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Thames Valley: Film studios planned for Science Park

By Dan Teuton
19 February 2020

Plans for a film studio to rival Pinewood are to be submitted for Thames Valley Science Park.

An American film studio is teaming up with the University of Reading to develop a purpose-built film complex at the Science Park, which could create up to 3,000 jobs.

Blackhall Studios, based at Atlanta, Georgia, said that the UK studio would bring 'Hollywood film productions' to the site at Shinfield. The company has produced movies such as Godzilla, Venom, and Jumanji: The Next Level.

Blackhall Studios has announced initial agreement with the University of Reading for Blackhall to develop the largest purpose-built film studio and digital creative hub complex in the UK.

A new state-of-the-art film studios, incorporating extensive purpose-built digital production facilities, represents the first UK investment for one of the leading US studios, based in Atlanta. Blackhall Studios has already produced some worldwide successes, including current box office hit Jumanji: The Next Level.

With the creative industry in the UK losing out to European destinations due to a lack of available space, this new facility is a significant boost to the UK-wide creative economy and shows the confidence in the UK.

Located west of London on the outskirts of Reading, the new studios are ideally located to make the most of the creative corridor being developed through Thames Valley. It is set to employ up to 3,000 people, including 1,500 directly on site and contribute over £500million per year to UK plc.

The Studios will be developed to the highest environmental standards, in line with Thames Valley Science Park’s and the University of Reading’s values around sustainability and climate change, said Blackhall.

Ryan Millsap, chairman and CEO of Blackhall, said: “We are excited to be establishing a base in the UK. Blackhall is the global standard for entertainment production space and our US-based clients like Disney, Universal and Sony are all asking us to expand into the UK to meet their desire to create productions here. They wouldn’t trust just anyone to meet their high standards, so we are delighted to serve them in this way.

“We are very excited about the prospect of investing in the UK creative industries as one of the most vibrant markets in the world. We hope that the site at Thames Valley Science Park will be the start of a series of investments in the UK which will see investment in jobs, training and the creative arts across a range of disciplines. The UK has a wealth of talent that our UK companies recognise and want to partner with for decades to come.”

Blackhall will combine its film studio management experience from its studios in the United States with the expertise of the UK team headed by Nick Smith, previously Executive Director with Pinewood-Shepperton plc.

The deal marks Blackhall’s entry to the UK market and is the first of several investment opportunities being considered and it is hoped that the new facility will be open early in 2022.

Blackhall Studios is in discussions with the University of Reading, which owns Thames Valley Science Park, to bring proposals forward which will not only benefit the economy, but also its students, the local community and the environment.

Sam Foley, chief financial officer of the University of Reading, said: “We are delighted to be talking to Blackhall Studios, whose proposals would build a whole creative hub at Thames Valley Science Park.

“These proposals will boost the creative and cultural economy of our region.”

Nick Smith, Blackhall’s president and COO of Blackhall UK, said: “Britain has an enviable array of filmmaking talent, but the industry is short of high-quality studio facilities capable of catering for the new and emerging technologies that will form the core of television and film production in the future.

“Our proposals support the UK Government’s desire to see this sector’s annual inward investment deliver £4 billion by 2025. Blackhall is committed to play its part in making that vision a reality. This initial investment of £150m into the UK economy will create a new powerhouse of creative production and educational achievement, as well as generating up to 3,000 new jobs.”

Blackhall was assisted in securing a site by officials at the Department for International Trade (DIT), who have been working with the business over the past year. DIT officials worked with teams in Atlanta and Los Angeles, as well as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to secure the investment.

Further information can be found on https://blackhallstudios.com/.

Plans are expected to be submitted to Wokingham Borough Council this year. If approved, the studios would open in 2022.

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