Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: partly made at Leavesden Studios
Warner Bros has unveiled plans to invest £100m in the UK's Leavesden Studios, safeguarding the future of the site where the Hollywood giant shot the Harry Potter series and Inception.
Further details will be announced Wednesday, but the decision is major boost to the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who had come under fire from Clint Eastwood and other film stars for his decison to axe the UK Film Council.
The purchase of Leavesden from property group MEPC – due to be finalised on Wednesday – will safeguard 1,500 jobs and create another 300 as Warner Brothers looks to develop the 170-acre site near Watford. It includes a back-lot that will account for about a third of the dedicated stage space for major film production in the UK.
Redevelopment of the site, which is expected to be reopen in mid-2012, will include two new sound stages to house a Harry Potter set tour including sets, costumes, creatures and props. The expansion of the studio will see investment in Leavesden's visual effects, prosthetics and animatronics departments.
"At a time when investment in the UK is critical, Warner Bros Studios Leavesden is a significant endorsement of the creative talent here in the UK," said Josh Berger, the president and managing director of Warner Bros UK, Ireland and Spain. "It will generate jobs, inward investment and interest in an industry that is respected the world over."
Warner Bros has used the studios since 2000; all eight Potter films have been made there as well as parts of other films including The Dark Knight and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The studio has spent £1.9bn on UK films in the past decade, and is the single most important investor in the British film industry.
The announcement will be welcome news for the film industry following Hunt's move to disband the UK Film Council. Warner Bros has increased its production activity in the UK over the last year recently acquiring Shed Media, maker of shows including Supernanny and Wife Swap, and the company had shown interest in acquiring Channel 5.
"For 86 years Warner Bros has been intrinsically involved in film production in the UK," said the Warner Bros chief executive, Barry Meyer. "Our multimillion-pound investment in creating a state-of-the art, permanent UK production base further demonstrates out long-term commitment to, and confidence in, the skills and creativity of the UK film industry.
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Graham Norton has said that Christine Bleakley was "bonkers" for leaving her role at the BBC.
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