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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
EXCLUSIVE: With history’s most successful movie franchise coming to an end with the Friday release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, it’s a good time to ask: How much loot was conjured up en masse? And the answer is startling. You can find about $21 billion by adding up gross sales the series has generated since 1998 from films, videos, video games, licensed merchandise, and books. (See detailed breakdown below.) Time Warner has already seen an estimated $1 billion in profit from the films and its work as custodian of a global entertainment brand. The tally should continue to grow, probably by a lot, with the release tomorrow of Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 — although Hollywood accounting has a way of making profits vanish. (Here‘s how the black magic worked for Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix in a studio accounting statement obtained by Deadline’s Mike Fleming. Though the film grossed $938.2 million worldwide, the document conveys that the film is still $167+ million in the red)
Things have turned out so well that it’s easy to forget what a huge risk Warner seemed to be taking more than a decade ago when it bought the Potter rights. The studio didn’t know how the series would end. And J.K. Rowling, who wrote the series, was a wild card. Many wondered whether U.S. audiences would warm to the all-British movie cast that Rowling required. “The casting of the kids was the biggest place where it could have gone wrong,” Warner Bros Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov tells me. Some Warner executives also chafed at Rowling’s demands that there be no Potter-related fast food offerings and that Warner show restraint in product licensing. “I can only say now to all the parents out there, if the action figures are horrible, just tell the kids that I said don’t buy them. Sorry, Warners,” Rowling told a 60 Minutes interview.
Virtually everybody agrees now that Rowling was right to keep the franchise faithful to her vision. And Warner was right to embrace that vision down to small details in licensed merchandise. “We had a guideline that was perhaps frustrating to our colleagues in Consumer Products but has held well for us as a company which was to look to create artifacts, not souvenirs,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson tells me. She oversaw the Potter franchise from the beginning. Marketing plans also adapted as fans became older and the Potter saga grew darker. “We held on to fans as they aged in a way that’s never been seen before,” Nelson says to me.
Here’s how all of the Potter business decisions have turned out so far:
Movies. The first seven films accounted for nearly $6.4 billion in ticket sales, with 68% of the total coming from overseas, according to Box Office Mojo. The only other franchise that comes close is James Bond: Its 23 films beat Potter if ticket prices are adjusted for inflation.
Home Video. Consumers have spent nearly $3.9 billion globally — with 44% of that coming from the U.S. — to buy 302 million videos of the first six Potter films, Warner says. IHS Screen Digest says that Warner probably collected about $1.5 billion just from domestic video sales, which would more than cover the studio’s estimated $1.4 billion production budget for all eight films.
Warner Bros will open its “The Making of Harry Potter” walking tour at Leavesden, England, the production base of the Harry Potter films, in spring next year. The three-hour-long tour will give fans the chance to see sets, costumes, props and effects used in all 8 Harry Potter movies. Tickets go on sale later this year. Potter fans will be able to walk onto sets including headmaster Dumbledore’s office and the 120ft long Great Hall featuring “the tables and benches used in the films”. The studio tour, first announced last November, is part of Warner Bros’ $161M refit of Leavesden, which is set to be one of the largest studio production facilities in Europe when it opens. Warner Bros plans to use the 250,000 sq ft of soundstages to shoot its blockbusters. The studio won’t be ready for Chris Nolan shooting The Dark Knight Rises this year though. Leavesden will also boast the largest back-lot in Europe. Around 1,500 people are employed at Leavesden when production is in full swing. Warner Bros says that it wants to attract outside film and TV productions as well as its own. It remains to be seen whether there’ll be enough demand to fill the 200-acre Hertfordshire site as well as the sprawling Pinewood Shepperton studio complexes.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is delighted to announce that the Harry Potter film series will receive the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema at this year’s Orange British Academy Film Awards. JK Rowling and David Heyman will receive the award on behalf of the franchise during the ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House on Sunday 13 February 2011.
Awarded annually, the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema was introduced in 1978 and is presented in honour of Michael Balcon. The first recipients were the Special Visual Effects team for Superman and others include Kevin Brownlow, Mike Leigh, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jarman, Working Title, Lewis Gilbert, Channel Four Films and Pinewood & Shepperton Studios.
Starting in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the film franchise from Warner Bros. Pictures has defined a decade of British filmmaking. As well as continually introducing exciting new performers to a global audience, the films have built a reputation for showcasing the wealth of British stage and screen acting talent.
The Harry Potter films have not only created stars in front of the camera, but have also highlighted the expertise within the British craft and technical industries, supporting a vast array of jobs throughout production. Their contribution to the British filmmaking industry was underlined last year when Warner Bros. Pictures, which has shepherded the film series from its inception, purchased Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire. Leavesden Studios has been the Harry Potter
Leavesden, the north-west London-based studio where Warner has filmed all 8 Harry Potter movies, is to be refurbished and expanded. A Harry Potter studio tour – offering fans the chance to see the actual sets — will be part of the new Leavesden, which will re-open mid-2012. Warner Bros has got the planning permission it needs to begin building work at the end of this year. Once finished, the revamped Leavesden will represent approximately 1/3 of the dedicated stage space available in the UK for movie production. Rebuilding Leavesden will create 300 new building jobs. Around 1,500 people are employed at Leavesden when production is in full swing. Warner Bros says that it wants to attract outside film and TV productions as well as its own. Given that rival Pinewood Shepperton has just reported “challenging” market conditions in its interim results, with TV bookings dropping off steeply, it remains to be seen whether there’ll be enough demand to fill the 170-acre Leavesden site as well as the sprawling Pinewood Shepperton complexes.
The studio ignored London mayor Boris Johnson’s plea to site the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over here rather than Florida. Johnson has called for the public to write to Warner Bros, petitioning for a second theme park to be built in London.
Mayor Johnson says it would be “utterly mad” to leave it to Americans “to make money from a great British invention”.
“I appeal to the children of this country and to their Potter-fiend parents to write to Warner Bros and Universal, and perhaps, even, to the great JK herself” Johnson has written in his weekly Daily Telegraph newspaper column.
It sounds as if Mayor Johnson left it too late anyway. He wrote to Warner Bros 18 months ago, well after the studio’s discussions with Universal Studios theme parks were underway. The mayor’s spokesman says Florida made Warner an offer London could not match.
Presumably, Warner Bros also shuddered at the labyrinthine planning permissions you would need to build a theme park in London. The studio wanted to build a theme park in Hillingdon, west London back in the 90s but the plan never came to anything.
Johnson makes the point that JK Rowling is no flash in the pan. Harry Potter is going to be with us for generations. After all, JK Rowling’s books have sold about 400 million copies compared with 250 million for Asterix and 160 million for Tintin. Fellow children’s authors Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter have sold …
Warner Bros is confirming that a stuntman was seriously injured in an accident and taken to the local UK hospital by ambulance. It took place at Leavesden Studios where the latest Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final film based on JK Rowling’s novels, is currently in pre-production. British press reports say the 25-year-old stunt double for the film’s star Daniel Radcliffe was performing an aerial sequence with a harness Thursday AM when he fell to the ground following an explosion which was part of the stunt. His name hasn’t been released yet.