US writers strike hits Da Vinci Code filming at Pinewood

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The Independent Online

The strike by US screenwriters has started to bite in the UK after production of the new Da Vinci Code movie, due to be filmed at the famous Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, was delayed.

Pinewood Shepperton, chaired by ITV's boss Michael Grade, said that the delay would result in a £3m hit to the company's revenue, mostly in 2008, and warned that it would be "challenging" to offset the impact of the shortfall given the ongoing dispute between producers and the Writers' Guild of America.

Shares in Pinewood Studios fell nearly 10 per cent as a result of the warning and despite the company's reassurance that it still expects to hit its growth expectations in 2007 and 2008.

The delay is the first sign that the strike is starting to hit major film productions as most projects have been able to rely on a backlog of scripts to continue filming. The strike has, however, caused chaos in the US television industry, with a number of shows, including late-night chat-shows presented by Jay Leno and David Letterman, having to play re-runs as a result of the dearth of new material.

Filming on the new Da Vinci Code title, a prequel to the 2006 blockbuster that starred Tom Hanks, was due to start in February. Sony, which is producing the movie, will still have to pay for the basic stage hire. The £3m shortfall relates to additional costs such as electricity usage and equipment hire.

Pinewood Shepperton had steadfastly refused to say which film has delayed production but reports soon emerged that it was the prequel to the thriller The Da Vinci Code that had been put on hold. Angels and Demons was due to be released in time for the Christmas season next year but Sony will now release the film in May 2009 as a result of the screenwriters strike.

Tom Hanks is set to reprise his role as Robert Langdon for the new film and Akiva Goldsman, the screenwriter on the original Da Vinci Code film and who won an Oscar for his script for A Beautiful Mind, has been hired to write the screenplay based on Dan Brown's book.

The news was a blow to Pinewood Shepperton, responsible for the famous studios that served as a backdrop for the latest James Bond and Harry Potter blockbusters, as it comes only a week after the firm unveiled plans for a £200m facelift. The plan would see the company double the size of its studio space, adding a medieval castle, a Venetian canal, a Californian high school and various street backdrops replicating cities including New York, London and Boston. The revamp is designed to revitalise a UK film industry which has come under pressure as more production has moved to lower-cost territories such as Eastern Europe and New Zealand.

The company, was formed as a result of the merger of the famous Pinewood and Shepperton studios in 2002.

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