Warner Bros. to buy and expand 'Harry Potter' studio in Britain
The studio, owned by Time Warner Inc., is paying $161.4 million to acquire and expand the 170-acre Leavesden Studios northwest of London, where it shot its eight "Harry Potter" films.
The project will include two new soundstages, plus memorabilia and sets from the "Potter" films, and will offer behind-the-scenes tours. The makeover is expected to be complete in 2012.
Warner Bros.' investment was hailed as a huge boon for the area's economy, preserving an estimated 1,500 jobs and expected to generate an additional 300 jobs. It comes after months of upset in the British film community over the dismantling of the U.K. Film Council, which supports the local industry.
However, the move is likely to heighten concerns in Los Angeles about the continued outflow of major feature production to foreign countries. With a permanent film base at Leavesden Studios, Warner Bros. will be motivated to shoot more productions in Britian, which offers a competitive film tax credit of up to 25% on qualified production spending.
Warner Bros. boasts 35 stages at its studio lot in Burbank, where it shoots most of its television shows, including "Two and A Half Men," "The Mentalist" and "The Big Bang Theory" as well as movies such as "The Hangover Part II."
Leavesden Studios, the site of a former Rolls-Royce factory just outside the comunity of Watford, has 500,000 square feet. In addition to the "Potter" films, which have shot there since 2000, it has hosted numerous major Hollywood productions, including portions of Warner Bros.' recent release "Inception," as well as "The Dark Knight" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Warner Bros. is viewed as a significant contributor to the British film industry. In the last year it has stepped up its investment, acquiring Shed Media, the producer of "Supernanny" and "Wife Swap."
"For 86 years, Warner Bros. has been intrinsincally involved in film production in the U.K.," said Warner Bros. Chief Executive Barry Meyer, noting that the investment "demonstrates our long-term commitment to, and confidence in, the skills and creativity of the U.K. film industry."
-- Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier
Image: Drawing of Warner Bros. project for Leavesden Studios near London. Credit: Warner Bros.