Chancellor's idea for 'Sunderland Barbie' gives boost to Fulwell 73 film studio hopes

30.11.23 Crown Works Studios Credit: PA / 4D Studios
Margot Robbie (left), who played Barbie, and an artist impression of how Crown Works Studios could look in Sunderland. Credit: PA / 4D Studio

Hopes for one of Europe's largest film studios to be built on the banks of the River Wear have been given a boost after the Chancellor plugged the idea of a "Sunderland Barbie".

Jeremy Hunt was on Wearside last week when he was questioned about investment for the proposed Crown Works Studios on the site of a former Sunderland shipyard.

"We have been having very good discussions with the people who are hoping to invest here," he said.

"All I will say is, this year's California blockbuster Barbie was shot in Hertfordshire - next time, let's have a Sunderland Barbie."

In response to the remarks, the government has since reconfirmed its commitment to helping the UK's screen sector grow, including in the North East - giving further hope for Sunderland's studio proposals.

The plans include 19 soundstages with supporting production offices and workshops, plus a vendors village and training academy. Credit: 4D Studios

A government spokesperson said: "We want to maximise the potential of the UK's screen sectors, including in the North East.

"We continue to help film and high-end TV thrive through competitive tax reliefs, support for industry skills and studio infrastructure developments as part of our aim to boost the creative industries by an extra £50 billion and create one million extra jobs by 2030." 

It is the vision of production company Fulwell 73's managing director, Leo Pearlman, to open one of the largest film studios in Europe, in Sunderland.

Reacting to Mr Hunt's comments, Mr Pearlman said: "Loving all the positive noise coming out of government and certainly Barbie 2 on Wearside sounds wonderful but we need action not just words. We need real delivery on all these promises and we need it now."

The £450m development is hoped could create around 8,500 jobs. Credit: 4D Studio

Sunderland City Council has now received FulwellCain's plans for Crown Works Studios on a huge piece of land between Sunderland city centre and the Northern Spire Bridge. The application is due to be considered in March 2024.

The proposals would deliver a film industry hub of more than 150,000 square metres, including 19 soundstages with supporting production offices and workshops, management offices, a vendors village and training academy.

The £450m project is hoped would create around 8,500 jobs - the largest injection of employment since Nissan arrived on Wearside in the 1980s.

Production company Fulwell 73 believe the studio will "put the region on the map". Credit: 4D Studio

North-East Screen is the region's screen agency and its chairman, David Parfitt, was also enthused by the Chancellor's remark.

He said: "We are thrilled to hear of the Government's confidence that blockbuster level investment in Sunderland’s screen industry is on the horizon.

"Investment in the Crown Works Studio development would be a game changer and is a key element of our vision for growing the region's screen industry.

"We fully support FulwellCain's ambition and look forward to working closely with them to create infrastructure needed, ensuring both highly-skilled crew and local businesses become a vital part of the supply chain needed to serve the needs of blockbuster productions made here.

"The studios will give a new generation of eager, industry-ready entrants and career changers more reasons to step across in technical and craft areas; supply chain businesses real opportunities to set up, pivot or relocate, and provide highly experienced world class talent the opportunity to come home and work on outstanding content."

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