New era for North East as Crown Works Studios backed with new tools given to the region in the budget

  • The £450 million planned Crown Works Studios in Sunderland will create over 8000 jobs in the region
  • Devolution deal enables North East to become a production powerhouse and level up the area
  • Studios will be among the largest in Europe with over 20 sound stages, generating £336 million a year in GVA

THE NORTH East will become a major destination for film and high-end TV production, thanks to a trailblazing devolution deal agreed between the Government and the North East, which will equip the region with the tools to enable the creation of one of Europe’s largest filmmaking complexes, in Sunderland.

Crown Works Studios will transform the economy of the North East – spurring a creative industrial revolution in one of the UK’s most exciting sectors, and generating £336m a year for the regional economy. It will enhance the UK’s offer to the global film and high-end TV industry, and enable the North East to play a far greater role in future growth.

The devolution deal announced in today’s Budget will provide the new NEMCA (to be formed in May) and Sunderland City Council with the tools they need to make Crown Works a reality and level up the region. Sunderland City Council and NEMCA have today confirmed that they intend to invest up to £120m towards the project using the tools provided by the deal.  

This represents a significant contribution towards Crown Works Studios that will kick start the creation of one of Europe’s largest studio complexes – and is a huge step towards realising the full ambition of 20 soundstages in the heart of Sunderland.

Today’s announcement leverages £450m of private funding, which will enable the North East to achieve its full creative potential, and become a major hub for big budget productions, capitalising on the productive, loyal workforce the region boasts.

Creating another major film and high-end TV production cluster outside of the South East, Crown Works Studios will be a catalyst for regeneration creating thousands of jobs and skills opportunities at all levels for people living across the North East and beyond. 

The North East’s beautiful scenic locations have for a long time been used in major feature films including Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Transformers – but until now the lack of studio infrastructure in the region has meant that productions come and go, and the North East has been prevented from capturing the full value of this activity. 

The project has been described as the most economically significant development  for the North East since the arrival of Nissan in the 1980s. Alongside specialist skills for the UK film industry, those who will benefit from the development being on their doorstep include carpenters, engineers, designers, drivers, electricians, hair & make-up artists, and medics amongst others.

The project, pending planning permission, could see ground broken as early as this summer [2024] with the construction of the first six stages as part of Phase One. We anticipate completion of further phases taking us to 20 stages by 2028. 

The full site will attract global productions worth £644m a year. At this point, we expect Crown Works to be responsible for the creation of over 8,450 new jobs in the region, and £336m of economic growth (GVA) per year at full capacity and on completion of all phases of construction. 

Leo Pearlman, Managing Partner Fulwell 73 said: “Today is a historic moment for Sunderland, the North East and the UK’s screen industries. Crown Works Studios will help transform the city we love into a global hub for big budget film and TV production. Britain’s creative sector is at its best when industry and the public sector share the same vision and work together to deliver it – so I’m hugely grateful for the backing of the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority and for the partnership between them, Fulwell 73 and Sunderland City Council. Our screen industries are world-leading – and with this backing, the UK, with the North East in its arsenal, can grow its capacity for the production of film and high-end TV.” 

He continued: “At the centre of our plan is a pioneering training strategy that will transform lives and create new opportunities throughout the North East, kick starting a creative revolution that enables the region to play a leading role in our most exciting sector.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, commented: “This is a monumental day for Crown Works Studios, Fulwell 73, Sunderland and the North East, unlocking jobs and opportunities for our people and businesses that will bring about benefits for generations to come.

“We have worked hand in glove with Fulwell 73, the Government and our regional partners to ensure that this scheme – which is game-changing for the whole of the North East – will move from vision to reality.

Councillor Amanda Hopgood, interim portfolio holder for culture, creative, tourism and sport ahead of the formation of a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority in May, and leader of Durham County Council, said:

Devolution brings with it the opportunity for local leaders to back projects that are regionally significant, directing trailblazer funding directly into the North East’s priorities.

“The Government’s confirmation of our trailblazer paves the way for Fulwell 73 to push ahead with this ambitious project, unlocking £450m of private sector investment to turn this exciting vision into a reality.  We are proud to back Crown Works Studios, a project that brings the promise of thousands of new jobs and the opportunity to build a local supply chain that will support generations of people in this brilliant region.”