The U.K.’s film tax credit, introduced in 2006, has been confirmed until at least the end of 2015. It delivered a record $320 million to producers last year, with the vast majority going to Hollywood movies shot in Blighty.
In March, the government announced that it would extend the benefit, subject to EU approval, to cover high-end TV drama, animation and vidgames.
While that’s great news for the many U.K. producers who work in both features and TV drama, it’s likely to create greater pressure on studio space by attracting the kind of historical TV series that currently go to Ireland or Eastern Europe. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is already into its third season of shooting in the U.K., at Belfast’s Paint Hall Studios in Northern Ireland, where it benefits from local incentives and will now also become eligible for the tax credit.
There is one cloud on the horizon, however. The European Commission is currently consulting on new subsidy rules that could significantly affect the U.K.’s tax credit.
One proposed change would allow producers to claim the credit for British-qualifying projects shot elsewhere in the European Union so long as a sum equivalent to the value of the credit (typically 15%-20%) is spent in the U.K. Some producers would welcome that change, but this could weaken the government’s political commitment to continuing the tax credit beyond 2015.
There’s also a proposal to cap the value of the tax credit for big-budget features that don’t qualify as sufficiently European according to a set of creative criteria that are more stringent that the current British culture test. The proposed cap would be set at 10% of the budget for films over $26 million, whereas big Hollywood productions can currently net up to 15% from the U.K. tax credit.
More positively, the U.K. has enhanced the value of its Enterprise Investment Scheme, a tax break often used by investors in film production. The amount that can be raised via EIS has more than doubled to $8 million.
Far from suffering from government cuts, the British Film Institute is receiving much more lottery coin than its predecessor, the U.K. Film Council, to spend on production and distribution. The BFI will have $92 million a year, compared to $40 million for the UKFC.
Following the publication of the Film Policy Review in January, the BFI is currently drawing up its spending plans, which are likely to include the creation of a new joint venture fund designed to bring producers and distributors together to invest jointly in British films.
Studios & facilities
Leavesden: Warner Bros. has invested $200 million to transform the temporary Leavesden facility where it shot “Harry Potter” into a fully fledged studio, with nine soundstages totalling 250,000 sq. ft. and 100 acres of backlot. The site opens in June and is available for outside producers as well as Warner shows.
Pinewood Studios: Pinewood Studios has opened a new 30,000-sq.-ft. soundstage, dubbed the Richard Attenborough stage, which is currently housing Working Title’s “Les Miserables.”
Paint Hall Studios: Northern Ireland Screen built two new stages alongside its existing Paint Hall Studios in Belfast, which is fully occupied by long-term tenant HBO for the filming of “Game of Thrones.” Bristol’s new Bottle Yard studio also hosted its first two low-budget movies, “In The Dark Half” and “Eight Minutes Idle.”
Black Hangar Studios: New facility Black Hangar Studios, 40 minutes outside of central London in Basingstoke, offers up 32,000 sq. ft. of filmmaking facilities and boasts a 5,000-sq.-ft. water tank (one of two in Blighty).
Post & vfx
The end of the “Potter” franchise hasn’t slowed the pipeline of vfx work flowing through Soho’s big post houses. One of the biggest projects handled in the past year was Disney/Pixar’s “John Carter,” for which Cinesite completed its first full stereo 3D conversion and provided 800 vfx shots.