Dagenham Studios

Studios bet on booming UK film & TV production despite COVID

Investors are continuing to pour millions of pounds into developing new UK studio space, betting that the country’s film and TV production boom will continue despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Hackman Capital Partners, one of Hollywood’s biggest property developers, agreed a £300m deal to build the Eastbrook Studios complex in Dagenham in east London.

The site will include 12 sound stages and three acres of backlots, and is expected to be completed by 2023 with some filming beginning as early as mid-2022.

Hackman owns some of America’s most well-known studios complexes, including Culver Studios in Los Angeles and Silvercup Studios in New York, where The Sopranos was shot.

Announcing the deal, Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “Dagenham used to be famous for factories and Fords but in the future, we will be equally famous for making films.”

On the surface, the timing of the deal seems odd. Hackman’s investment was announced in the midst of a second Covid-19 lockdown in England, which has forced cinemas to close. Film and TV production, although continuing, has been hugely disrupted since March.

However, UK production levels are expected to be buoyant next year and beyond, fuelled in particular by increased commissioning from streamers such as Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+, which have thrived during the pandemic.

Many 2020 TV and film shoots have been pushed into 2021 due to the coronavirus hiatus. These will vie to film on top of a wave of recent orders from broadcasters and streamers, creating huge demand next year for studio space amid industry talk of a forthcoming production “traffic jam.”

A vote of confidence in UK film and TV
Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, described the Dagenham deal as “a real vote of confidence in our industry’s ability to return to the growth we saw prior to the pandemic and exceed it in coming years.”

Leading producers have complained for years about the challenge of locating studio space in the UK, amid record levels of production. Spend on film and high-end television hit an all-time high of £3.62 billion in 2019, according to the BFI, with the UK hosting features such as No Time to Die and Tenet and dramas including The CrownHis Dark Materials, and Outlander

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