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October 2017
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Film 40, 2014 Back to Reports & survey Listing

The Top British Film Studios

Last year saw a big increase in inward investment films but falling spending on British indie features, a trend expected to continue in 2014. David Wood reports on a year of pros and cons for the UK studio industry.


The picture over the last year has been one of steady improvement for the UK film industry Plc. For proof you need look no further than the latest BFI report on UK film production which show that over £1bn was spent on film production in the UK in 2013, a 14% increase on 2012.

Of that, £868m came from 37 international (mostly Hollywood) movies which made the UK their production base. These include The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Heart Of The Sea and Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios) along with Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, Cinderella and Into The Woods, which shot at Pinewood.

Other titles included Fox’s Exodus and Frankenstein, Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Sony and Fox’s The Monuments Men and Studiocanal’s Paddington. This year the trend of growing inward investment is set to continue with Lucas Film’s Star Wars VII, Bond 24, Universal’s The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Everest and Disney’s Alice In Wonderland sequel Through The Looking Glass.

Says Film London CEO Adrian Wootton: “There’s no reason to suppose that investment won’t continue to grow, particularly now that tax breaks are even better. With minimum qualifying expenditure now down from 25% to 10% of the budget it means that now the UK is going to be able to attract more co-pros and vfx projects – that’s been a bit of a problem in the past.”

The knock on effect is plain to see, says Wootton: “There’s the proposed expansion at Pinewood in Bucks and in Wales, the stage expansions at Leavesden, Elstree, expansion in Northern Ireland as well as a feasibility study into Scottish studios.”
However, the outlook for British indie film looks less rosy, with numbers falling dramatically in 2013.

The total of 62 was down from 65 in 2012, while the total spend of these films was far lower – £139m, down from 2012’s £229m – not such good news if your studio facilities suit smaller budget independent film. Wimbledon Studios MD Piers Read argues that the main impact of the tax incentive schemes has been a big boost for two or three of the biggest UK studios, with little benefit to the smaller players. 3 Mills studio executive Derek Wyatt adds: “2014 started slowly for us in terms of feature films – something that was borne out by BFI statistics. That impacts us because we tend to work with UK independents more than large scale US inward investment films.”

Another challenge is providing enough workshop and production facility space to accommodate Hollywood’s finest. That’s priority number one for Pinewood, which is eagerly waiting the outcome of a public inquiry into its £200m development plan. Says Pinewood’s Andrew Smith: “We have been running at full capacity this year and have had to turn away some films. Our planning application indicates that if we expanded we could accommodate four rather than two big budget inward investment films (in the $2-300m bracket) at a time.” Smith points to a trend for today’s big budget films to demand as much workshop and production office space as sound stage space. “On Disney’s Cinderella many of the props were custom made. The ratio of workshop to stage space used to be 1:3 but now it’s 1:1.”

Pinewood isn’t the only studio looking to expand to make the most of the tax break situation. Many studios report that they have had to turn away productions in the last 12 months, including Elstree. MD Roger Morris reveals: “We are never complacent about features.” His studio has hosted 11 features in the past year, including Paddington Bear, World’s End and Man Up. “We get parts of the big Hollywood megafeatures, but the problem for the large studios is they have long quiet periods – we try to balance out the peaks and troughs by combining feature work with TV and commercials.”

The top British film studios

3 Mills Studios
Credits: Matthew Cullen’s London Fields, The Hoarder, Hot Property and AmStarDam. Stages range from 3,200 to 13,500 sq ft

Bottle Yard Studios
Credits: Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box, 8 Minutes Idle. South Bristol studio complex with 300,000 sq ft facility

Elstree Studio
Credits: Paddington, World’s End, Man Up. Elstree has six sound stages and one silent stage ranging from 3,000 to 16,000 sq ft and is about to embark on the expansion of a four acre backlot

Longcross Studios
Former MOD site in Surrey with four main stages and workshop space ranging from 2,000 to 13,000 sq ft plus over 200 acres of backlot

Pinewood Studios

Credits: Star Wars 7,  Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cinderella. The group runs Pinewood, Shepperton and Teddington as well as studios in Toronto, Berlin, the Dominican Republic and Malaysia

Titanic Studios
Former shipyard comprises Paint Hall studio plus two newer sound stages. There’s a £14m plan for 100,000 sq ft of new studio space

Twickenham
Credits" Cuban Fury, Frankenstein and Before I Go to Sleep. Completely renovated since 2012, it has three stages up to 7,500 sq ft

Warner Bros Leavesden
Credits: The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Heart Of The Sea, Jupiter Ascending. Redeveloped at a cost of £100m, Warner Bros Studios Leavesden opened in 2012 and now offers over 250,000 sq ft of sound stages across the site

Wimbledon Studios
Credits: The Gunman. Wimbledon welcomes features but is focused on TV multicamera work


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