for — Hollywood studios including Disney, Fox and Universal wrote to decision-makers in support. Dunleavy tells me, “We think we have a very strong case. We are not alone in saying that capacity is an issue, and our clear view is the best and easiest and most cost-effective way to resolve that is to build adjacent” to Pinewood which has the UK’s biggest infrastructure. Pinewood customers are “supportive of our proposal whether from the film or the TV world. They see the necessity to add to capacity.” A decision is expected in the spring or early summer next year.
On December 4th, Pinewood will inaugurate a new 45,000-square-foot space that’s going by the name Q Stage and which already has plenty of interest from clients. In keeping with the Bond theme — there’s already a 007 Stage — the franchise’s Ben Whishaw will officially unveil Q Stage.
Pinewood Shepperton is also busy outside the UK with its Pinewood Indomina Studios in the Dominican Republic opening this past September. Construction is moving apace on Pinewood Atlanta Studios and a joint venture with Chinese mogul Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Media Limited to assess business proposals in China is progressing. Atlanta is eyeing film and TV productions from Hollywood and will be operational in the first quarter of 2014. Pinewood will also continue to invest in four British indie films per year. Its latest, Powder Room, opens in the UK on December 6th.
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