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BREAKING NEWS

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BREAKING NEWS

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BREAKING NEWS

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Gossip

Barbie the most successful movie of the year? Here's what the experts say

Barbie the most successful movie of the year? Here's what the experts say

Like it or not, the Barbie movie has been the blockbuster of the year, taking in more than $1.38bn (£1.1bn) at the box office so far.

The film, made on a reported budget of $145 million, was produced by American entertainment giant Warner Bros.

Barbie's pink paradise, Barbieland, was designed to look like a toy town in California. But the set was built at Warner Bros studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire.

According to the British Film Institute (BFI), spending on such productions reached a record £6.27 billion last year, with most of that money coming in from overseas.

The impact of actor and screenwriter strikes in the US, which has put a number of UK-based projects on hold, means this figure is unlikely to be beaten in 2023. But the long-term outlook remains positive

The demand for studio space has increased dramatically. Among those to benefit is Frank Khalid, owner of West London Film Studios.

The company is based in a rather bleak industrial estate in Hayes, a few miles from Heathrow Airport. From the outside, it hardly exudes Hollywood glamour.

However, his five voiceovers have hosted the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins, Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey and Emilia Clarke.

Scenes from films such as The Imitation Game, Gentlemen and Bridget Jones's Baby were filmed here, along with all three seasons of the high-profile Apple TV+ drama Ted Lasso.

When Mr. Khalid bought the company 15 years ago, things were very different. The studio he bought was closed and his original plan was to use the space as a venue for elaborate Asian weddings.

However, since then, the background has changed. First came the introduction and later the extension of a generous tax incentive scheme which allowed UK-based co-productions to claim cash rebates on part of their costs.

Then, the emergence of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ created a new wave of demand for original content.

Khalid says both of these factors have had a "massive impact". Enough, he says, to convince him to sell his wedding business and focus entirely on movies and TV.

"When I first bought the studios, there were no tax breaks and a lot of studios were closing," he says.

"But since the tax cuts have come in, demand has just increased by so much. Now so many movie studios are being built to meet that demand."

The film Barbie reaches the value of 1 billion dollars at the worldwide box office

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Some of the projects currently planned are on a large scale.

Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, already the largest facility in the UK, aims to build 21 new sound stages at its site near Iver Heath, bringing the total to 51. The project as a whole is expected to cost £800m.

At Leavesden, Warner Bros wants to build 11 new stages, along with production offices and workshops.

Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, says there is a long history of international productions being made in Britain, with Elstree being used to film the original Star Wars film, for example.

He admits that tax breaks have certainly made the country more attractive to overseas firms, but points out that other factors also come into play.

"I think the reason we have such a successful global production center here in the UK is a combination of tax cuts, but also the quality of our teams, the availability of talent... the acting talent on screen from the UK is world renowned . and very popular," he says.

Roberts admits that such high demand for manufacturing facilities also creates its own challenges, particularly ensuring that sufficient qualified staff are available.

"We need accountants, gardeners, carpenters, electricians, and all the more popular jobs. We've calculated that we probably need about 20,000 jobs, in addition to the ones we currently have, by 2025."

The Hollywood strikes have also shown how exposed the UK industry is now to events elsewhere. Earlier this month, the film and television union Bectu said the disputes were having a heavy effect on independent workers, with major projects such as Deadpool 3 being put on hold.

"Many of our members have been dismissed from productions under 'force majeure' clauses with little notice or pay," says Bectu boss Philippa Childs.