The move to expand the U.K.’s iconic Shepperton Studios is taking shape with its owner, Pinewood Studios Group, now consulting with the local community and industry, paving the way for a planning application.
With studio space in the U.K. in high demand, Pinewood wants to grow the Shepperton site, creating more space for big-ticket movies and high end TV. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and “Mary Poppins Returns” are two recent movies that used Shepperton, which has a long history and was also used for “Dr. Strangelove” and “Alien” among others.
Work is already underway at Pinewood Studios itself as part of a $276 million expansion plan. A full planning application for Shepperton is likely within weeks. Whether it is approved will be decided by authorities, but if there are no major objections and a green light is forthcoming, that could be granted by year-end.
Pinewood has acquired a large chunk of land adjacent to the existing Shepperton, as first reported by Variety in February. It wants to build new sound stages, offices, workshops, and backlots to the Shepperton site. It currently spans 14 sound stages and a backlot on a 600,000 square feet, 25 acre site. Pinewood, which was acquired by private equity group Aermont in 2016, acquired an adjacent lot four times that size.
“Shepperton Studios plays an important role in the successful UK film and television industry,” said Shepperton’s Andrew Smith. “The Studios attract major and independent production companies from around the world to shoot in the UK.
“Our proposals are designed to both improve and expand the existing facilities such that we can continue to meet the demand for high-end studio space and thus ensure the ongoing success of the UK’s creative sector.”
Ian Harvey, leader of the local borough council, welcomed Shepperton’s outreach efforts. “Our Council has been a strong supporter of Shepperton Studios because of its historical, cultural, economic and employment significance in the Borough,” he said. “We welcome the fact that they are consulting widely at an early stage about their expansion plans and we look forward to seeing further details.”
The Shepperton plans come with studio space in high demand in the U.K. While there is Brexit uncertainty, the weaker pound, skilled workers, favorable incentives, and wider infrastructure make the U.K. an attractive production base. The government’s culture department recently reported that “with the right conditions” Britain’s $2.8 billion film and TV production spend could double by 2025.
Against that backdrop, new studio space is coming through at Church Fenton and Belfast Harbour Studios and significant expansions at Pinewood and Leavesden. Twickenham Studios has also unveiled ambitious plans for a major $67 million development in Liverpool, which like Shepperton, will require planning consent.