Britain’s iconic Shepperton Studios has submitted planning application for its proposed £500 million ($640 million) redevelopment and expansion, the studio announced Tuesday. The plans seek to increase Shepperton’s stage space by around 465,000 square feet and add additional support facilities, bringing the studio in line with the scale and standard of sister facility Pinewood Studios.
The move to enlarge Shepperton was reported first by Variety in February, when owner Pinewood Studios Group originally acquired the large chunk of land adjacent to the existing Shepperton site. Pinewood Studios Group then began a consultation with local community and industry representatives about the proposed expansion in June.
The submission of planning application to the local authority, Spelthorne Borough Council, is the next step in gaining approval for the expansion to go ahead. If there are no major objections, that could be granted by year’s end.
Shepperton currently houses 14 sound stages and a backlot on a 600,000-square-foot, 25-acre site. The studio says the expanded facility would generate more than 1,500 jobs in the community and maintain a $232 million contribution to the local economy. It expects the period of construction to create another 837 jobs per year and states that, on completion, the new facility “is expected to boost productivity within the local economy to a total of [$413 million] and will create and sustain a total of 2,796 jobs.”
In June, local council leader Ian Harvey said the authority had been “a strong supporter of Shepperton Studios because of its historical, cultural, economic and employment significance in the borough.”
With studio space in the U.K. in high demand, Pinewood wants to grow the Shepperton site for production of big-ticket movies and high-end TV. Andrew M. Smith, director of Shepperton Studios, said the U.K. was “currently missing out on a significant number of international films because of a shortage of sound stages.”
“The British Film Institute and British Film Commission have been calling for more stage space to reverse this trend, and the increased capacity proposed at Shepperton Studios will meet head on the need for additional purpose-built sound stages to accommodate blockbuster size movies,” Smith said.
Universal’s “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and Disney’s “Christopher Robin” are two of the most recent releases to have used Shepperton’s facilities, while Disney’s upcoming “Mary Poppins Returns” also shot at the studio. Shepperton has a long history dating back to 1931 and has housed such classic films as Carol Reed’s “The Third Man,” Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and Ridley Scott’s “Alien.”
Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and screen industries agency Film London, said inward investment from feature film and high-end TV drama productions had hit record levels in the U.K. last year with international feature films spending £1.69 billion ($2.17 billion). This was a 23% increase on 2016 and the highest figure since records began.
“The U.K.’s increased popularity as a filming destination means that a significant increase in studio capacity is now more essential than ever,” said Wootton. “Additional purpose-built studio space, together with an ongoing focus on skills development, is now crucial in order for us to continue to compete for major multi-million-dollar feature film and TV projects.”
The expansion of both Shepperton and Pinewood’s sites are considered key to delivering on the British government’s ambition that, “with the right conditions,” it could be possible to double the scale of film and high-end television production revenue to $5.1 billion by 2025.
Work is already underway at Pinewood Studios itself as part of a $276 million expansion plan, and new U.K. studio space is coming through at Church Fenton and Belfast Harbour Studios, as well as a significant expansion at Leavesden. Twickenham Studios has also unveiled ambitious plans for a major $64 million development in Liverpool, which, like Shepperton, will require planning approval.