Historic UK film facility Ealing Studios is to get a $100m (£70m) overhaul after its new owners secured planning permission on Wednesday night to revamp the site.
Ealing's owners aim to build production offices, refurbish the studios and the historic White House, and transform the site into a state-of-the art media village as well as a traditional film and television studio. Bought last year by a group including Barnaby Thompson and Uri Fruchtmann of production outfit Fragile Films, Ealing will offer 258,000 square feet of facilities such as sound stages, post-production suites and rehearsal rooms.
"All the financing is in place for this part of the development through private investors and financial institutions," said Sean Hinton, managing director of the studios. "We are in discussions with two groups about further expansion internationally."
Fragile is already working with two private investors - tax-based financing specialists Grosvenor Park and Newmarket Capital - on The Importance Of Being Earnest, the first production under the Ealing banner since 1959. Fruchtmann also aims to set up Ealing TV to produce comedy and family TV entertainment.
"We intend to take Ealing into the future while keeping the glory of the past and providing a home for the creative film and television community," he said. "The studio has survived and prospered for the last 100 years; we are very excited to have the opportunity to prepare it for the next 100 years."
Under the development plans now approved by the local London borough of Ealing, architect James Burland is to ring the sound stages with buildings housing media tenants, creating a permanent pedestrianised area.
The design is to have a communal aspect, with a new entrance area acting as the hub of the 3.8 acre site. The entrance, covered with a retractable roof, is to house a cafe, bar, screening room and creche. The studio was run as an almost self-sufficient film "community" in its heyday during the 50s under Michael Balcon, its in-house film-makers pumping out the likes of the classic Ealing comedies.
"In every way in which it operates, Ealing Studios seeks to be an innovator - in the quality of the space we create, in the content we make, in the technologies we use," commented John Kao, whose new media company Idea Factory joined Fragile in buying the studio last year. "We are very excited about the prospects for the redevelopment of the site."
The new owners, which include UK property developer The Manhattan Loft Corporation, are phasing in the plans so that the studio remains operational. Recent productions to use Ealing's facilities include Star Wars: Episode II.