Pinewood CEO Touts Emerging U.S., China Business

Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy P
Pinewood Shepperton

"The results speak for themselves," says Ivan Dunleavy after the studio operator's latest financials when asked about upcoming meetings with shareholders, including a dissident investor.

Britain's Pinewood Group on Tuesday posted improved fiscal year financials helped by such big-budget productions as Star Wars: Episode VII, Spectre and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

But international growth for the operator of studio facilities, such as in the U.S. and China, was also a contributor to the better results that led to the stock climbing slightly in Tuesday trading. The earnings report came ahead of meetings of Pinewood executives with shareholders, including one investor that has been critical of the company.

Pinewood CEO Ivan Dunleavy on Tuesday wouldn’t discuss in detail the company’s relationship with Crystal Amber, an activist U.K. investment fund that once owned more than a quarter of Pinewood and publicly tried to oust its chairman. It recently again acquired a stake in Pinewood and has pushed for higher financial returns.

“We will meet all of our shareholders in the coming days and weeks,” Dunleavy tells THR. “We published the results this morning, and I am sure that the results speak for themselves.”

Asked about Pinewood’s focus on adding more capacity, Dunleavy says that the company, Europe's largest provider of studio and stage space, is “absolutely on schedule” to open five more stages in the summer of 2016.

Explaining Pinewood’s 80 percent occupancy rate for the fiscal year ended March 31, he says: “A large-budget production may have a stage requirement anywhere between five to10 stages at any single moment. And obviously as you have several of those productions around the lot, there will be a peak in the space requirement. Whilst the average rate may run at 80 percent, the peak rate is what we need to respond to. If you can’t deal with the peak rate, then we can’t actually provide our services to those potential large-budget films in the way that we want.”

Adds the Pinewood CEO: “We are adding an additional five large stages in the first phase of our development, and that will enable us to respond better to the demand from productions.”

Dunleavy says the company also “continues to make progress” in terms of international initiatives that have seen it grow its international revenue. He says a studio complex that opened in Atlanta last year has “performed well” and “we are getting on with adding a little bit of more capacity beyond the original five stages.” He concluded: “We are very pleased with the progress we have made over there.”

Asked about China, he says Pinewood has been looking at “how we can make our small contribution to film production services.” He adds: “We’re learning as we go working with fellow studio operators in China, working potentially with independent filmmakers in China. And I see potential in being able to create co-productions between the U.K. and China that hopefully will appeal to Chinese audiences. We would be the production services bridge.”

Asked about a joint venture with Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Media in China, Dunleavy says: “We are working with Seven Stars on a number of projects. That takes time,” and so far none is ready to be announced, he adds.

Twitter: @georgszalai