When Manchester City Council made a strategic decision in 2013 to improve the infrastructure for its creative industries, it decided to put its money in brick and mortar with the construction of the £35 million (42.7 million dollars) Space Studios Manchester. The purpose-built facility for high-end TV, film and commercial production, located in West Gorton, Manchester, features over 85,000 square feet of sound stages and has housed high-end TV series ranging from the BBC Peaky Blinders in season 4 of The crown to, more recently, Sony/Marvel Morbius.
The studio currently has six sound stages: a seating at 30,000 square feet, four stages at 11,500 square feet and a sixth at 9,000 square feet. The one-stop shop features purpose-built dressing and makeup facilities, production offices ranging from 409 square feet to 1,851 square feet, and a 25,000 square foot prop workshop/storage. Additionally, in an effort to meet the constant demand for space, City Council recently granted the studio planning permission for two new soundstages of 20,000 square feet each, bringing the total sound stage space to over 100,000 square feet.
“We are in the process of finalizing the design and costing of the plan with the expectation of beginning construction in the fourth quarter of this year,” said Rob Page, chief executive of Space Studios. “We expect a construction time of between 12 and 16 months.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the project which he says will cost between £18m ($22m) and £22m ($27m), and is a direct response to the constant demand he currently has.
“We’re always very booked two or three months in advance,” says Space Studios Sales Manager Mark Hackett. “So we have the current availability from January, but we don’t feel too distressed about that because we know a broadcaster or streamer may come along, and our pipeline will be more complete. The real reason for the build of those bigger scenes is to bring in more of those people from the long-time drama space, which is what we’re talking to streamers right now.
Hackett points out that while there’s room now, it would only take a long-term series or two to change that – “I feel like there’s a bit of a race right now among obvious buyers to get one.”
Page and Hackett both point to a highlight of their tenure at Space Studios, when FX/Hulu’s sci-fi thriller developers, created by Alex Garland, came to shoot in the studios and turned the Sixth Stage, its largest, self-contained stage into “a huge golden quantum computer”.
“It looked fantastic on screen and even more fantastic on stage,” Page says.
Hackett adds, “It was a true example of what this space is capable of at the level of high-end international TV series.”
He added: “We believe, and I’m very confident, that Manchester is the obvious and sensible choice for the UK team, film stages and all the services you need in a mature model, from drama to film. . So it’s just about getting their attention.
With new construction slated to put the studio at the 105,000 square foot mark, Page says that’s an important marker for them because that’s what many incoming American productions are looking for at a minimum.
“We will be competing in a new market that we weren’t able to compete in before because we just didn’t have enough stage space,” he says. “We are undoubtedly a major operator in the North [of England], but we are not necessarily a major operator in the UK. The next stage of development will take us into this market.
The expansion will also see the studio’s current look spent internally by rearranging and reformatting existing layouts in the facility, such as expanding costume departments, relocating the canteen and creating spaces for production teams. production who do not occupy an office.
“I’m looking forward to even the next step beyond this next expansion,” says Page. “There is a lot of ambition and, given where we are located, there will be plans to expand beyond what we currently have planned. So if we can successfully operate a facility that has 100,000 square feet of stages, could we successfully operate something that has 200,000 square feet of stages? I would like to think we could.