'Star Wars,' 'Spectre' Help Boost Pinewood Annual Revenue, Earnings

Playbook: Star Wars The Force Awakens - H 2016
Courtesy of Lucasfilms 2015/Walt Disney Studios

Europe's largest provider of studio space has no update on its "ongoing" strategic review, with its CEO saying that the weaker pound due to the Brexit vote "is undoubtedly positive for our international customers."

U.K. studio facilities operator Pinewood Group, best known as the British studio home of the James Bond franchise, on Monday reported a higher profit for its latest fiscal year, which once again saw high-profile Hollywood productions take over its stages.

Boosting results were such productions as Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode VII and Star Wars spinoff Rogue One.

For the 12 months ended March 31, the company recorded operating profit of £13.6 million ($17.6 million) compared with £5.8 million for the previous year. Normalized profit after tax and earnings per share also rose.

Revenue at Europe's largest provider of stage and studio space rose 11 percent, from £75.0 million for the previous fiscal year to £83.2 million, or $107.8 million.

CEO Ivan Dunleavy said about the recent Brexit decision in a U.K. referendum: "In the context of our business, the decline in the pound sterling exchange rate is undoubtedly positive for our international customers. We will continue to monitor sentiment around the issue going forward." Overall, he said the company's new financial year "has started strongly with good visibility for the balance of 2016."

Pinewood also said Monday that it is continuing a review of strategic options, which could lead to a sale or other outcomes. "The strategic review is ongoing and we will, of course, update shareholders on its progress when there is further information to share," the company said.

In announcing the review earlier this year, it said it would "evaluate alternative opportunities to maximize value for the company’s shareholders and to build on Pinewood’s successes to date. The board believes that the company, as the world leading studio and production services operator, has significant future growth potential."

During the latest fiscal year, Pinewood was home to Disney/Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Force Awakens and along with Shepperton Studios hosted seven of the top 25 grossing films of the year. "Other major productions, which were based at Pinewood and Shepperton during the year, included the 24th Bond film, Spectre (Eon), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm) Assassin's Creed (New Regency), Bridget Jones's Baby (Working Title/Universal) and The Huntsman (Universal)," the firm said.

"The demand for the company's facilities throughout the year has been strong, as reflected in stage occupancy of 90 percent (year ended March 31, 2015: 80 percent)," Pinewood said. "However this ongoing strong film demand has limited television's access to our film stages." TV revenue of £5.2 million ($6.7 million) was down in the year from £5.8 million. 

The company also confirmed that the first phase of an expansion became fully operational on June 30, adding five stages and "significant capacity." Said Pinewood: "The company is delighted that the first production to utilize the new facilities is Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool produced by Barbara Broccoli who has a long association with the Pinewood Group through the Bond franchise. We have, as expected, already signed a contract for an additional major film production which will fully utilize these new facilities from August 2016."

The company added that it would "consider the timing of the future phases based on demand, the utilization of phase one and availability of appropriate financing."