U.K. Studio Operator Pinewood Shepperton Continues Expansion Push

Pinewood Studios - H 2012
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The operator of production facilities will submit a new expansion plan in the fall, while an alliance with the Isle of Man could be finalized within weeks.


LONDON - U.K. studio facilities operator Pinewood Shepperton on Tuesday said it will submit new plans for an expansion in the fall and continues to inch closer to an alliance with the government of the Isle of Man.

"The consideration of the future expansion of Pinewood Studios is ongoing," chairman Michael Grade said at the company's intimate and brief annual meeting Tuesday. "A long-term plan for growth and investment at Pinewood Studios is necessary to remain globally competitive and respond to the changing needs and future demand of the screen and digital industries."

Earlier this year, the London company had said it would revisit its expansion plans after its proposals to build new stages and homes for creatives in what was dubbed Project Pinewood were rejected by the local planning inspector.

Now, Pinewood Shepperton is working on a more straight-forward pitch focused on new stages and production offices, which will "significantly" expand U.K. production capacity, a company representative told THR.

In 2011, U.K. stages were at full capacity, so productions went overseas. In a globally competitive market, Pinewood Shepperton is finalizing its expansion plans with an eye on current and predicted capacity needs as the U.K. government is planning to launch incentives next year for high-end TV and animation projects.

Meanwhile, Pinewood Shepperton continues to see strong use of its production capacity, especially in the film space.

"The company's strategy has ensured that it has performed strongly during difficult economic conditions," Grade said at Tuesday's meeting. He reiterated comments that Pinewood Shepperton had made in late May that it had made a "positive start" to the new financial year.

"This has continued," Grade emphasized. "The board continues to look forward to the future with confidence".

The company also said that discussions with the government of the Isle of Man about an alliance "are progressing well." It didn't comment further, but a source said a final deal was weeks away rather than months.

Earlier this summer, the two parties unveiled that the Isle of Man was in talks to buy a 19.9 percent stake in Pinewood Shepperton in a deal that would see the company manage and advise the island's £25 million ($39 million) Media Development Fund to help it attract productions.

Grade on Tuesday also reiterated that Pinewood Shepperton plans to invest heavily in its facilities, particularly in TV where it has seen growth.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai