Disney Inks Long-Term Deal to Occupy Most of Pinewood Studios

Henry Chu

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The Walt Disney Co. has struck a long-term deal with historic Pinewood Studios outside London to take nearly all its stages, backlots and other production accommodation. The arrangement is expected to begin in 2020.

“It’s wonderful to have Disney here at Pinewood,” Paul Golding, chairman of the Pinewood Group Ltd., said in a statement. “They’ve been making great films with us for many years, and the fact they want to shoot so many more here is testimony not only to the quality of the teams and infrastructure at Pinewood but also to the British film industry as a whole.”

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Golding is a partner at private equity firm Aermont, which bought the Pinewood Group for $446 million in 2016. The financial terms of the long-term deal with Disney were not disclosed.

Over the years, Pinewood Studios has been the production home of numerous James Bond films and a favored facility for other such blockbusters as the “Hobbit” movies and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” Disney has used the facility most recently for its new “Star Wars” installments. The Times of London reported that Disney’s deal would give the Mouse use of almost all of Pinewood, except for a couple of television studios, for 10 years.

The deal with Disney comes two months after Netflix announced a similar arrangement to set up a production hub at the U.K.’s Shepperton Studios, which is also owned by the Pinewood Group.

Together, the Netflix and Disney deals are sure to deepen concern that studios space in Britain, already in scarce supply, will now be even tougher for smaller companies and indies to secure. Several studio creation or expansion projects are in the works around the U.K., including at Pinewood itself. It opened five new soundstages in 2016, has planned for the addition of six more by next year and is eyeing a further expansion after that. Shepperton, too, has received permission to build 16 more soundstages, with the first of them in operation possibly in 2021.

Since 2010, almost a third of all movies with budgets of more than $100 million have filmed at Pinewood Group’s studios around the world, including sites in North America and Asia. But while the company is expanding in Britain, where a production boom bears no signs of slowing down, in the past two months it has announced that it is pulling out of its studio partnerships in Atlanta and Malaysia.

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