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University welcomes plans for major film studio in the city

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Published on 24 February 2023

Artist's impression of Crown Works Studios
Artist's impression of Crown Works Studios

The University of Sunderland has welcomed plans, which require Government funding to go ahead, to build a major international tv and film studio complex in the city. 

FulwellCain Studios, a joint venture between global entertainment company Fulwell 73 and Cain International, has today (Friday 24 February) announced plans for Crown Works Studios in Sunderland, which will be one of the largest filmmaking complexes in Europe, creating more than 8,000 jobs across the north-east over the next decade. 

Subject to planning processes, Crown Works Studios will stand on land on the banks of the River Wear, which played a critical role throughout the industrial revolution, when the city was a shipbuilding powerhouse.

Fulwell 73 – whose northern production office is based in the University’s David Puttnam Media Centre at St Peter’s– is known for Netflix hit Sunderland ‘Til I Die as well as The Late Late Show with James Corden and movies such as Cinderella with Camila Cabello. 

University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Sir David Bell, said: “This is excellent news for the city and for the University’s highly rated film, tv and creative provision. Indeed, the University’s investment and reputation in Film and Photography ranked Sunderland as number one in the recent Guardian University Guide. So, today’s announcement represents an extraordinary opportunity to put the city of Sunderland, the University of Sunderland, and our students and staff at the heart of the international content business.

“The University has developed a close relationship with Fulwell 73 since they moved into our St Peter’s riverside campus. They share our commitment to educate and train the next generation of screen sector professionals, so we look forward to developing that relationship further as the new Sunderland studios are built.”

The plans are being described by city leaders as ‘the single most significant development announcement to come out of the north-east in decades’ and will build on Fulwell 73’s existing presence in the city. The joint venture will spearhead the development of a 1.68m sq ft film industry hub at Pallion, with 20 premium sound stages suitable for major feature film and HETV productions. The scheme will be delivered in three phases, with work set to start in 2023 and the final phase set to complete by 2027.  

Fulwell 73's partners; Gabe Turner, Ben Turner, Leo Pearlman, Ben Winston and James Corden issued this joint statement: “We are unified in our belief that there is a unique opportunity to bring further high end production to the UK through this ambitious Sunderland based studio project; putting the region on the map as a global production destination.”

Leo Pearlman, managing partner at Fulwell 73, continued: “Fulwell is a company built on family and the north-east is embedded in our DNA.  For over 100 years my family had a business here in Sunderland and called this great city home, so to be able to bring Fulwell back to where the inspiration for our global entertainment company began is a truly humbling experience. 

"Through delivering the studios, we will create a long-term production industry infrastructure, attract even more significant high end production to the UK and ensure that future generations of North Eastern talent can develop and prosper at home within the region.” 

Crown Works Studios will include provision for production workshops and office space, a vendor village for supply chain businesses, administrative and social facilities, a multi-storey car park and an extensive backlot.  

The project is supported by Sunderland City Council, which has brought together a number of key partners to work with the investors to shape plans including around the development of the skills-base needed to support the scheme. 

The scheme is in addition to already announced plans for Shipyard Studios which will support a wider cluster of film and media activity.  

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “These are absolutely unparalleled proposals that – if approved - will reinvent the Sunderland economy, establishing the city as home to a modern and growing industry that will create jobs and opportunities for thousands of people across the north-east. 

“This is a vote of confidence for the city and its people – recognising Sunderland’s history of innovation and of making things.  We have been working on these plans with Fulwell 73 and Cain for many months, so it’s absolutely brilliant to finally be in position to unveil them, and to demonstrate the scale of ambition we have for this city.  It’s absolutely transformational and something we’re determined to see through.”