Movie big guns threaten to leave

Eddie Teare

Eddie Teare

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Some of Hollywood’s biggest names are threatening to pull out of Pinewood, the film studio in which the Manx government has invested millions.

But Treasury Minister Eddie Teare says he is not unduly concerned about the possible impact on the Manx government’s investment in the studios.

He told the Examiner: ‘I don’t see this as having any major impact on our investment at the moment. But it’s difficult to say.

‘There’s always an element of risk in investments. Nothing is guaranteed in life, except taxes and death.

‘It’s similar to other investments we’ve got. Commercial decisions may go in your favour but they may not. This is nothing we should be unduly concerned about.’

Pinewood is embroiled in a planning dispute over its £200 million proposals to double the size of its studios on Green Belt land in Buckinghamshire.

A planning inquiry began in November, after Pinewood appealed against the decision by South Bucks District Council to reject its proposals.

Hollywood giant Marvel has warned it would turn its back on film-making in Britain unless more studio space is provided.

According to reports, it has already pulled out of filming its next superhero production Ant-Man while Disney, Lionsgate and Legendary are also looking elsewhere to produce films because of a lack of studio capacity.

The three-week planning inquiry heard that Sam Mendes, Oscar-winning director of American Beauty and James Bond blockbuster Skyfall, has opted to film his TV series Penny Dreadful in Ireland ‘principally because of the lack of studio capacity in the UK’.

Following a Tynwald vote in June last year, Treasury signed an agreement to transfer management of the £25 million film and television investment fund to Pinewood Film Advisors Ltd for an initial five years – and to buy 9.89 per cent shareholding in Pinewood Shepperton plc at a cost of £12,230,000, funded out of reserves.

The deal continues to prove controversial. Liberal Vannin claims there are many questions about the deal still unanswered but the Treasury Minister insists it’s the most successful investment in the Manx government’s portfolio.

Pinewood Shepperton’s lawyer Martin Kingston QC told the inquiry the economic benefits of the studio expansion could not be ignored, with the film industry contributing £4.6billion to UK GDP in 2011.

He said: ‘Pinewood is a huge British success story from a commercial and policy perspective. Failure to grant planning permission would represent a failure to grasp a significant opportunity which has been carefully husbanded and promoted.’

But Stop Project Pinewood campaigners have dubbed the project ‘a pig with lipstick’, which would cause substantial harm to Green Belt and should be thrown out just as Pinewood’s previous appeal in 2009.

Mr Teare said: ‘Pinewood are ramping up the publicity before the decision is made, and the big name support they’ve been marshalling is quite impressive.

‘In some way this illustrates the strong demand for the company’s services. Their occupancy is over 90 per cent. The problem they’ve got is a good problem.

‘If they lose the appeal it would probably mean Pinewood would not be able to accommodate some of the bigger pictures. But they are already doing some of the very, very big pictures and they have diversified.’

Planning inspector Terry Phillimore is expected to publish his conclusions early in the new year. But the final decision will rest with Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

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