'Star Wars: Episode VII' Helps Pinewood to Higher Annual Profit, Record Revenue

Pinewood Studios - H 2012
Getty Images

Europe's largest provider of studio space also hosted 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and 'Spectre' in the fiscal year as the company reported record revenue, but TV revenue declined.

U.K. studio facilities operator Pinewood Group on Tuesday reported a profit and record revenue for its latest fiscal year, which once again saw high-profile Hollywood productions take over its stages.

For the 12 months ended March 31, the company recorded earnings of $12.7 million (£8.1 million), up from £5.4 million. Its operating profit of $9.1 million (£5.8 million) compared with £4.9 million for the previous year. Profit before tax and earnings per share also rose.

Revenue at Europe's largest provider of stage and studio space rose 17 percent, from £55.6 million for the previous fiscal year to a record $118 million (£75 million).

Film revenue for the year of $69 million (£43.9 million) increased 17.5 percent. "The increase is due to greater utilization of ancillary studio space, expansion of the group's offering in complementary activities, growth in DCS revenues and a higher level of international activity," Pinewood said. "The demand for the company's facilities throughout the year has been strong, as reflected in stage occupancy of 80 percent (year ended 31 March 2014: 81 percent); however, this ongoing strong film demand has limited television occupancy opportunities over the year."

TV revenue fell to $9.1 million (£5.8 million) from £6.2 million. "The company's television business hosted a number of productions during the year, including Not Going Out (Avalon), Birds of a Feather (Freemantle Media) and Still Open All Hours (BBC)," Pinewood said. "ITV, BBC and Sky expressed an interest in utilizing the company's dual purpose film stages for their large-scale light entertainment formats, but the company was unable to accommodate these requests due to capacity constraints." A planned expansion "should enable Pinewood to accommodate these large-format TV productions in the future," it said.

Pinewood CEO Ivan Dunleavy said: "We are encouraged that the current financial year has got off to a strong start with good visibility into the coming year."

He also said: "Pinewood is a uniquely positioned independent operator and has once again delivered strong growth. As our core business has grown, we have expanded the range of services for the screen-based industries. We are seeing encouraging results from this strategy. Our growing presence internationally continues to deliver clear benefits."

Dunleavy also highlighted the benefits of construction having begun on the first phase of a planned expansion, given the company has often spoken of the need for more production capacity at Pinewood and elsewhere in the U.K. "This is an exciting development for the group, and we are pleased with the support and commitment given to us through the placing," he said. “Although we have hosted the three largest film productions of the year, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Avengers: Age of Ultron and the 24th Bond film Spectre, we continue to be unable to meet all the demand from large films. This will be partly addressed by the first phase of the Pinewood expansion."

Pinewood is expected to meet in the coming weeks 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 once again acquired a stake in the company and has pushed for higher financial returns.

International revenue for the year within film rose to $4.9 million (£3.1 million), driven by the newly operational Pinewood Atlanta Studios and consultancy services provided in China.

Pinewood Atlanta Studios was completed in June 2014, and Marvel's Ant-Man was the first production to shoot there shortly after construction was completed. Principal photography finished in November. "Marvel's second feature to shoot at [the Atlanta studio] commenced principal photography in April," Pinewood said, without giving further details.

In China, the company provides consultancy services to a number of Chinese film companies, including Wanda and its planned Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis. "Construction on Phase One commenced in 2015 with the studio complex scheduled to open in 2017," the firm said. "In addition, the company commenced the provision of consultancy advice to the Shanghai Film Group on its studio facilities in Chidden."

Twitter: @georgszalai