Dagenham film studios plan in crisis

A Los Angeles-based developer has put its plans to build London’s largest Hollywood-style film studios “on hold” over the “uncertainty surrounding Brexit”.

Barking and Dagenham was announced as “the next global destination for making blockbuster movies” when the council and City Hall unveiled proposals for a £110 million studio development in 2017.

It was hoped the 12 sound stages, training facilities, amusement attractions, shops and restaurants earmarked for the 22-acre site — a former factory opposite Dagenham East station — would be under construction this year.

Pacifica Ventures, which owns the studio behind Breaking Bad was chosen as the preferred bidder for the Made in Dagenham studios in early 2018.

But according to the council it has failed to “progress matters sufficiently” and has now lost its preferred bidder status.

In a statement Pacifica Ventures said: “I can assure you that Pacifica Ventures remains very much committed to the Dagenham Studios project, but unfortunately we and our investors have been forced to put the project on hold until the Brexit uncertainty has been resolved.

“We have definitely not dropped out but we understand that the council wants to move forward more quickly and they have our blessing if a third-party should offer an alternative proposal that is acceptable to them. We hope that won’t be the case and that we’ll be able to re-start the project very soon.”

The council said it would still be progressing with the studio plans and will look for other investors but could also complete the project without outside investment.
Councillors are expected to agree to spend up to £3.4 million to cover any pre-development costs.

Pat Hayes, managing director of the council’s regeneration company Be First, said: “We were told [Pacifica Ventures] were finding it difficult to deliver on their plans due to uncertainty over the UK leaving the European Union.

“But what is not in doubt is the viability and demand for studio space in the UK, which is why I am convinced there will be plenty of interest from parties who want to make sure movies will be Made in Dagenham.”

Pinewood, the studio where the James Bond franchise is filmed, was the original front runner to take on the site after chairman Paul Golding said the company was looking at “future expansion opportunities”.

A City Hall study estimated that the project could generate about 780 full-time jobs in the area and £35 million a year for the UK economy.

However, despite the British film industry spending a record £3.1 billion on film and TV production last year and 75 per cent of the UK’s industry being based in and around London, the council said it struggled to find investors.

“There is a small pool of organisations that fund, build and operate studios,” a council report states. “As such the response was limited.”

Pacifica Ventures was chosen because of its “track record of building successful studios in the US”, it adds.

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter