£800m Investment: The UK’s new studios

    Littlewoods Studios It’s hard to keep up with all the announcements – new film and TV studios are popping up all over the UK, ensuring it remains the destination to produce entertainment with high-quality talent. In this post, we take a look at some of the major developments in the pipeline.

    Studio space is being snapped up across the country with the likes of Disney and Netflix signing long leases. Spending on UK production increased to £3.6bn in 2019 (up 16% from the previous year) and international productions are driving the increases (film up 17%, TV up 51%) as the industry shifts away from a domestic reliance.

    Investments into studio spacehave been made right across the country, on both expansions and new plots. The projects featured in this article represent investment of over £800m in brand new stages.

    Let’s start with the South – it’s always held strong ties to the film and TV industries, with studios, post-production and broadcasters all centralised around the capital. It is already home to Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree, Leavesden, Ealing and Twickenham Studios.

    Sky Studios Elstree

    Sky Studios Elstree

    North London will see Sky Studios Elstree built after the pan-European broadcaster’s plans were accepted for a 32-acre, 12 sound stage lot[1]. With a estimated £230m budget to allocate, there will be a fast turnaround on the project with initial plans to open the site in 2022 with a deadline to complete it within 5 years.

    Dagenham Film Studios

    Located beside Dagenham East Underground Station, East London is set for new construction on its own 6 sound stage studio after the local council approved plans for the £110m site[2]. The project had a rocky road to eventual approval, with a major backer, Pacifica Ventures, pulling out due to Brexit concerns. However, the local council continued to back the project through its Be First development arm.

    Ashford International Film Studios

    While it attracted large publicity around its approval in April, the redevelopment of Newtown Rail Works in Ashford is mix-use with four dedicated stages to film production – alongside residential, commercial and conference spaces. With its location just a few minutes from Ashford International’s Eurostar station, its hoped that the studios will attract European productions, though the lack of international departures is a concern.

    Reading Blackhall Studios

    Blackhall Studios run a large facility in Atlanta across the pond. In February, they committed £150m to fund a UK base in Reading[3]. It’s designed to suit big-budget productions, which is a major area for the UK industry now with the likes of Disney and Netflix securing long-term leases with other facilities. Plans will be submitted in 2020, however the impact of Covid-19 is unknown.

    Littlewoods Film Studios

    Moving outside of the capital and the South East, other regions are attracting investment to develop new studio lots. In Liverpool, the Littlewoods Pool building has stood empty since 2003 and suffered fire damage in 2018. Following the disaster, Twickenham Studios announced plans for reusing the building as a film studio and expanding its operations to the North. It had been quiet on the news front until August 2020, when the project received a £17m boost from the local government[4]. The new funding will be used to set up a ‘pop-up’ operation by the end of 2020, while work on the main facilities is carried out.

    Belfast Harbour Studios

    Across the Irish Sea, North Ireland has been a hit for some of the globe’s biggest TV shows. Titanic Studios was the home of HBO’s Game of Thrones and nearby Belfast Harbour Studios are eyeing up a £45m expansion. Having only opened in 2017, it marks a dramatic increase in space at the site, with an additional six stages and allow it to become the largest studio outside of the South East of England. The plans are currently under consideration by local authorities.

    Our Thoughts

    It’s clear that the UK has become the destination for making high-quality films and television. Industry tax breaks, wide availability of skilled talent and a weakened currency are some of the big factors at play. As spending on UK production continues to increase, more studio space will be needed and the industry many of these projects will be able to provide that. There are still many more projects that aren’t mentioned here as major cities like Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham are exploring new studio spaces.

     

    [1] https://deadline.com/2020/07/sky-studios-elstree-planning-approval-1202980161/

    [2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-53321538

    [3] https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/tech/blackhall-studios-plans-reading-move/5147315.article

    [4] https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/tech/littlewoods-film-studios-clinches-17m-funding-commitment/5152048.article