Pinewood results offer ray of light

Profits at U.K. studio facilities group up 12% in 2008

LONDON -- U.K. studio facilities group Pinewood Shepperton, listed here on the stock exchange, posted an uptick in revenue and pretax profit Wednesday, offering a faint ray of light amid the global economic gloom.

The group said that revenue hit £42 million ($61.2 million) for the year ending Dec. 31, up from £37.4 million ($54.5 million) in 2007.

Pinewood described the growth as being "in line with expectations," and said the end of the writers' strike and the introduction of the U.K. tax credit system contributed to the results.

Pretax profit for the group increased 12% to £5.9 million ($8.6 million) in 2008 from £5.3 million ($7.7 million) the previous year.

The group said that film revenue in 2009 should also hold up despite the threat of an actors' strike. The group said the falling value of sterling should also make the U.K. facilities more attractive to overseas' filmmakers. But it warned that the current economic downturn has led to cuts in broadcasters' program investment, which is likely to result in flatter television revenue compared with "the strong growth pattern delivered over the past few years."

"In the context of the economic uncertainty of 2008, which continues, we have produced resilient results, Pinewood Shepperton chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said. "We have delivered growth in Film, Television and Media Park revenue and are well placed to capitalize on the continuing strong demand for creative content."

The group said that film revenue rose to £24.2 million ($35.3 million) in 2008, up from 2007's £19.5 million ($28.4 million). The group said that last year saw "high utilization" of the group's facilities, in particular in the first half.

U.S. studio-backed projects shooting here remained at a healthy level, with major films including "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," "Mamma Mia!" and "Quantum of Solace" shooting at the group's facilities.

Television revenue grew "modestly," posting £12.7 million ($18.5 million) in 2008, up slightly from 2007 levels of £12.1 million ($17.6 million). The growth came despite the pressure by broadcasters on production budgets.

Television productions across the three studio sites -- Pinewood, Shepperton and Teddington -- included "Last of the Summer Wine," "Thomas the Tank Engine," "Gladiators," "The Lily Allen Show" and "Weakest Link."

Media Park revenue hit £6 million ($8.7 million) for 2008, up 4% from £5.8 million ($8.4 million) in 2007.

Media Park comprises more than 310 businesses offering a variety of services to the film and television industry including Technicolor and other postproduction digital and film processing.