Warner Brothers will on Wednesday register plans to establish a permanent base in the UK as part of an estimated £100m ($161m)-plus investment that would make it the only Hollywood major to own a studio outside the US.
The proposals would see Warner Brothers buying outright, and refurbishing, a temporary studio it currently leases in Leavesden, Hertfordshire.
The site, a former Rolls-Royce aero engine factory, has been in regular use for filming since the mid-1990s, with the Harry Potter films made there as well as a Star Wars movie and the Batman: Dark Knight feature.
Currently, the site is owned by MEPC, the property company, but if permission is granted by Three Rivers district council, Warner Brothers would buy the freehold.
The new plans involve building two new permanent stages, refurbishing the existing buildings and redesigning its 100-acre “backlot”, the area used for shooting outdoor scenes.
A person familiar with the plans said Warner Brothers wants to make Leavesden a European hub for post-production, including visual effects, animatronics and film editing in the UK, and believes that it will attract film business to the country.
The proposal also includes a plan to allow members of the public to visit, by appointment, the sets of films made at Leavesden, including the great hall from the Harry Potter series.
In a statement, the company said the proposal was “central to our long-term plans to invest in the local production community, to create local and industry employment opportunities, and to continue the legacy of exceptional British filmmaking at Leavesden and across the UK”.
A project to expand Pinewood Shepperton’s studios just around the M25 from Leavesden has run into difficulties with planning permission, but unlike the Warner Bros proposal, it involves building homes within the studio sets.
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