Pinewood reels out plan to back British film-making

Pinewood Studios is planning to invest millions in smaller British films. Well, someone's got to.

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 24 May 2011
Pinewood Shepperton, the film studio that’s home to the likes of James Bond and Harry Potter, is going great guns – profits were up by a third last year. It’s now planning to plough some of this money back into the industry, taking stakes of up to 20% in films with production budgets of around £2m. So the actual cash injection will be relatively low – but the chosen films (of which there’ll be about four a year) will also be able to benefit from Pinewood’s studio facilities. After The King’s Speech’s triumph at the Oscars, this is turning into a good month for one of the UK’s most successful creative industries…

Pinewood’s cheque-signing clearly won’t be in the Hollywood league. But the right creative set-up could create cinematic gold. Look at The King’s Speech (also a Brit flick, though it wasn’t made at Pinewood): despite costing only £9m to make, it has scooped four Oscars and grossed more than $245m. If it winds up grossing in excess of $300m (£185m), as expected, it’ll be the most lucrative British film ever.

The coffers are looking healthy over at Pinewood too. The 75-year-old studios posted a 31% increase in pre-tax profits to £5.8m in the year to 31 December, and an 8% increase in revenues to £43.4m. Last year its studios were home to the fourth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the final Harry Potter film and a forthcoming adaptation of Jane Eyre. Film revenues were £29.1m, up from £22.6m, while TV revenues, from shows like Dancing on Ice and Dragons’ Den, dropped to £8.2m from £11.3m – hit by the BBC and ITV moving productions in-house to save cash.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt says he’s ‘delighted that Pinewood is showing its support for smaller British film productions’. But sceptics may point out that the industry might have less of a funding problem if the Government hadn’t decided to scrap the Film Council, which has pumped about £160m into more than 900 films over the last decade (albeit not terribly efficiently, if its critics are to be believed).

Pinewood clearly has some nifty kit to offer film-makers: the group's film division offers 34 stages, including the largest in Europe, and it’s planning on expanding on that. But issues remain. For a start, these lower budget films will still need to find the other 80% of their funding, at a time when risk appetites are low. And will the involvement of a big studio – with its profit imperative, and one eye on the international markets – end up cramping the film-makers’ styles?

But that’s for another day. For now, let’s salute Pinewood’s success, and its increased support for the rest of one of the UK’s most highly-regarded creative industries.

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