Studios mull Brit merger

Pinewood, Shepperton could pool resources to maximize efficiency

LONDON — Pinewood and Shepperton, Britain’s two biggest film studios, could be heading for a merger.

Pinewood, led by chairman Michael Grade, is one of three companies in the running to buy Shepperton, which is owned by a consortium that includes Ridley and Tony Scott.

The other two bidders are understood to be U.S. companies, but their identity has not been disclosed.

Pinewood and Shepperton, situated within a few miles of each other on the fringes of west London, are two of the most important bases in Europe for major Hollywood productions.

Pinewood is currently playing host to Paramount’s “Tomb Raider,” while Shepperton is housing Universal’s “The Mummy Returns.”

Capacity maxed

A Pinewood source said a merger would not create any economies of scale, but would allow the studios to maximize their capacity by sharing projects.

“All our customers are merging, but the British film industry remains very fragmented,” said the source. “When you’re competing for projects against the Czech Republic, Australia, the U.S., Spain and the rest, you have to do everything you can.”

Typically, both studios are classed as full when only 80% of their stages are in use, because that does not leave enough space to house another film. But that spare capacity could be pooled if the studios were under common ownership.

But the source said reports of a deal are “very premature,” and that any agreement is “a long way from happening.”

Investment group

Grade heads a management team that paid $92.9 million in March to buy Pinewood from Rank. Deal was bankrolled primarily by investment group 3i, which owns 80% of the studio.

Shepperton, which also owns 40% of post-production house the Mill, is controlled by Candover, a private equity company that contributed $10.5 million toward the $18 million acquisition of the studio back in 1995. Candover has been looking to cash in its chips for several months.

Ridley and Tony Scott have been closely associated with the revitalization of Shepperton, although their own stake in the studio is thought to be minimal. Ridley Scott shot much of “Gladiator” there. Pinewood sources say they hope the brothers would continue their involvement if the merger takes place.

More Film

  • The Lion King Teaser

    'The Lion King' Leaping to $185 Million North American Debut

    Disney’s “The Lion King” is heading for a dominant $185 million opening weekend in North America, early estimates showed Friday. Should that number hold, “The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and give the sagging domestic box office a badly needed boost. “The Lion King” would replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched [...]

  • Joe Anthony Russo

    Russo Brothers Announce 'Grimjack,' Live-Action 'Battle of the Planets' Adaptations

    Joe and Anthony Russo are looking to their youth to populate the development slate at their production company AGBO. A relatively obscure comic book called “Grimjack” will count the Russos as producers for adaptation, they announced at San Diego Comic-Con. They’re also cooking up a live-action adaptation of the animated show “Battle of the Planets.” [...]

  • Chadwick Boseman stars in 21 Bridges

    Watch Chadwick Boseman Hunt Down Killers in New '21 Bridges' Trailer

    Shots are fired in a new trailer for “21 Bridges,” starring Chadwick Boseman and J.K. Simmons, released during a Comic-Con panel today. The heist-thriller, produced by Joe and Anthony Russo of “Avengers: Endgame,” stars Boseman as an NYPD detective Andre Davis who finds himself embroiled in a city-wide manhunt after two cops are accused of [...]

  • David Crosby and Cameron Crowe'David Crosby:

    Cameron Crowe Picks Five Favorite Underrated David Crosby Tracks

    “Music is love,” as David Crosby once sang, and nothing breeds deeper love than a sense that something is overlooked. So that’s why Variety asked Cameron Crowe to dig deep into the Crosby canon and pick not just a triad but five favorites from among the CSN singer’s most underrated tracks. Crowe, of course, has [...]

  • Halloween

    New 'Halloween' Movies Set for 2020, 2021

    Universal Pictures has unveiled back-to-back “Halloween” sequel movies that will open in 2020 and 2021. The studio made the announcement Friday, noting that last year’s “Halloween,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis and directed by David Gordon Green, went on to become the highest-grossing installment in the horror franchise at more than $250 million worldwide. The first [...]

  • Above the Shadows

    Film Review: ‘Above the Shadows’

    Grief-fueled romantic fantasies can be tricky for filmmakers not named Wim Wenders. Everyone aspires to make “Wings of Desire” with its stirring immediacy, beautiful imagery and pressing poignancy, but most wind up delivering something closer to its decent but dreary American remake, “City of Angels” — which could also be said for writer-director Cynthia Myers’ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content