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September 2017
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Reports&
surveys

Film 40, 2016 Back to Reports & survey Listing

The UK's top 10 film studios

The UK studios sector has enjoyed a continued boom over the past 12 months, underpinned by an unprecedented level of inward investment spending on UK film production.

According to the BFI, inward investment was over £1bn for the second year in a row. The UK’s studio sector, more used to a climate of feast and famine, has never had it so good for so long.

If the film sector is in rude health, so too is activity in high end TV drama. Spending last year was up 20% on TV drama inward investment and co-productions.

If there is a downside to the huge influx of cash into UK production, it’s that it’s most beneficial to studios set up to cater for the needs of big budget features: 83% of an inward investment spend of £1.17bn in 2015 was generated from just 47 titles, including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Doctor Strange, Wonder Woman and Paul Greengrass’s fifth Bourne sequel.

The most obvious problem facing  UK studios is logistical; can  they continue to provide enough of the right studio space and facilities that film and TV productions require?

Expansion plans
In response to demand, most of the studios are busily expanding, or are looking at plans to invest. This summer Pinewood will open the first phase of its £200m expansion plan to double the studio space available, including twelve large stages with supporting workshops, production offices and infrastructure. This adds to the facilities it created in 2015 at Pinewood Wales, offering 70,000 sq ft of shooting space near Cardiff. 

But some at Pinewood clearly want expansion to be more dynamic, with the studio mooting a sale which would free up the company’s tightly-held share ownership structure and enable a floatation on the London Stock Exchange.

Pinewood isn’t the only company looking to expand and make the most of the film boom.

Warner Bros-owned Leavesden Studios, home of Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur and Tarzan, has devised a master plan for the next decade which will extend facilities at the 200 acre site by a quarter. The plan is to create capacity to handle three blockbuster movies a year, as well as high end TV dramas and indie features.

North London’s Elstree Studio complex, home to smaller budget independent films, is also in the process of expanding, as is Belfast’s Titanic Studios, with a planned £14m doubling of infrastructure to accommodate another two series of HBO’s Game Of Thrones.

Belfast could really put itself on the film production map if plans unveiled earlier this year for a new £10m studio complex to rival Titanic Studios come to fruition. North Foreshore Film Studios, a 340-acre former landfill site at Belfast Harbour, could feature a 66,000sq ft film studio and sound stage.

Northern Expansion
The overheating of the studio market in the south east has led many to consider going further afield while still benefitting from UK tax breaks and post expertise.

The north of England already has facilities such as Dock 10 in Salford and The Space Project to the east of Manchester. The Space Project is now constructing a new 30,000 sq ft stage, reckoned to be the biggest in the north of England, in a bid to lure film production.

In another development, Screen Yorkshire is converting a former RAF base at Church Fenton into a studio facility.

Pending council approval, Liverpool could also be opening its first film studio. The £25m scheme, on the 4.5 acre site of a former Littlewoods warehouse, would present a boon for a city that hosts more location shoots than anywhere outside London.

The big question is will Scotland ever cash in on the UK’s studios boom? Film projects regularly turn their backs on the possibility of shooting north of the border thanks to the lack of decent purpose-built studio facilities. 

The main hopes are the 48,000 sq ft Wardpark Studios, Cumbernauld – if the Scottish government is prepared to back it to the tune of £4m.

3 Mills
Credits Loving Vincent, Love, Nina

Nine filming stages and two rehearsal stages in East London ranging from 3,200 sq. ft. to 13,500 sq. ft

Bottle Yard
Credits Golden Years, Galavant, Wolf Hall, Poldark
Bristol studio has 300,000 sq ft of production space in total

Elstree
Credits
The Danish Girl
Six sound stages and one silent stage. Embarking on expansion.

Longcross
Credits Doctor Strange
Former MOD site in Surrey has four main stages plus workshop space over 200 acres of backlot

Pinewood
Credits Star Wars, Spectre.
Huge studio group spread 
across Pinewood, Shepperton, Cardiff Bay and foreign studios

Space Project
Credits Houdini & Doyle
Leading the charge for studio space expansion in the north of England.

Titanic
Credits Game of Thrones, 
Your Highness.
Expanding with a £14m doubling of infrastructure aimed at turning it into one of Europe’s largest studios.

Twickenham
Credits The Martian, Bastille Day

West London complex has three sound stages

Leavesden
Credits Fantastic Beasts
Warner Bros facility is very busy and expanding by 25%

West London
Credits Bridget Jones’ Baby
This Hayes studio facility has 105,000 sq. ft of studio and production space

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