Cost model: Film and TV studios

film studio image RGB lowres

Even before the pandemic, home streaming of films and TV shows was growing rapidly, feeding demand for new facilities that can create compelling material for these platforms. Aecom’s Paul Davis, Laura Jevons, Ben Hooker and Tim Jackson examine the key cost drivers of building a new studio or sound stage

film studio image RGB lowres

Source: Andy Marshall Architectural Photography / PRP Architects

Space Studios, Manchester

01 / Overview

Home to many of the world’s leading film studios and sound stages, the UK is becoming a key location for global media players seeking to increase their output and make the most of the rise in online streaming.

In September 2019 Disney took a long-term lease on stages and production accommodation at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. A few months earlier Netflix entered a long-term deal with Shepperton Studios in Surrey to create a dedicated production hub there. Such long‑term leases, while great for the UK TV and film industry, have led to a shortage of studio space.

Developers and larger media networks are responding by creating new facilities – with Sky’s £3bn investment at Elstree being complemented by council-led studio developments in Kent and Essex that hope to stimulate regeneration in their respective regions.

In general, clients – whether media networks or developers – will seek out one of four main types of studio or sound stage facility:

  • New-build or purpose-built  These tend to be used for large-scale, high‑end film and TV work, and are typically established on a large site, with extensive external works for the accommodation gallery vans, trailers and other production facilities. There are currently only a handful of these in the UK at present – notably Pinewood, Shepperton and the Warner Bros studio in Leavesden – and so it is unsurprising that these locations have seen an increase in demand over recent years.
  • Refurbished or formally repurposed  These are buildings that have been refurbished to create studio space. Depending on their previous uses, they may require additional soundproofing to enable a suitable sound and light lock.
  • Flat-floor TV  Super-flat floor or shiny floor studios are generally used for TV studios. They contain laser-levelled resin floors to enable smooth multi‑camera tracking, giving them a shiny, black-glass finish.
  • Industrial or blank canvas  These are similar to repurposed spaces but without the formal soundproofing requirements. They tend to be former industrial units that are stripped out for use as production spaces. With very little construction work required, they can be leased as blank canvases for production teams to fit out themselves, although creating enough space for production support can be a challenge.

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