Existing and proposed facilities dot the U.K. map
Every couple of months there’s hullabaloo about another new plan to build a “major” studio complex in some far-flung corner of Britain. Many of the blueprints are vague on detail, and face obstacles in getting planning permission. And doubts persist whether there’s demand for all this proposed provincial studio space, and whether there’s a sufficient community of local production skills to service them. Nonetheless, some are moving ahead. Our map takes a look at new developments at existing sites and those on the drawing boards.
- After playing host to 39 film shoots since ’95, the Isle of Man opened its first purpose-built studio this summer, a $2.5 million facility with a single soundstage, built by the Lough House Group.
- In Bridgend, south Wales, Dragon Intl. Studios is proposing a 350-acre site (including theme park and film school) at the location of an old open-cast mine. The Welsh authorities recently approved the construction of a new motorway junction to serve the studio. Planning consent is pending.
- In St. Agnes, Cornwall, South-West Film Studios has obtained $3 million in EU funding (toward a total $8 million cost), and the studio has bought the land, where a bulldozer has been spotted.
- In Devon the Full Picture Co. claims to have raised $190 million from a syndicate of commercial interests to build a studio on a 227-acre site. Plans for the complex include six soundstages, one 78,000 square feet (which would be the largest in Europe) and post-production amenities. Studio director Martin Turville previously developed Leavesden.
- Bath Studios is building three small stages to enhance its high-tech multimedia center, located atop old military bunkers that house communications hubs for private telcos. The studio’s selling point will be its ability to tap into the fat pipes underneath to send images around the world.
- The U.K.’s two biggest studios, Pinewood and Shepperton, are now under single ownership, giving producers flexibility on mixing and matching facilities available at both sites. There’s also been an aggressive push, notably at Pinewood, to attract more TV production. Pinewood is home to “The Weakest Link,” and Shepperton has BBC’s star search show “Fame Academy.”
- West London studio Ealing is being revived as a facility and a production brand by producer Barnaby Thompson. Construction is under way on three new buildings with 60,000 square feet of office space. He hopes to lure the creative community with the studio’s historical character and its proximity to central London by the Underground. “Shrek” producer John Williams has committed to make four CGI pics at the studio under his new Disney deal, starting with “Valiant.”
- Leavesden, a former aerodrome used to house a handful of blockbusters, is now on long lease to Warner Bros. for the “Harry Potter” franchise. Site owner MEPC is making noises about developing Leavesden into a permanent facility, but there’s little evidence of progress.
- David Bill, formerly of Ealing and Shepperton, opened Cheltenham Film Studios in 1998, with two small soundstages and planning permission to add three more. Bill invests directly in production, having put money into Terence Ryan’s “Puckoon,” which shot there.
- A half-dozen Scottish film studio projects have been floated in recent years, including those from Sean Connery and pop star Dave Stewart, but none has made it off the drawing board. Recently, a feasibility study by the Scottish government decided against investing public coin in a national film studio.