Warner to buy Leavesden Studios

Studio to set up permanent U.K. production base

Warner Bros. has applied for permission to purchase and refurbish the U.K.’s Leavesden Studios, which it currently leases.

Move marks an estimated £100 million ($161 million) investment in the British film industry by Warner Bros. and a valuable boost in outside investment in the U.K.

It would also make Warner Bros. the first Hollywood studio to have a permanent production base in Europe since MGM set up MGM London Films at Elstree Studios, near Leavesden, in the early 1940s.

Leavesden Studios, 20 miles north of London, is built on a former Rolls-Royce factory site owned by property company MEPC.

If permission for the upgrade is granted by Three Rivers District Council and Watford Borough Council, Warner Bros. would buy the freehold.

According to promo org Film London, Leavesden comprises 500,000 square feet of stages, production offices and ancillary buildings, along with an 80-acre backlot.

Warner Bros.’s proposal includes refurbishing and extending the production facilities, increasing the ability to provide services such as visual effects, prosthetics, animatronics and film editing, as well expanding the external filming and production areas.

It also secures Leavesden’s future once the final installment in the “Harry Potter” franchise wraps this year.

Other Warner Bros. pics shot at Leavesden include “The Dark Knight” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

“This proposal is central to our long-term plans to invest in the local production community, to create local and industry employment opportunities, and to continue the legacy of exceptional British filmmaking at Leavesden and across the U.K.,” said a Warner Bros. rep.

The Leavesden news comes after Pinewood Shepperton’s $332 million expansion plan was rejected by the local planning authority due to objections to the inclusion of homes in the new development (Daily Variety, Oct. 23).

The Pinewood Studios Group is expected to appeal.