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Taylor Wimpey and Steven Spielberg join fight for Twickenham Studios

Taylor Wimpey is in talks to convert Twickenham Studios into property and office space, despite an industry campaign to save the studios that has the support of leading filmmakers including Steven Spielberg.

CN’s sister title Screen has learned that the housebuilder is in talks to revamp the site, while a petition to save the existing studios has also been launched with signatories so far including Steven Spielberg, David Cronenberg, Stephen Daldry and Colin Firth.

The renowned UK film and TV studio, which recently hosted Oscar nominees War Horse, The Iron Lady and My Week with Marilyn, is in administration and is due to be shut down this summer.

There are more than 1,350 signatories of the online petition, launched five days ago to save the studios.

David Brown, regional land and planning director for Taylor Wimpey, told Screen: “Taylor Wimpey and the current owners of Twickenham Film Studios are exploring the potential for the site to be redeveloped for a mixed use scheme, providing employment space alongside a mixture of residential dwellings.

“We are mindful that a suitable and sympathetic redevelopment proposal needs to be found for this site and we will shortly begin to engage with local residents and other stakeholders so they can help us to shape our proposals.”

Screen also understands that a number of UK-based private consortia with film connections had drawn up plans to buy and maintain the Studios in recent months but were ultimately unsuccessful. At leasst one consortium’s bid fell short of the asking price.

However a campaign to save the studios is gaining pace and one industry petitioner said: “We have turned over a rock in the last few days and the amount of energy released in the local area has been huge. At the moment this is a fairly disparate group of people doing what they can to raise the noise but I think we are getting more organised and will make sure all the right government and industry bodies are on our side.”

Business secretary and Twickenham MP Vince Cable, currently abroad on ministerial work, has been contacted by concerned residents.

The last accounts posted by Twickenham Film Studios Ltd for the year ended March 2011 showed that the company made a loss of more than £400,000.

Rising rents in the area and competition from larger studios with larger stages and more advanced technology are believed to be partly responsible for the company’s demise and all 17 members of the remaining studio staff are due to be made redundant within the next six months.

Twickenham opened in 1913 and has hosted a string of classic films including Blade Runner, Repulsion, Alfie and The Italian Job.

The business is currently owned by overseas company Shardub Enterprises, registered in the Dutch Antilles.

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