EXCLUSIVE: Spielberg, Cronenberg, Daldry among petition signatories; homebuilder Taylor Wimpey in discussions for site redevelopment; Business Secretary and MP for Twickenham Vince Cable contacted by constituents.
Industry concern over the potential demolition and redevelopment of Twickenham Studios is growing. Leading UK, US and international industry are among those to have signed a petition to save the renowned UK film and TV studio, which recently hosted Oscar nominees War Horse, The Iron Lady and My Week with Marilyn, but is now in administration and is due to be shut down this summer.
Steven Spielberg (who recently shot part of War Horse at the studios), David Cronenberg, Stephen Daldry, Colin Firth, Terry Gilliam, Kevin Macdonald, Michael Apted, John Landis, Terry Jones, David Barron, John Bloom, Peter Honess, Robin Sales and Peter Boyle are among the 1,350 signatories (to date) of the online petition (launched five days ago) to save the studios.
At the same time, Screen has revealed that the current owners of the site are already in talks with major UK homebuilder Taylor Wimpey to turn the site into property and office space.
David Brown, regional land and planning director for Taylor Wimpey, told Screen: “Taylor Wimpey and the current owners of Twickenham Film Studios are exploring the potential for the site to be redeveloped for a mixed use scheme, providing employment space alongside a mixture of residential dwellings.
“We are mindful that a suitable and sympathetic redevelopment proposal needs to be found for this site and we will shortly begin to engage with local residents and other stakeholders so they can help us to shape our proposals.”
Screen also understands that a number of UK-based private consortia with film connections had drawn up plans to buy and maintain the Studios in recent months but were ultimately unsuccessful. At least one consortium’s bid fell short of the asking price.
One industry petitioner told Screen: “Twickenham is a vital piece of the industry, especially at a time when the government is telling us that the industry is doing so well and that they want to keep attracting high levels of inward investment. I’m surprised they are standing by as it is sold off like this. I believe one of the reasons Steven Spielberg shot at Twickenham was that most of the other studios in the country were full so it is clearly still vitally important. With careful investment in new technology I’m convinced the Studios could compete again.”
“We have turned over a rock in the last few days and the amount of energy released in the local area has been huge,” the petitioner continued. “At the moment this is a fairly disparate group of people doing what they can to raise the noise but I think we are getting more organised and will make sure all the right government and industry bodies are on our side.”
Business Secretary and Twickenham MP Vince Cable, currently abroad on ministerial work, has been contacted by concerned residents.
The studio has been losing money for at least three years. The last accounts posted by Twickenham Film Studios Ltd for the year ended March 2011 showed that the company made a loss of more than £400,000.
Rising rents in the area and competition from larger studios with larger stages and more advanced technology are believed to be partly responsible for the company’s demise. All 17 members of the remaining studio staff are due to be made redundant within the next six months.
Twickenham opened in 1913 and has hosted a string of classic films including Blade Runner, Repulsion, Alfie and The Italian Job.
The business is currently owned by overseas company Shardub Enterprises, registered in the Dutch Antilles.