Reading to get £150m Hollywood movie studio complex and 1,500 jobs

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Kyle Chandler and Ken Watanabe in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which was produced by Blackhall Studios. (Warner Bros/Entertainment/Legendary Pictures Funding/Ratpac-Dune Entertainment)

The production company behind blockbuster hits such as Venom, Godzilla, and Jumanji plans to spend £150m ($195m) on a huge purpose-built film studio in Reading.

Blackhall Studios said the move would create 1,500 on-site jobs, and potentially up to 3,000 jobs for the local area.

The company said the facility, which would be built at Thames Valley Science Park, about 65km west of London, would be the “largest purpose-built film studio” in the UK.

Around £500m would be spent in the complex every year, and the University of Reading, which owns the science park, is supporting the plans.

The university said the studio would “not only benefit the economy, but also its students, the local community and the environment.”

Blackhall studios chairman Ryan Millsap said his company was “excited to be establishing a base in the UK.”

His company’s clients, such as Disney, Universal Studios, and Sony Pictures, had asked his firm to expand into the UK such that they could produce films in the country, he said.

"We hope that the site at Thames Valley Science Park will be the start of a series of investments in the UK which will see investment in jobs, training and the creative arts across a range of disciplines," he added.

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The company is expecting to submit plans for the development of the facility to Wokingham Borough Council later this year, and hopes that the facility could open as soon as 2022.

The UK government pointed to the deal as evidence of the UK’s capacity to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

“The UK and the US are each other’s largest investors and this announcement demonstrates the strength of our trading relationship,” said international trade secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday.

The studio would get off the ground just as the UK experiences a surge in high-grade film production.

A record amount was spent on film and TV production in the UK last year, driven in large part by a 29% surge in spending on high-end TV shows.

Spending on series with episodes that cost more than £1m each has doubled since 2015, with more than 75% of that spending – or £1.3bn – coming from foreign companies, including Netflix and Amazon.

The total spend on film and TV production in the UK thus climbed 16% year-on-year to £3.6bn, the highest ever recorded.

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