Harry Potter is also known as “the boy who lived” — and Warner Bros wants to keep it that way. The studio, which has been behind the franchise from the start way back in 2001, has now created a dedicated team to oversee its ongoing relationship with Potter creator JK Rowling. The Harry Potter Global Franchise Development team will be based in London and Burbank, and will help foster the studio’s expanded creative partnership with Rowling. Warner UK, Ireland and Spain President and Managing Director Josh Berger will add the title of President of HPGFD to his current role. The team will develop and execute a “high-level strategic vision” for the Potter brand, and its ancillary businesses, working closely with Rowling’s team at The Blair Partnership and other stakeholders and partners. Berger will be supported by Polly Cochrane in London, and Paul Condolora in Burbank.
Warner says the creation of HPGFD reflects the continuing expansion of the Potter franchise. That now includes the upcoming film series Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them; the Making of Harry Potter studio tour at Warner’s Leavesden Studios outside London; the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan and the expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida; a suite of Harry Potter digital services and products including the website Pottermore; and the Harry Potter stage play, which will open on the West End next year.
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On the heels of news that Pinewood Studios has received a greenlight for its expansion plans, Warner Bros Studios Leavesden is also getting ready to grow, adding three new stages and increasing office space. The studios, also known as the home of Harry Potter, were opened in 2012 after Warner invested more than £100M to rebuild and expand the London-adjacent facility to serve as its UK base. It has since played host to such films as Doug Liman’s Edge Of Tomorrow, Ron Howard’s Heart Of The Sea, and Guy Ritchie’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s now adding to its roster David Yates’ Tarzan with Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L Jackson and Christoph Waltz. The film started production today at Leavesden, joining Joe Wright’s Pan which has been filming there since April.
To meet the constantly increasing need for space in the UK where foreign productions are being lured in droves by lucrative film and TV tax credits, Leavesden will add one new 35,000 square foot and two new 17,000 square foot buildings, as well as 20,000 square feet of adjacent office space. The work will be completed by the end of the year. At that point, the facility will have 13 sound stages. A further two buildings located next to the lot have also been acquired to grow the production office space by 105,000 square feet. Earlier this year, the studio added an extra 50,000 square feet of workshop space, a 62,500 square foot external … Read More »
It’s taken a fair few years, but Pinewood Studios now finally has the greenlight to grow. That’s welcome news at a time when the UK is bursting with film and TV series jockeying for stage space and tax breaks. The UK’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government today offered his positive decision on the Pinewood Studios Development Framework which will double the existing facility in South Buckinghamshire. The studio is currently host to Star Wars: Episode VII and is awaiting the next James Bond movie. In total, 100,000 square meters of new studios, stages, workshops and production offices will be added. CEO Ivan Dunleavy recently told me that if the expansion permission was granted, Pinewood would “hope to have the first phase under construction in the first year.” Today he said, “We want to begin construction as soon as possible.”
Related: Pinewood Earnings Grow Amid UK Studio Capacity Crunch; Whither Expansion?
Pinewood has been ready for this expansion for some time, but it’s been a tough road getting here. The studio originally applied for permission to grow back in 2011 and was rejected in early 2012. The local council took issue with part of the original plan that included building residences on adjacent greenbelt land. The residential aspect was removed from the proposal and Pinewood resubmitted the plans. But they were again rejected in May 2013. A public inquiry … Read More »
Principal photography will begin April 28 on Warner Bros Pictures’ live-action Peter Pan feature from director Joe Wright. A revisionist version of the J.M. Barrie tale, Pan follows the story of an orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny — to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.
Amanda Seyfried is the latest to be set to play Mary in the cast, which sees Hugh Jackman star as Blackbeard; Garrett Hedlund is Hook; Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily; Adeel Akhtar is Smee; and newcomer Levi Miller is Peter. Read More »
Big figures released today by the British Film Institute are strong proof of the increased taste for the UK as a filming destination. And, with the government keen to reap the benefits to the British economy, the numbers could help get Pinewood‘s twice-rejected expansion plans over the goal line. According to the BFI, overall spend generated by the UK film production sector was up 14% in 2013 to £1.075B ($1.77B). Of that total, £868M ($1.43B) came from 37 international (mostly Hollywood) movies that made the UK their production base. Some of those included The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Heart Of The Sea and Jupiter Ascending, which all shot at Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios; along with Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, Cinderella and Into The Woods, which shot at Pinewood. Among other titles were: Fox’s Exodus and Frankenstein, Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Sony and Fox’s The Monuments Men and Studiocanal’s Paddington. Gearing up this year are the next Star Wars installment, Bond 24, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron and, as expected, Alice In Wonderland sequel Through The Looking Glass.
Related: Year-End: UK Tax Breaks Too Much Of A Good Thing?
In addition to the inward investment provided by the movie business, the UK this year launched a high-end TV tax relief which helped entice Fox’s event series 24: Live Another Day and ABC pilot Galavant. Statistics for the incentive in 2013 only cover nine months since it was established in April. The BFI says that during the period, more than £276M of investment was made in domestic UK productions and international series including Game Of Thrones, Outlander, Da Vinci’s Demons and Elementary. Read More »
The UK emerged in 2013 as an increasingly attractive location destination with new and expanded tax credits – but can it stand the bulge? Hollywood has cozied up to Britain, not only bringing its films there to shoot, but now its TV programs while it also continues to plumb it as a source of original drama to be remade in the U.S. Across the Channel, after a wake-up call in the waning days of 2012 by France‘s influential Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch, the local industry spent 2013 debating its rich subsidy system that’s spent big (too big?) on talent. Germany‘s local share of the box office is expected to be down for 2013, only slightly, but it’s been fertile ground for the studios working in local language. Meanwhile, Olympics host Russia is seeing its star rise while Italy and Spain are still undergoing financial woes. And yet, nothing seems rotten in the state of Denmark where the box office is top heavy with local films and a new drama series could be the Danes’ answer to Downton Abbey. Here’s a look back at 2013 and some glimpses of what 2014 may hold:
The British government has strongly backed the film and television business by increasing tax breaks this year. But in so doing, has it backed the industry into a corner? Arguably one of the biggest stories out of the UK in … Read More »
Warner Bros UK was Britain’s top distributor in 2013, the third time in four years it has held the title, and the sixth time since rankings began in 1991. The studio says it grossed £194M ($320.3M) last year for a 16.5% share. The figures are not records as the last time Warner UK was No. 1 in 2011, it grosed £205.8M for an 18.04% share (that was the year Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ruled the box office); and in 2010, WB UK grossed £204.1M for an 18.4% share with the first part of the Harry Potter finale and Christopher Nolan’s Inception among top films. In its post-Potter period, Warner Bros remains entrenched in the UK and in 2013 inaugurated the Warner Bros Studios Leavesden and the Making Of Harry Potter studio tour. (It also opened its first-ever West End musical, Sam Mendes’ Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.) The first two films made at Leavesden, Doug Liman’s Tom Cruise vehicle, Edge Of Tomorrow, and the Wachowski siblings’ Jupiter Ascending, both arrive in theaters in 2014. This year, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (£32.9M), Man Of Steel (£29.9M), Gravity (£27.3M), The Hangover Part III (£19.3M), The Great Gatsby (£15.7M) and The Conjuring (£10.4M) were among the highest local grossers for the studio. Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine was also handled locally by WB and became the director’s top UK movie ever with … Read More »
The UK is already busting at the seams trying to accommodate all of the TV and film productions flocking there. With adjustments to film tax incentives that were announced today, it’s just upped the ante as a desirable place to work. British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the Autumn Statement to Parliament this afternoon, outlining new economic policies that will go into effect from April 1, 2014. In an incentive that lowers the barrier to entry, the government plans to reduce from 25% to 10% the minimum UK expenditure required in order to access the coveted film tax relief. From April, the relief will be worth 25% on the first £20M of qualifying production spend, and 20% thereafter. (The rebates are available on the lower of either 80% of total core expenditure or the actual UK core expenditure and there is no cap on the amount that can be claimed.) That last measure will benefit producers of bigger budget films who’ll get an extra £1M on the first £20M. The government said it will seek to clear an increase to 25% for all qualifying expenditure on larger budget films in 2015. That should keep Hollywood tentpoles keen on Britain, especially given the concern over California’s Film/TV Tax Credit program which currently excludes features with budgets over $75M.
Related: Pinewood Earnings Grow Amid UK Studio Capacity Crunch; Whither Expansion?
Dropping the spend requirement to 10% is going to help the independent sector, too. John Graydon, partner at accounting firm Saffery Champness which specializes in film and TV tax incentives, tells me, “If a producer just wants to do post in the UK, trying to get to that 25% spend was incredibly difficult. So in some cases, they went elsewhere.” Now, those seeking to do just post or VFX in Britain will have a better shot at making the numbers work. There are also changes to come to the cultural test which determines eligibility for tax relief. The test will be modernized to allow for European as well as British elements. It will become a 35 point barometer with a pass mark of 18 and will include an increase in the points available for principal photography/special effects/VFX and projects in the English language.
Related: Hollywood Pics Pack UK Soundstages As Space Crunch Starts To Squeeze
Overall, the moves are positioned to drive inward investment. In the first three quarters of 2013, it’s already up 28%. That’s partly due to a lucrative TV tax credit that offers a rebate on high-end dramas costing £1M or more to produce per hour. But with soundstages filled to the rafters, many TV productions are already being relegated to converted warehouse space. It’s also because several big budget Hollywood films are camped out at Pinewood and Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios. But if Pinewood doesn’t get approval for its expansion plans next year, more big ticket pics could be turned away. As I recently reported, Marvel’s Ant Man was forced out of the UK due to space constraints. Graydon doesn’t see the new incentives as necessarily exacerbating the capacity issue since those enticed by the changes won’t always be the kinds of productions that would require soundstages. He does allow, however, “Stage space is an issue. We absolutely want to see that resolved as quickly as possible.” Read More »
Next year, Bond 24 and Star Wars: Episode VII will be shooting Walther PPKs and brandishing light sabers at Pinewood Studios outside London. That’s a lovely image for fans, and Pinewood bean-counters. But with Hollywood increasingly queueing up to shoot in Britain, and Pinewood’s application for expansion having been thwarted twice in the past year, a capacity crunch is coming to the UK at light speed — and some potential big-ticket tenants already have been turned away.
Among the films currently shooting at Pinewood are frequent client Disney’s Cinderella, QED and Sony’s Fury, and Fox’s Exodus. The new Star Wars installment is settling into its offices on the lot ahead of shooting in early 2014. Over at nearby Shepperton, Marvel currently has Guardians Of The Galaxy, with The Avengers 2 gearing up. Also there is Disney’s Into The Woods. Leavesden, the Warner Bros facility the studio acquired in 2010 and in which it invested £100M after shooting all eight Harry Potter movies there, is hosting Ron Howard’s Heart Of The Sea and Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The J.K. Rowling-penned Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is expected to shoot there when it goes. Read More »
Expanding their longterm, lucrative partnership on the Harry Potter franchise, Warner Bros and author J.K. Rowling are putting a new film series in the works. Rowling will make her screenwriting debut on Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, an original story based on the Hogwarts textbook that appears on a reading list in the first Potter tome, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. This is the first in a planned series of films and will feature magical creatures and characters from the Potter mythology, including the textbook’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander. Rowling says it’s not a sequel or a prequel to the Potter adventures, but will kick off in New York, 70 years before Harry’s story starts. No timeline or director has been identified yet. If the films follow the Harry Potter process, they’ll make use of Warner Bros’ Leavesden studios outside London which Warner acquired and revamped after the last Potter film was shot. Warner Bros noted today that the relationship between Rowling and the studio will be managed in London by Neil Blair of Rowling’s literary agency The Blair Partnership, and by Warner UK, Ireland and Spain chief Josh Berger.
Fantastic Beasts will also be developed across Warner Bros’ video game, consumer products and digital initiatives businesses. As part of the newly extended relationship, Warner Bros has also boarded the BBC adaptation of Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy which goes into production next year. Warner will distribute the series globally, excluding the UK. A full press release on the new arrangements follows: Read More »
Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, the film and TV facility the major owns outside of London, is to be officially inaugurated today during a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. At the same time, and in partnership with BAFTA, the studio is announcing the Prince William Scholarships in Film, Television and Games. Three students per year will receive £10,000 to study a post-graduate course. The studio is also setting up a new training program which it will launch in September. Warner Bros. Creative Talent will include 12 scholarships; six apprenticeships and two trainee positions on every Warner Bros. film produced in the UK; 25 training course spots at theater company Chickenshed; 20 work experience placements; and five work placements on Sam Mendes’ upcoming West End musical, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Warner says the program is part of its “long-term commitment to the UK’s creative industries.” The studio has been in business in the UK for many years and most lucratively with the Harry Potter films, all of which were shot at Leavesden. Warner purchased the facility outright in 2010 and invested £100M in its expansion. It also houses The Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making Of Harry Potter, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movies that’s housed just next to the main lot.
The British Film Institute has released box office and production stats for the UK in 2012 that offer up a mix of good, bad and unsurprising news. Box office was up just a touch after being dented by summer events that turned attention away from the multiplex. At the same time, investment from abroad dropped drastically after a record 2011 that included the shoots of The Dark Knight Rises, Dark Shadows, Skyfall, Prometheus, Snow White And The Huntsman, World War Z and Wrath Of The Titans.
The overall UK spend of features that started production in 2012 was £927M ($1.47B), a 29% drop on 2011’s record-breaking £1.29B. A total of 26 so-called inward investment movies, including Warner Bros.’ All You Need Is Kill, Red 2 for Lionsgate/Summit, Paramount’s Jack Ryan and Universal’s Fast And Furious 6 and Kick Ass 2, contributed £631M compared to the 34 films in 2011 which spent £1B. Simon Oakes, producer of 2012′s top indie, Woman In Black, thinks the trend is cyclical. “I don’t think this is a forever stat. We’ll probably see this year that it will come back up again. Look, if there was an intention not to spend money by the U.S. studios in the UK, Warner Bros. wouldn’t have spent money on Leavesden,” Oakes tells me about the £100M+ Warner invested on a London-adjacent studio facility after the end of the Harry Potter franchise. Read More »
Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, the Hollywood studio’s UK base that’s currently hosting Tom Cruise-starrer All You Need Is Kill, has picked up post-production house De Lane Lea in a deal that will expand its offer to in-house productions and external clients. De Lane Lea, a 65-year-old company whose relationship with Warner Bros stretches back to 1972′s Deliverance, will be renamed Warner Bros De Lane Lea. Its recent credits include Skyfall, Frankenweenie, Prometheus, Dark Shadows and the upcoming Alfonso Cuaron-directed Gravity with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. At its base in London’s Soho, the post house includes three re-recording stages, two ADR stages, 40 picture editing suites, a TV mixing stage, a transfer bay for the digital delivery, conversion and ingestion of picture and sound, a 37-seat screening room and a client lounge. Read More »
A new study finds that British film contributes over £4.6B to UK GDP and more than £1.3B to the government. The Economic Impact of the UK Film Industry report, commissioned every two years by the British Film Institute and Pinewood Shepperton, notably shows the UK film industry directly employs almost 44,000 people, up from 36,000 in 2009. That’s more than are found in both the fund management and pharmaceutical manufacturing sectors. The median salary for film and TV workers is about $63,000. However, the report acknowledges there is a risk of highly-skilled workers taking their talent abroad if things like compensation, taxes and opportunities don’t remain competitive. The study further highlights the importance of the Film Tax Relief, warning that without the incentives, UK production would be a staggering 71% smaller.
Pinewood chief exec Ivan Dunleavy said: “The trends show that we’re performing well, relative to today’s economic climate. We can do more though. We now need to look at how to enable further investment in infrastructure and how to build on the UK’s growing international reputation to boost exports. By making gains in these areas film can provide more jobs and help play our part in bringing growth to the UK economy.” Read More »
Although the Harry Potter series has drawn to a close, the UK film industry believes the movies will continue to work their magic for years to come. In releasing its 2012 statistical yearbook today, the BFI pointed to long tail benefits from the Potter decade that include Warner Bros’ new studio facility at Leavesden and the skillbase the films have built across the production sector since 2001. The industry is coming off of a record year that saw the box office reach above £1B and total production spend hit £1.27B despite a drop in the number of films produced. The yearbook is loaded with such facts and figures – including the finding that Britons watched an average 87 films per person during the course of last year. However, while box office thrived, TV accounted for 77% of all film viewings. There were 5,570 unique titles available across UK television. Excluding pay-per-view, films were watched 3.9B times on TV – or over 22 times the number of cinema admissions. Stats put the industry’s direct contribution to UK GDP at £3.3B for 2010. International investment from films made in the UK including The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and Wrath Of The Titans, was worth just over £1B. Outside the UK, British films earned $5.6B at the global box office, according to the report which can be found here in its entirety.
Independent British films had 13% of the market share driven by The King’s Speech and The Inbetweeners Movie. Cinemagoing habits are shifting with a record-breaking 42% of Britons opting for weekday screenings. Weekends only accounted for 58% of box office which is the lowest total in the last eight years. Takings for 3D films were down 20% suggesting that moviegoers are becoming more choosy. The BFI says people are more often opting for the format when they perceive a real contribution to the experience. DVD and Blu-ray sales were down 5% on 2010 with 152M units sold. VOD is on the rise, jumping 6.5% to £114M in transactions, although it hasn’t yet made up for the decline in video sales. Read More »
In a rare occurrence for an American exec — even one with dual U.S./UK citizenship — Josh Berger was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire this weekend on the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours list. The Warner Bros Entertainment UK president and managing director was appointed CBE for his services to the creative industries. All of the Harry Potter movies were made during his tenure, and Warner just opened a £100M+ studio facility outside London. A 23-year Warner vet, London-based Berger is responsible for Warner’s UK business activities, including Warner Bros Pictures, Warner Home Video, Warner Bros International Television Distribution, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, Warner Bros Digital Distribution and Warner Bros Consumer Products. Among other Americans to hold the title, Harvey Weinstein became an honorary CBE in 2004.
Related: Kenneth Branagh Knighted, Kate Winslet Honored For Contribution To The Arts
In November 2010, Warner Bros acquired the Leavesden studios where all of its Harry Potter films had been shot. At the time, the studio said it would invest more than £100 million to rebuild and expand the London-adjacent facility to serve as its UK base. When I visited this winter, it was basically still a 200-acre construction site, but today the facility has officially opened. I’m told the studio is in discussions on a “major feature film” and a TV series as the first projects out of the gate to shoot at the new site. Scenes from Warner’s The Dark Knight Rises were shot there ahead of the revamp, but the studios will be open to all comers, not just in-house productions. Leavesden has already been attracting tourist attention with The Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making Of Harry Potter, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movies that’s housed just next to the main lot. A press release detailing the Leavesden studios follows: Read More »
Now that Harry has hung up his Firebolt, Warner is looking to keep the multi-billion dollar franchise alive. Welcome to The Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making Of Harry Potter, a new attraction that opens today at its Leavesden studios in Watford, England. There, Muggles will get a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes magic of the films right where they were shot. As time wears on, however, it’s likely that interest in Potter will wane – but Warner says there’s a plan for that too.
When Warner Bros acquired film rights to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, lore has it the author insisted on an all-British cast and that all films be shot in the UK. Ten years later, the highest-grossing film series in history has had a huge impact on the British economy – and on Warner Bros’ bottom line. In June 2010, London mayor Boris Johnson penned an editorial in The Telegraph decrying the fact that a Potter theme park was to open in Orlando rather than in Harry’s own backyard. He wrote: “This Potter business has legs. It will run and run, and we must be utterly mad, as a country, to leave it to the Americans to make money from a great British invention.”
Fast-forward 18 months and Johnson was waving a wand at Ollivander’s shop on the Potter tour’s Diagon Alley. A coincidence? Warner’s Sarah Roots, VP of the tour, tells me the idea of a film based attraction at the Leavesden studios has been in the pipeline for quite a few years and that Harry Potter has been such a part of the studio’s heritage, “it made sense to launch the attraction with Harry Potter.” The opening of the tour is timed to coincide with the start of Easter break for British school kids. Warner is eyeing up to 5,000 visitors per day on staggered tours that last about 3 hours. Roots says tickets for the first period have sold well and that first visitors are expected to be mostly UK residents with more overseas interest next year. As with all tourist destinations in the UK this summer, Warner is hoping for a residual Olympics effect. Read More »
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that film tax relief will be extended for four more years until the end of December 2015. It had been due to expire March next year. The UK tax break is worth 16% of the budgets of Hollywood movies shooting over here, and 20% of the budgets for local films. The news is designed to re-assure Hollywood that the UK is still the place to shoot big-budget movies. Recent Hollywood productions that have shot at Pinewood Studios include Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows and Snow White and the Huntsman. The tax break has been worth $151 million to producers over the most recent financial year, supporting over $1.6 billion spent on 208 UK-qualifying films. Read More »