Winnersh Film Studios

from 2022

The studios as originally proposed by Stage 50.  These will be constructed in phases over a number of years.  The building marked 2 and 3 was the first to be erected but the stages are in fact numbered 1 and 2.  The large stage marked 1 will in fact be known as stage 3.  The block containing stages 4 and 5 will now look rather different from this and will contain one large stage that can be divided if required.
with thanks to the Stage 50 website.

 

It almost seems as though every month in 2021 brought the announcement of yet another film studio.  November’s news was that Stage 50, the company specialising in rapid-build but high spec sound stages, were planning to construct 6 sound stages on a site at Winnersh Triangle, near Reading.  Winnersh Film Studios, a new business, had taken over some existing buildings on the site and planned to create a new film studio here.  25,000 sq ft of offices and some temporary workshops were made available straight away.  Work then commenced on erecting a double stage.  The owners of the site – Frasers Property UK – were also in the process of constructing a new 57,000 sq ft industrial building, known as Building 820.  This was completed in February 2023 and was let to Stage 50 for workshops and offices.

Stage 50 advertise that they can build a properly equipped and fully fitted out sound stage in 4 months – and indeed the first two 20,000 sq ft stages (in one building) were ready by March 2022.  These stages were given temporary planning permission for 5 years but in August 2022, permanent permission was sought for them along with permission for a 30,000 sq ft stage.  Permission was eventually granted in January 2024.  I don’t know why this took so long.  Very frustrating for the studio owners, I’m sure.  One hopes that construction will commence during 2024, with the new stage becoming available later in the year.

This largest stage (stage 3) will be Virtual Production (VP) equipped.  Stage 50 claim it will contain the world’s largest VP ‘volume’.  VP is the technique involving high-res LED panels around the walls and ceiling of the shooting area, enabling computer-generated scenery to be displayed as realistic backgrounds.  The ‘volume’ is the term for the shooting space surrounded by LED screens.  The advantage over greenscreen is that the LED panels emit light that looks true to life on the actors’ faces and clothing.  Actors also prefer working in this environment rather than greenscreen.  According to the Winnersh Film Studios press release:

 

Created in partnership with Fin Studio Pictures, the cutting-edge fully encapsulated virtual production volume at Winnersh Film Studios will feature an 84m x 7m screen with over 140 million pixels and industry-leading tech from disguise, infiLED® EM, Unity, Unreal Engine, Brompton Technology & Target3D.

 

The interior of stage 1. You would never guess that a stage looking as good as this was built in only 4 months.
with thanks to Stage 50
A Googlemaps 3D image of the site in 2022.  Stages 1 and 2 are in use and some temporary workshops are where VR stage 3  is due to be built.  Over the road, a large workshop building is seen under construction.  This is now open.  The 3 buildings with the grey roofs top centre of this image will now be demolished, making way for stages 4/5.   Top right of this image, some temporary workshops are on the proposed site for stage 6.

 

Although planning permission for the new VR stage 3 was still pending in October 2023, Wokingham Borough Council did agree to another sound stage at that time.  This is to be a very large stage of 48,600sq ft.  It can be sub-divided so one assumes will become known as stages 4 and 5.  It has 4 ‘elephant doors’ – two on opposite sides, which will enable fast rigging and derigging of sets.  The site is currently occupied by workshops and offices, which will be demolished.  Plenty of car park spaces and an area for location vehicles will be provided.  One assumes that this will become available some time in 2025 but possibly sooner?

Interestingly, the illustrations supplied by the studios suggest a more permanent building than the normal Stage 50 rapid build design.  Make of that what you will.

I confess I was amused by all the press reports around the time of the planning committee decision.  One might have thought that these studios were something new and unexpected by the way the articles were written.  In fact, readers of this website have known about Winnersh Studios since November 2021.

 

The new stage 4/5.
image thanks to Frasers Property and The Harris Partnership

 

The studios are aware of the need for skilled crew so are working with the local community to offer training and apprenticeships.  The site has exceptionally good communications, right next to a junction on the A329M, which connects to the M4.  There is a train station very close to the site and a Crowne Plaza, Premier Inn and Travelodge are just a few minutes’ walk away.  Reading is just to the west and the attractive market town of Wokingham, with several high-quality restaurants is close to the south.  There is also a very good cinema complex close by – the Showcase Cinema De Lux – which happens to be where I go to see films.  Highly recommended with excellent picture and sound quality and very comfortable tip-back seats!

The first booking was The Boys in the Boat, a feature directed by George Clooney.  Handy for him as he has a house in Sonning, about 10 minutes’ drive away.  Filming began in the last week of March 2022.  Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire filmed scenes here in 2023 (as well as at Farnborough and  Shinfield Studios).  Other productions have also used the stages but the titles have not yet been revealed.

In November 2023 Stage 50 announced a partnership with Universal Production Services, who now provide all lighting and equipment in their studios.

 

Sadly, on 9th April 2024 the following was published in Broadcast magazine’s daily email:

Winnersh Film Studios has entered administration, citing cashflow problems caused by the recent actor and writer strikes.

Nick Holloway and Steve Absolom from Interpath Advisory were appointed as joint administrators of Winnersh and parent company Stage 50 – although all other parts of the Stage 50 business have not entered administration and continue to trade normally.  Stage 50 also operates, designs, and builds boutique film and television studios in Wycombe and Farnborough, and designs and creates purpose-built sound stages and provides specialist creative and technical production space and sound services.

Following cashflow problems caused by the 2023 actor and writer strikes, senior secured lender, SCIO-Fund SICAV-FIS, took steps to stabilise the business, including seeking the appointment of administrators.

Greg Branch, director of SCIO-Fund SICAV-FIS and CIO at SCIO Capital, commented: “We remain fully committed to Stage 50’s model and vision of creating high-quality, innovative spaces for television and film makers. Our priority is to stabilise the business and put in place a foundation upon which Winnersh Film Studios Ltd can move forward.”

Nick Holloway, managing director at Interpath Advisory and joint administrator, said: “The Companies will continue to operate as normal while we assess their position.”