The Warner Bros studios behind the Harry Potter film series are to undergo a major expansion, creating 4,000 jobs and providing a boost to Britain’s beleaguered film and TV production industry.
The development in Hertfordshire, expected to be complete in 2027, will add 400,000 sq ft (37,000 sq metres) to Warner Bros Studios Leavesden (WBSL).
It is expected to increase the studios’ contribution to the UK economy by more than £200m and create 4,000 “direct or indirect” jobs across Britain.
The expansion provides a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak outlook for the UK’s ailing screen industry, with Hollywood strikes and a plunge in commissions for homegrown shows causing concern.
Simon Robinson, the chief operating officer of Warner Bros Discovery Studios, said: “Warner Bros Studios Leavesden is globally recognised for its exceptional soundstages and facilities, and with this planned expansion adding significant capacity and capabilities, it will be home to even more incredible storytelling for both film and television projects.”
The studio was behind the Harry Potter film franchise, and the site hosts studio tours for fans of the films, a significant tourist attraction. Residents had expressed concerns over the proposed expansion.
It was first reported two years ago that Hollywood’s Sunset Studios, which produced La La Land, Zoolander and the first in the X-Men franchise, was to become the latest US movie production house to adopt WBSL as its main base outside the US.
With the addition of 10 new sound stages, production capacity is expected to increase by more than 50%, with work beginning early next year and due to be completed in 2027. The development will increase the studio’s total stage count from 19 to 29 and overall production space from 1.14m to 1.78m sq ft.
The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, who is in Los Angeles and met the Warner chief executive, David Zaslav, to mark the announcement, said: “Warner Bros Discovery’s ambitious plan to grow its Leavesden studio is a huge vote of confidence in the UK – creating thousands of jobs and growing our economy – and means that British-made entertainment will continue to delight and entertain global audiences.”
Barbie, House of the Dragon and the soon to be released Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom are among recent productions shot on WBSL’s sound stages.
The Bectu union estimated three-quarters of freelance film and TV crew in Britain are now out of work, prompting observers to ask whether the UK broadcasting industry is facing a temporary post-pandemic reset or an existential crisis.
The industry is struggling with shutdowns on the back of Hollywood strikes, as well as budgets depleted by falling advertiser spending.