Hollywood pix boost Pinewood fortunes

Film revenues up 24% to $56.7 million

A boom in the volume of big-budget Hollywood movies shooting in Blighty during 2011 has driven revenues at U.K. studio group Pinewood Shepperton to an all-time high.

Sales hit a record £50.7 million ($80.1 million) in the 12 months to Dec. 31, up 17%. Film revenues alone were up 24% to $56.7 million, thanks to movies including “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Anna Karenina,” “Prometheus,” “Skyfall,” “The Hobbit” and “Dark Shadows.”

The group, which owns Pinewood and Shepperton Studios, the U.K.’s two largest film and TV production facilities, also reported a 14% rise in operating profits to $16.3 million.

Nonetheless, the company fell into a pre-tax loss of $6.2 million after exceptional items, down from a profit of $9.2 million in 2010.

That was the result of being forced to write off the $11.2 million five-year development cost of its proposed $320 million extension at Pinewood, 20 miles west of central London, which failed to obtain planning permission. Local authorities objected to a significant housing component in the plans. However, the group is building a 30,000 sq. ft. soundstage at the facility.

Pinewood Shepperton has expanded internationally, through partnerships with studios in Toronto, Berlin, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic. So far this represents only a modest part of its business — international revenues were up 50% in 2011 to $1.4 million.

“The company has delivered a strong performance for the full year, with overall revenues significantly up,” said chief exec Ivan Dunleavy.

“The ongoing demand from big-budget films and large-scale TV shows for our unique facilities remains resilient. Our international strategy continues to deliver growth and further opportunity to extend the Pinewood brand overseas.”

Dunleavy noted his disappointment that the Project Pinewood extension did not get the greenlight from the U.K. government.

“The board, supported by its major shareholder, is determined to work with the government and stakeholders to deliver the longterm vision for Pinewood that it needs if it is to remain a global center for the film and creative industries,” he said. “We will continue to engage, to ensure that the site meets the needs for growth over the next 20 to 30 years.”

It is also investing in its digital TV services.

Projects shooting at Pinewood Toronto Studios in 2011 included Universal’s “Mama” and Legendary/Warner’s “Pacific Rim.”

Pinewood Studio Berlin attracted its first project, “Planet B Boy” from Sony’s Screen Gems label. Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia, the largest purpose-built facility in the region, will open for business in 2013, while the Pinewood Indomina studio in the Dominican Republic will complete its first phase of construction in 2012.

The group said it is continuing to look for fresh opportunities to expand its brand internationally.

Pinewood Shepperton reported its 2011 figures as unaudited interim results, because it has changed its accounting year-end to March.

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