Atlanta's Blackhall Studios to Develop Studio Complex West of London

Blackhall Studios Reading rendering - H 2020
Courtesy of Blackhall Studios

"Our U.S.-based clients like Disney, Universal and Sony are all asking us to expand into the U.K.," said chairman and CEO Ryan Millsap about the project that comes with an initial investment of $195 million.

Atlanta-based Blackhall Studios on Tuesday unveiled an agreement with Britain's University of Reading to develop a film studio and digital creative hub complex just outside London, set to open early in 2022.

The company in the announcement mentioned an initial investment of £150 million ($195 million) and spoke of a "£500 million ($651 million) investment per year to the U.K. economy." 

Located west of London on the outskirts of Reading, the complex could create up to 3,000 jobs, including about 1,500 at the studio site itself, and is "ideally located to make the most of the creative corridor being developed through the Thames Valley," the partners said.

Britain has in recent years faced a production space crunch, leading to plans for new studio complexes, including one from Comcast/NBCUniversal/Sky, and expansion plans for existing facilities. 

The new complex, which is envisioned to offer digital production facilities and space for businesses in the special effects, augmented reality, animation and e-gaming areas, marks the first U.K. investment for Blackhall, which has worked with Hollywood majors, including Disney, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. and HBO, having housed production teams for the likes of Godzilla: King of Monsters, Venom, Jumanji: The Next Level, Doctor Sleep and the upcoming Jungle Cruise.

"We are delighted to be establishing a base in the U.K. Blackhall is the global standard for entertainment production space and our U.S.-based clients like Disney, Universal and Sony are all asking us to expand into the U.K. to meet their desire to create productions here," said Ryan Millsap, chairman and CEO of Blackhall.

He added: "We are very excited about the prospect of investing in the U.K. creative industries as one of the most vibrant markets in the world. We hope that the site at Thames Valley Science Park will be the start of a series of investments in the U.K., which will see investment in jobs, training and the creative arts across a range of disciplines."

Former Pinewood Group executive Nick Smith will serve as U.K. president and COO for Blackhall. He served as executive commercial director at Pinewood-Shepperton.

"Britain has an enviable array of filmmaking talent, but the industry is short of high-quality studio facilities capable of catering for the new and emerging technologies that will form the core of television and film production in the future," said Smith. "This initial investment of £150 million into the U.K. economy will create a new powerhouse of creative production and educational achievement, as well as generating up to 3,000 new jobs."

Blackhall promised a "full and thorough consultation process" as part of the planning process and said it "looks forward to meeting and speaking to more members of the community in due course."