When Manchester’s city council made a strategic decision in 2013 to improve the infrastructure of its creative industries, it decided to put its money into bricks and mortar, with a £35M ($42.7M) construction build. space studio manchester, The purpose-built facility for high-end TV, film and commercial production, located in West Gorton, Manchester, has over 85,000 square feet of sound stages and houses high-end TV dramas from the BBC. peaky blinders for season 4 Crown to, most recently, Sony/Marvel’s morbius,
The studio currently has six sound stages: one at 30,000 square feet, four stages at 11,500 and a sixth at 9,000 square feet. The one-stop shop features purpose-built dressing and makeup facilities, production offices ranging from 409 sq ft to 1,851 sq ft with 25,000 sq ft of prop storage/workshop. In addition, to meet the continuing demand for space, the city council recently granted studio planning permission for two new sound stages of 20,000 square feet, bringing the total sound stage space to over 100,000 square feet.
“We are currently finalizing the design and cost portion of the plan, with the expectation to begin construction in the fourth quarter of this year,” says Rob Page, managing director of Space Studios. “We are expecting construction time to be between 12-16 months.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the project, he says, will cost anywhere from £18M ($22M) to £22M ($27M), and is a direct response to the stagnant demand right now.
“We’re still being booked two or three months in advance,” says Mark Hackett, Space Studios’ director of sales. “So, we have current availability since January, but we don’t feel too distressed about it because we know a broadcaster or a streamer can come along, and our pipeline will be fuller. In fact the reason these big stages are built is to bring those people in more than a long-running drama space. This is what we are currently talking to streamers about.”
Hackett insists there’s now room, but it will only take a long or two of a series to replace it – “I think there’s some race among the obvious buyers at the moment to get one in line.”
Both Page and Hackett point to a highlight during their stints at Space Studios, when FX/Hulu’s sci-fi thriller Devso, Created by Alex Garland, came to shoot in the studio and transformed stage six, its largest and standalone stage, into “a giant, golden quantum computer”.
“It looked great on screen and even more spectacular on stage,” Page says.
“It was a real example of what this venue is capable of doing on a high-end international TV drama level,” Hackett says.
He continued, “We believe, and I strongly believe about this, that Manchester UK has a clear and sensible choice of crew, film stages and all the services you need in a mature model from drama to film. Therefore, It’s about grabbing their attention.”
With the new build set to put the studio at the 105,000-square-foot mark, Page says it’s an important marker for him as many of the upcoming American productions see the minimum.
“We will be competing in a new market in which we were not able to compete before because we did not have enough platform space,” he says. “We’re arguably a big operator in the North [of England], but we do not necessarily have to be a major operator in the UK. The next phase of growth will take us into that market.”
The expansion will also see the existing studio look being expended internally, such as expanding the costume departments, relocating canteens and creating space for production teams that are not taking up an office.
“I certainly look forward to the next step beyond this next expansion as well,” Page says. “There is a lot of ambition and, where we are located, there will be expansion plans that we currently have planned. So, if we can achieve success operating a facility that has 100,000 square feet of phases, will we? Can you succeed operating something with 200,000 square feet of steps? I’d like to think we could.”