Pinewood produces strong '06

Revenue jumps 22% on strong film, TV business

Film and television production studio Pinewood Shepperton on Tuesday unveiled strong growth in television and film production results for full-year 2006.

The company reported a pretax profit for the year of £7.2 million ($14.2 million) on revenue that was up 22% at £40.7 million ($80 million).

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were up 37% at £12.3 million ($24.2 million) from £8.9 million in 2005.

Pinewood chairman Ivan Dunleavy said that television revenue jumped 32% to £11.8 million ($23.2 million) and that the film production business in the U.K. was scheduled to grow.

"As we anticipated, a number of significant film customers returned to Pinewood Shepperton during 2006," he said. "Our strategy to diversify further into television has resulted in significant revenue growth from this activity, which increasingly will help to mitigate the effects of more volatile film revenues."

Movies made in 2006 using the facilities at Pinewood Shepperton included "Atonement," "Casino Royale" (pictured), "Children of Men," "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Sweeney Todd."

Dunleavy said film production spending in the U.K. was up 48% to £840 million ($1.7 billion) in 2006.

That was up from £569 million in 2005, the second-highest spending on record, driven by film tax incentives.

But he said that competition from international studios and locations such as the U.S., Hungary, the Czech Republic and Spain remained fierce. The weaker dollar also made the U.K. a costlier production hub, he added.

"Despite weak current U.S. dollar exchange rates, we believe that international filmmakers retain an appetite to access the premium quality of U.K. facilities and filmmaking talent such as British directors, scriptwriters and technicians," he added.

Dunleavy said the new 007 stage is up and running less than a year after the original was destroyed by fire. But he did not confirm that the next Bond film would be filmed at the studios.

In other strong U.K. earnings news Tuesday, programming group Entertainment Rights, which in January acquired "Casper the Friendly Ghost" owner Classic Media for $210 million, unveiled a 35% year-over-year increase in 2006 pretax profit to £8.7 million ($17.1 million).

The gain came despite a 3% revenue decline to £29.8 million as the company's gross margin increased from 46% to 57%.

Entertainment Rights also said that U.K. kids TV favorite "Postman Pat" will come to the U.S. in the fall under a deal with kids network Qubo, broadcast on NBC, Telemundo and ION Television in English and Spanish.