Pinewood Shepperton, the film studios home to Hollywood hits such as James Bond and Harry Potter, is to invest in smaller British films in the hope of finding the "next King's Speech". Announcing a 31% rise in pre-tax profits to £5.8m, Pinewood chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said he was "delighted" that the famous studios was "returning to its heritage in British film". Once home to the Carry On films, Pinewood will buy up to a 20% stake in small British films with budgets of around £2m. It hopes to echo the Oscar-winning success of The King's Speech, although its still modest £9m production budget is greater than Pinewood's self-imposed limits. "For smaller British films, it's always difficult to access the last piece of financing," Dunleavy told the Guardian. "Hopefully this will help get projects started. But we're not trying to do every film – we're being careful how we select them and what's interesting is we hope that the talent involved will become some of our big budget films."
The announcements comes as Pinewood posted an 8% improvement in revenues to £43.3m for the year ending 31 December. The company expects revenues to grow further this year as its 75-year-old studios play host to a number of big-budget films and TV shows, including ITV's Dancing on Ice. The latest Pirates of the Caribbean film helped lift Pinewood's film revenues 28% last year to £29.1m. Dunleavy said the UK's "key strengths" mean the studios will continue to be an attractive proposition for Hollywood's top producers for years to come. "The UK is creatively very good and economically very efficient," he said. "Those are our key strengths, obviously helped by macro factors like the favourable exchange rate – but that wouldn't matter if we didn't have the skills and efficiencies which we have a strong track record in."
The King's Speech, which won four Oscars including best picture and best actor for Colin Firth, is on track to gross in excess of $300m (£185m), making it one of the most lucrative British films. Pinewood's TV division was the only dark cloud in the studio's full-year results, hit by ITV and the BBC deciding to use their own in-house studios to save on costs. However, Dunleavy described as "encouraging" ITV's tripling of its pre-tax profit and earmarking of £12m to hire new programme-making talent. "Our TV business continued to perform well in a difficulty broadcast market," he said. "But the demand for TV content continues to rise, with more channels then ever before – the demand for British TV and formats is very strong."