James Corden-backed group puts in plans for major UK studio

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A global entertainment company backed by actor James Corden has submitted plans for one of Britain’s largest film studios just days after work on film and TV productions restarted in the US and the UK following Hollywood strikes.

FulwellCain has teamed up with Sunderland City Council in an attempt to gain approval for the £450mn film studio on the banks of the river Wear.

The studio would be a major boost for the creative industries in the north of England. The UK is the biggest producer of TV and films outside Hollywood, according to studio executives, but companies such as Amazon have warned studio space in the UK is “close to capacity”.

In a submission to an inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee into British film and TV published last week, Amazon said the government needed to simplify planning laws to allow the construction of more studio space.

Ministers have made the growth of TV and film production a priority area for economic growth, but industry executives have said more studio space was needed to make this happen.

FulwellCain wants to build a new studio complex in Sunderland that will include 20 sound stages covering more than 1.6mn sq ft and create 8,500 jobs in the area. Production company Fulwell 73 has teamed up with real estate group Cain International for the project.

Leo Pearlman, managing partner of Fulwell 73, said more than 20 major productions were being held up because of the lack of studio space.

The application, which has been submitted to the local authority’s planning committee, sets out detailed plans for phase 1 of the studios, with two further phases also submitted for outline consent.

Pearlman said production was moving to other countries and cities — such as Budapest — because of the lack of investment in studios in the UK regions.

“London and the South East is packed to the rafters. They have a production list as long as your arm. The North East has an abundance of incredible locations but no studios or infrastructure.”

After the end of the strikes, Hollywood executives were now “scrambling” to secure space, he added. “We’ll feel the positive pressure.”

The production company behind TV series such as The Late Late Show with James Corden and The Kardashians is owned by Corden, Ben Winston, Pearlman, Ben Turner and Gabe Turner.

Peter Bazalgette, the former ITV chief executive who now leads the government-backed Creative Industries Council, said the past six months had been tough on the UK film industry. But he said the end of the actors’ and writers’ strikes would restart activity.

“Productions are starting again,” he said. “We will get back to where we were. Sunderland is a really important project as much of this has been largely focused in London and the South East.”

The developers are also seeking financial backing from the government. Executives behind Crown Works — named after the former shipyard that once stood on the site — compare the potential impact to Nissan’s investment in Sunderland in the 1980s.

More space is also being developed at other studios. In its submission to the committee, Warner Bros Discovery said the UK was the company’s largest base outside the US. It plans to increase capacity at its studio by more than 50 per cent and to double the number of jobs in the UK.

The hit movie Barbie contributed more than £80mn to the UK economy during filming, according to Warner’s submission, which has also filmed the forthcoming film Wonka at its site north of London.


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