Sky to build huge new Elstree film studio

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An artists’ impression of Sky’s Elstree development, which will have 14 sound stages.

Media giant Sky is to build huge new studios near the existing Elstree site outside London, creating 2,000 jobs.

The 32-acre development will be used by Sky, other Comcast-owned firms including NBC Universal, and be open to third parties.

Sky predicted up to £3bn would be invested in new production at the site over the next five years.

The UK’s film and television production sector has performed strongly in recent years.

Hit shows such as The Crown have been filmed using UK facilities as the battle between Netflix, Amazon and streaming services has heated up.

Sky spends £7bn annually on production in Europe, including football rights, and plans to double the amount it spends on making its own content to £1bn per year by 2024.

Sky Studios chief executive Gary Davey said the decision to build the studios was driven by customers’ hunger for high quality original content.

It was hard to keep up with the increasing demand for high quality content, Mr Davey said. It typically takes three years to bring a project to the screen, he said.

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Chernobyl, a Sky HBO joint production, took ten years to make, Mr Davies said.

He said recent successes such as Chernobyl, and HBO smash-hit Game of Thrones, had a high proportion of European actors, and showed US audiences were ready to embrace productions made overseas.

Elstree already has access to UK production talent, he added.

The UK has one of the leading film industries in the world. According to the British Film Institute (BFI), UK films grossed $9.4bn in 2018, a 23% share of the global box office take.

The existing Elstree studios, which started to be built in 1925, were used by George Lucas when he filmed the original Star Wars trilogy.

Those studios, in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, are owned by Hertsmere Council.

The new Sky studies will be located close by on land owned by Legal and General, which will fund the development and lease the studios back to Sky.

Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal and General, said the plans were “another development in the modernisation of British industry”.