U.K.'s tax credit lures in large productions

With £780 million ($1.25 billion) in inward investment, it’s already a record year for foreign production in the U.K., beating the 2009 high of $1.2 billion.

Most of that money comes from big-budget Hollywood projects. The U.K.’s tax credit is particularly attractive for such films, because it has no ceiling, and it applies to all U.K. expenditure, including the salaries of American talent.

Several $150 million-plus films booked into Blighty this year. Disney’s “John Carter of Mars” built giant sets at Longcross Studios, a former tank-testing base converted into a production facility. It also used Shepperton and converted a vacant warehouse in nearby Greenford into a temporary soundstage.

Snaring “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” was a big coup, as none of the three previous installments shot in the U.K. It came to Pinewood this fall after location shooting in Hawaii.

Marvel’s “Captain America” based itself at Shepperton, but went on location around Liverpool and Manchester.

Fox brought the Matthew Vaughn-helmed “X-Men: First Class” to Pinewood. Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” from DreamWorks has offices at Longcross but is shooting on location. Martin Scorsese’s 3D “Hugo Cabret” from GK Films is in extended residency at Shepperton.

Warner Bros., traditionally the studio with the largest commitment to U.K. production, is finally coming to the end of “Harry Potter” at Leavesden Studios. Leavesden started as a temporary facility but evolved into a permanent base. Warner has taken over the site for redevelopment and will reopen it as a full-service studio and visitor attraction in 2012.

With Leavesden out of action, Warner has several current or upcoming projects booked into other studios, including “Sherlock Holmes 2″ and “Clash of the Titans 2.” Helmer Chris Nolan will return to his usual airship hangar in Cardington to shoot the next Batman.

Universal used Ealing Studios for “Johnny English Reborn.” Tim Burton’s latest stop-motion project, “Frankenweenie,” backed by Disney, is shooting at 3 Mills Studios in east London, while Sony is bankrolling two films from Aardman’s animation studio in Bristol, “Pirates!” and “Arthur Christmas.”

Indie pics squeezed in amid the blockbusters include Madonna’s “W.E,” Lone Scherfig’s “One Day,” “The Woman in Black” from Hammer Films, Jonathan Newman’s “Foster” and Tanya Wexler’s “Hysteria.”

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