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 »
X Files veteran Frank Spotnitz moved to London for Cinemax/BBC series Hunted a few years back, and in 2013 launched London-based Big Light Productions. Now, he’s digging even further into the UK TV scene. Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer (Houdini) have created crime series Freud: The Secret Casebook. NBC Universal-owned Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films will produce with Big Light. The period drama will see Sigmund Freud become the world’s first criminal profiler. Set in early 20th century Vienna, the series will focus on Freud as he uses his startling new theories about psychology to help solve crimes, and will blend episodic murder mysteries with the on-going tale of the psychoanalyst-cum-detective’s tangled and provocative personal life. The project is out to cast and directors. Downton‘s Gareth Neame is exec producing with Nigel Marchant for Carnival; Alan Gasmer (Vikings), Matt Baer (Unbroken) and Christian Popp and Alexander Keil of Germany’s Producers at Work are also exec producing. Spotnitz is keeping busy in Europe these days. He was at Mip-TV in Cannes last week to talk about his gig as showrunner on the second season of TNT pick-up Transporter The Series, and he also unveiled Big Light’s new first-look distribution deal with Tandem Communications. Transporter, which he boarded in season two, will air on TNT later this year.
Britain’s Channel 4 is embellishing its strategy with a new purview to invest in international drama co-productions. The net, which already invests in original British drama as well as boundary-pushing factual entertainment, is joining the likes of ITV, the BBC and Sky in its bid to spread its wings. To spearhead the initiative, former Red Arrow Entertainment Head of Drama & Comedy, Simon Maxwell, is joining Channel 4 in the newly created role of Head of International Drama. Maxwell launched the Red Arrow Group’s UK scripted operation and has worked with U.S. broadcasters including NBC and History Channel. Prior to Red Arrow, he was Head of Film & TV at indie Greenroom Entertainment where he ran a slate that included DirecTV crime drama Rogue. He also exec produced feature Killing Bono, for which he co-wrote the screenplay. Channel 4′s move towards international co-pros should see it benefit from the high-end TV tax credit that has electrified the local production sector and attracted U.S. projects over the past year. Maxwell will be responsible for commissioning a slate of high quality, ambitious drama with international appeal. Among the channel’s recent local commissions are Babylon, for which Danny Boyle directed the pilot, and mystery/sci-fi series Utopia. Its U.S. and European pick-ups include upcoming series Fargo, France’s The Returned, Showtime’s Homeland, comedy Brooklyn Nine Nine and new Norwegian thriller Mammon .
In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at a big Chinese tour by star Johnny Depp ahead of Wally Pfister’s directorial debut on April 18 with Transcendence. They stay in China to discuss Discovery’s consulting and content deal with a new pay-TV channel from Wasu Digital, then jump to the UK, which has again beefed up its tax incentives for film and TV production, even with existing facilities there already straining to accommodate demand. Nancy and David also take their weekly peek at trends in the international box office, led by Need For Speed and Noah. The U.S. champ for the weekend, Divergent, opened in 18 territories, but remains a mystery as Lionsgate holds off reporting its numbers.
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 31 (.MP3 version)
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 31 (.M4A version)
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As expected, the British government has confirmed changes to its film tax incentives that were originally outlined in December. The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, presented the 2014 budget to Parliament this afternoon and noted that the European Commission has approved the expansion of the tax break scheme. Beginning April 1, the minimum UK spend required to access the coveted film tax relief will drop from 25% to 10%. The tax break itself will be worth 25% on the first £20M ($33.2M) 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. (Osborne also said today that he would apply the film tax relief model to theater, giving a 20% break to qualifying productions and 25% to regional touring shows.)
The government has previously said it will seek to clear an increase to 25% for all qualifying expenditure on larger budget films in 2015. With the amount of Hollywood tentpoles being shot in the UK, it’s good news for producers, especially at a time when there is so much controversy in California over the tax credit bill. Legislation introduced in February to expand the California credit program includes eliminating the $75M budget cap on eligible productions which is engineered to bring big movies back to the state. In the meantime, the studios are camped out in Britain on both the film and TV fronts. Read More »
In a sign of the ongoing pull of the UK as a filming location, Disney Channel‘s new multi-part movie Evermoor is gearing up to shoot in Britain. Disney Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) has co-commissioned the longform live-action mystery/adventure/comedy with Disney U.S. It will air on Disney Channel in 160 global territories from the fall. Liverpool-based The Only Way Is Essex producer Lime Pictures, which is owned by All3Media, will make Evermoor for Disney. The story follows Tara Bailey, an American teen who is uprooted from her city home in the U.S. and brought to a beautiful but isolated village on the edge of some very creepy moors in middle England. As her famous novelist mom and step-dad are busy unpacking at Evermoor Manor, Tara, her brother, and her British step-siblings try to adjust to life in their new home. It’s not long before danger, mystery and intrigue unfurl.
Evermoor breaks new ground for Disney, becoming its first live-action movie produced in the UK for broadcast on Disney Channel in the U.S. But it’s no surprise such a Disney project would land in Britain. Already, the movie studio consistently films big features at Pinewood — including the next Star Wars installment later this year. And Marvel titles are regularly shot at Shepperton. But overall, new and expanded TV and film tax credits have made Hollywood sit up — and in some cases line up — to access the market which has a skilled crew base and great facilities. 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 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 »
Shares in 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB were up today in London after falling as much as 10% on Monday. That drop came after the UK’s BT Sport scored a big goal by winning the exclusive broadcast rights to 350 UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer matches per year from the 2015/2016 season. The £897M ($1.4B) deal that was announced Saturday marks the first time a single UK broadcaster has won the exclusive live rights to all matches from both tournaments (BSkyB and ITV currently share them). It was seen as a big kick in the shins to Britain’s leading pay-TV group, but could end up as a boon for British producers. Sky’s recent growth is through its entertainment channels, while premium sports and movies are relatively stable. So, increasing the pot on acquisitions and original commissions looks like “a sensible place to keep investing,” I’m told. Read More »
The British Film Insitute has begun handing out certifications to animated and high-end TV projects which will allow them to gain access to the UK’s lucrative new 25% production tax breaks. Among the first to receive certificates are several BBC projects including Death Comes To Pemberley from Origin Pictures; Red Planet Pictures’ six-part crime drama By Any Means; Mammoth Screen’s mystery Remember Me and animated CBeebies shows Calamity Island and Sarah And Duck. Sam Mendes’ psychosexual horror series for Showtime, Penny Dreadful, is expected to be among the first U.S. TV dramas to benefit. Projects must be deemed culturally British or qualify as British co-productions in order to receive a rubber stamp from the BFI. They can then apply for tax relief on production spend incurred since April 1, 2013 when the regs were put into law. The scheme allows a 25% tax credit for TV series and animated programs costing at least £1M per hour to produce. The aim is to stem runaway production and to protect the local creative industries.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said today that five people will be charged in connection with a tax relief fraud that allegedly enabled investors in the British film business to offset about £125M in losses. The news comes following an investigation by the UK’s Revenue & Customs, the British equivalent of the IRS, which alleges that between January 1, 2002 and July 11, 2011, a tax break that allows investors to offset losses against other tax liabilities was “abused and dishonestly marketed in order to cheat the public revenue,” the CPS said. “The evidence suggests that the value of allowable losses was falsified, that there was a conspiracy to defraud investors and that documents were falsified for accounting purposes.” The five defendants will each face three charges: conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to falsify documents, according to the prosecutor. The group has been called to appear in court on June 18. The news comes nearly a year after a brouhaha was kicked up in the UK when Revenue & Customs said that 600 film schemes were under inquiry. Read More »
London Mayor Boris Johnson has pledged to invest £2M ($3M) to broaden the reach of Film London, the body responsible for attracting film and TV shoots to the British capital. The org’s remit will be expanded to bring in £200M in additional expenditure and to create 1,000 industry jobs. With the new 25% tax rebate for high-end drama and animation coming into effect this past Monday, the UK is angling to stem runaway production and encourage foreign shows to shoot in Britain. Sam Mendes’ Showtime series Penny Dreadful will be among the first U.S. TV dramas to benefit. But when the tax credit was recently cleared, it stirred fears that the funds ear-marked for the rebate could be gobbled up by U.S. productions employing British talent on UK shores.
Johnson today stressed the importance of both local and foreign productions. Unveiling the plan at Ealing Studios, home to the Downton Abbey set, Johnson said, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to grow this exciting sector to deliver jobs, produce more world class British drama and, above all, make London the city of choice for TV and animation production… Let’s make sure that all future Downtons are filmed on our turf.” Read More »
Sam Mendes’ psychosexual horror series for Showtime, Penny Dreadful, will be among the first U.S. TV dramas to benefit from the UK’s newly-approved TV tax relief for high-end productions. Legislation for a 25% tax credit for TV series costing at least £1M per hour to produce — plus animated programs and video games — has been given the state-aid greenlight by Brussels, clearing the last major hurdle before coming into effect April 1. Largely based on Britain’s Film Tax Relief scheme, which has provided about £800M in rebates to more than 800 movies since 2007, the new law requires productions meet a British cultural test. Co-productions made under an internationally recognized treaty may also be eligible, and it’s believed the new regs could inject about $570M into the local industry. But there are concerns that the potential £200M in relief available by 2018 could be gobbled up by U.S. productions that employ British talent on UK shores.
When first announced in March last year, the relief was considered an effort to stem runaway production. Shows like BBC Two drama Parade’s End and the Julian Fellowes miniseries Titanic, were made abroad. Downton Abbey is among the rare exceptions of big-ticket UK shows that have been produced at home, and I’m told it will now look to benefit from the break. But the scheme is also a means to encourage foreign shows to come to the UK. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne consulted both Disney and HBO to lay out the strategy. Read More »
Popular British shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock are closer to getting new tax breaks for shooting at home. The Treasury today published draft legislation outlining a 25% tax credit for qualifying “high-end” TV productions, animated programs and video games. It has also expanded the scheme to cover TV documentaries and responded to certain industry concerns over terminology and eligibility. Largely based on the Film Tax Relief scheme which has provided about £800M in rebates to 825 movies since 2007, the new law will be based on meeting a British cultural test. Co-productions made under an internationally recognized treaty may also be eligible. The UK hopes the incentives will stem runaway production and entice players like Disney and HBO to make more of their premium shows in Britain.
The draft published today (read it here) says the animation rebate will be available to projects where animation makes up 51% or more (down from the originally proposed 75%) of total production cost. It also defines “high-end” productions as programs that cost £1M or more per “programme hour.” But, the term “programme hour” proved ornery and so the government has clarified its position that an “hour” is based on slot time as opposed to actual running time. The law will also exclude certain genres like advertising, discussion programs and news or Read More »
Back in March, the UK government said it would introduce tax breaks aimed at animation, high-end TV production and video games. Today, treasury secretary George Osborne has opened a consultation on the matter seeking opinion from the industry to help design the package. “I want the UK to remain a world leader in the creative industries, that’s why I am announcing tax reliefs that will be among the most generous available anywhere. High-end TV, animation and video games production are exactly the kind of innovative, high-tech industries at which this country excels, and the government is determined to support them as part of our efforts to grow this economy,” Osborne said. Read More »
As expected, UK Chancellor George Osborne announced the introduction of a tax incentive for big-ticket British drama series while unveiling the nation’s new budget to the House of Commons today. In somewhat unexpected news, he also announced that tax relief would become available to the animation and video game sectors beginning in April 2013. The treasury chief then drew guffaws — and groans (see video below) — from the benches when he added: “Because, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is the determined policy of this government that we keep Wallace and Gromit exactly where they are.” Order then had to be called. Parliamentary jocularity aside, this is good news for the British animation industry, which has suffered its share of runaway production in recent years. The government is also hoping both the drama and animation incentives will “attract top international investors like Disney and HBO to make more of their premium shows in the UK,” Osborne said. 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 »
Aardman Animations, the UK company behind Wallace & Gromit, may be forced to make its next TV cartoon series in either Ireland or Germany. Miles Bullough, head of broadcast of Bristol-based Aardman, tells me he may have no option but to produce Ploo, Aardman’s latest $3 million-$5 million pre-school animation series, outside of Britain. This is because unlike Canada, France and other countries, there are no UK tax breaks for animated TV. It hopes Chancellor George Osborne, the politician in charge of UK finances, will announce a tax break later this month. Aardman is lobbying for the UK film tax credit — worth 15%-20% of the cost of production — to be extended to children’s animation. The company must decide whether to make Ploo overseas by the end of March. For a company as British as Wensleydale cheese and afternoon tea, it is a decision Bullough hates having to make. “For us to consider moving overseas is wrong, but unless we get a level playing field we will have to consider going,” he said. “Prime Minister David Cameron and arts minister Ed Vaizey both came to visit and gave us a sympathetic hearing, but you never know with politicians.” Read More »