Jeremy Hunt: “Let’s have a Sunderland Barbie”

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has confirmed that the construction of a major film studio in the UK’s north east is under discussion, with mention of Barbie thrown in.

The UK’s north east could eventually become the home of a major film studio complex, with plans underway to construct multiple sound stages on a disused industrial site in Sunderland.

Over the weekend, the Sunderland Echo reports, the chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the government is currently discussing the project with its investors.

“We have been having very good discussions with the people who are hoping to invest here,” Hunt said during a visit to Nissan’s car plant, also located in Sunderland. “All I will say is, this year’s California blockbuster Barbie was shot in Hertfordshire – next time, let’s have a Sunderland Barbie.”

Hunt is referring here to Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, where much of this year’s doll-based hit was filmed. It’s a movie the chancellor has namedropped more than once this year; at the Conservative Party Conference, he said, “Next time I want to see Barbie wearing a Union Jack because that too was filmed in Britain.”

Barbie also got a mention during Hunt’s autumn statement, in which he described Leavesden as a town “where of course the sun always shines.”

If it happens, the Sunderland studio could cost some £450m to develop, with the complex spreading out of 1.68 million square feet and taking in 20 sound stages. Among the investors behind the project is Fulwell 73, a British production company that counts James Corden among its partners.

Last month, Fulwell 73 co-founder Leo Pearlman said that the studio could generate thousands of jobs in the region, and pump an estimated £350m into the local economy.

“In simple terms, for this city, we are talking eight and a half thousand new jobs, you are talking £350million of annual GVA (gross value added). You are talking about changing the face of the city, it’s that dramatic,” Pearlman said, according to the Sunderland Echo. “It is as big – if not bigger – than Nissan in the 80s. That is the scale of the ambition.”

The studio will further boost the UK’s appeal as an international hub for TV and movie producers. Unfortunately, the government has been far less vocal in its support of the country’s independent film industry.

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