Atlanta’s Blackhall Studios is set to build a £150 million (about $193.3 million) movie production campus west of London, the first of what it hopes will be multiple locations serving customers internationally.
The studios are to be located at the Thames Valley Science Park, owned by the University of Reading and are expected to generate £500 million (about $644.5 million) for the United Kingdom economy per year and create 3,000 jobs including 1,500 at the site, according to the U.K. Department of International Trade, which has worked with the company on the expansion.
Set up in east Atlanta, Blackhall has quickly become a key part of the infrastructure that sprouted to support Georgia’s rapid ascent as one of the top filming locations globally.
In 2018, a decade after a generous tax credit kick-started growth, the state saw $2.9 billion invested in 399 productions in 2018. (Still, some law makers have called the value of the tax incentive into question after a state audit in January said the state was overestimating the industry’s economic impact.)
At Blackhall, productions have included “Venom,” “Jumanji: The Next Level” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” among others.
Chairman and CEO Ryan Millsap said setting up the Atlanta studio initially was a “specialty real estate play” modeled after the success of Pinewood Studios, which happens to be based in the U.K.
Pinewood came to Fayetteville, Ga., with support and investment from prominent local landowners: the Cathy family of Chick-fil-A fame. When he saw that, Mr. Millsap thought the concept would surely work closer to Atlanta.
“This simple thesis just became: ‘What if I built Pinewood in the city?’” Mr. Millsap told Global Atlanta.
Now, his complex includes nine sound stages with more than 200,000 square feet, 175,000 square feet of mill space for set construction, flex space, 400,000 square feet of warehousing, parking for crew and offices and more.
Moving into the United Kingdom was a natural extension, as creators like Disney, Universal and Sony began asking Blackhall to support their filming operations abroad.
“All our customers are U.S.-based customers who just want to have production hubs in the U.K. as well,” Mr. Millsap told Global Atlanta, likening the move to a retailer building warehouses support of new locations. “It’s really not that different from building distribution centers for Amazon.”
Blackhall’s advantage, he said, is that it works directly with customers in building the infrastructure they need, where they need it. He called Blackhall a “platform” similar to a restaurant built for franchising versus a single location.
“They wouldn’t trust just anyone to meet their high standards, so we are delighted to serve them in this way,” he said of his customers in a news release.
Blackhall’s U.K. entry will also accompany a shortage in studio space there after Disney and Netflix locked up long-term deals with Pinewood, putting pressure on the U.K.’s production base.
Mr. Millsap said Blackhall is on the cusp of landing a global investor to support the U.K. deal. With Atlanta and London covered, he foresees building similar locations in some of four other “cities that matter” in the studio space: Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Vancouver. He also noted in the release that further U.K. investments could be on the horizon.
U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss welcomed Blackhall’s announcement.
“Blackhall’s commitment is a strong endorsement of our creative industry and the great creatives that work in U.K. film, and is set to deliver hundreds of new jobs in the area,” Ms. Truss said in a release that put inbound investment in the U.K. film industry at £3.04 billion in 2019. She highlighted the country’s ambition to sign a trade deal with the U.S. to further this momentum.
“I look forward to negotiating and signing a new ambitious free trade agreement with the U.S., to ensure we can continue to deepen our trading relationship and grow our creative industries.”
Learn more about Blackhall at https://blackhallstudios.com.