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Pinewood to invest millions in British films

Small-budget film-makers will soon roll cameras alongside producers of blockbuster movies after studios giant Pinewood Shepperton revealed plans to invest millions of pounds in British films.

Pinewood, which is home to the James Bond and Harry Potter franchises, said it will invest up to a 20% stake in films with production budgets of around £2 million and intends to buy in to about four films each year.

The chosen films will have access to available space at its studios in Buckinghamshire and Surrey.

The group hopes the selected Brit flicks will echo the success of Oscar-winner The King's Speech, which cost £9 million to make and has grossed more than 245 million US dollars (£150 million) since its release.

Chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said: "Although our financial commitment to each film will be relatively small, we can, in addition, offer British films access to the world-class facilities and production expertise at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios which would normally be beyond their budget."

The announcement comes as the 75-year-old studios, also home to television shows such as Dancing On Ice and Dragons' Den, posted a 31% increase in pre-tax profits to £5.8 million in the year to December 31 and an 8% increase in revenues to £43.4 million.

Pinewood said the chosen films would also have access to ancillary services at the studios.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt backed the move, saying: "We are delighted that Pinewood is showing its support for smaller British film productions.

"As the recent success of The King's Speech demonstrates, smaller British films have the potential to become smash hits globally and any support that the industry can offer producers, we welcome."

The group's film division, which offers 34 stages, including the largest in Europe, had a successful 2010, driving the gains in total revenue as it hosted several big-budget movies at its studios.

The fourth instalment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, starring Johnny Depp, the final Harry Potter film and a forthcoming adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's 19th century novel Jane Eyre were all filmed at the studios in 2010.

Film revenues were £29.1 million, up from £22.6 million, while TV revenues dropped to £8.2 million from £11.3 million.

Pinewood said the TV division was hit by ITV and BBC deciding to use their own in-house studio facilities to save on costs.

The studios still played host to shows such as BBC sitcom My Family, Piers Morgan's Life Stories and entertainment show Ant & Dec's Push The Button.

The group's other revenue stream, Media Park, which offers 297 media-related businesses, was slightly down at £6.2 million, compared with £6.3 million the previous year.

Looking ahead, Mr Dunleavy said the year had "begun positively".

He said: "As a result of this performance to date, and the visibility of contracted revenues from major films for the rest of the year, the company expects continuing growth in revenues in 2011."

Pinewood intends to add its film stage capacity to help meet an increasing demand for its services in the UK, Mr Dunleavy added.

The King's Speech, which won four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth in the lead role, is on track to be the most lucrative British film ever made.

The film - about King George VI's attempts to overcome a severe stutter - is estimated to gross in excess of 300 million US dollars (£185 million).

A large proportion of the takings will be shared with the cinemas and international distributors, such as American film producer Harvey Weinstein but a substantial chunk is expected to make its way back to the UK.