Major boost for Bristol’s TV and film industry as Bottle Yard Studios’ £11.7m expansion gets green light

January 29, 2021

Bristol’s highly successful Bottle Yard studio complex is to be expanded, creating around 1,000 jobs over the next 10 years and boosting the city’s status as a prime location for film and TV production.

The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) today approved £11.73m for the Bristol City Council-owned studio to buy land on a neighbouring business park in the south of the city and to start construction of new sound stages, production offices and prop stores. 

The proposed works will increase the number of sound stages available at The Bottle Yard Studios from eight to 11, while improvement work will also be carried out on the existing buildings on the main site.

More than 60 titles have been produced at the studios since they opened 10 years ago in disused wine warehouses on a seven-acre site owned by the city council.

Productions have ranged from high-end TV dramas Poldark, Broadchurch, Fortitude, Wolf Hall, The Trial of Christine Keeler, The Spanish Princess (pictured below right) and The Pale Horse (pictured below left) and films such as Hellboy and The Festival to light entertainment programmes The Crystal Maze and Tipping Point, and children’s favourites such as the green-screen series Andy’s Adventures.

The studio has also helped put Bristol firmly on the international film and TV production map – in the 2019-20 financial year the industry contributed £17m towards the city’s economy.

An outline business case submitted to WECA by Bristol City Council for expansion of The Bottle Yard Studios was approved today by the WECA Committee, which greenlit the release of £135,000 to develop a full business case as well as the £11.73m for expansion onto Hawkfield Business Park

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “The Bottle Yard Studios is a terrific example of our region’s vibrant creative sector that brings so much joy to people right across the globe.

“I’m very pleased that as part of our Economic Recovery plan, we can help Bottle Yard Studios with £11.8m to expand and, with support from my team at Invest Bristol and Bath, attract more production companies to the West of England to help showcase the wonderful talent and opportunities we have in our region.”

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees added: “This decision is another significant investment in South Bristol and is a major boost to our wider regeneration plans, bringing growth and jobs into the area. The demand for screen content is growing worldwide.

“The expansion of the Bottle Yard Studios means we can harness this growth in the sector and continue Bristol’s success as a creative destination, ensuring local people and the city economy benefit long-term as we plan our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The expansion plan includes the conversion of an industrial property on the business park, less than half a mile from the main Bottle Yard site.

The three new sound stages measure 20,000 sq ft, 15,000 sq ft and 6,800 sq ft. With ancillary spaces including production offices, prop stores, costume/makeup areas and break out spaces, the new additional space will total around 82,000 sq ft of converted floor space.

The project, which aligns with regional priorities set out in the West of England Local Industrial Strategy and Bristol’s One City Economic Renewal and Recovery Strategy, is intended to maintain and grow film and TV production in Bristol and the West of England.

Senior Bristol film manager Laura Aviles, pictured, who is responsible for The Bottle Yard Studios and Bristol Film Office, said: “This is an extremely positive step in the right direction for our expansion plan.

“At The Bottle Yard Studios we’ve seen a significant post-Covid rise in demand for space, which was already high before the pandemic. Many production companies are now seeking to secure studios for multiple year periods.

“With more high-end TV titles opting to shoot in Bristol than ever before, this expansion will enable The Bottle Yard Studios to attract an even greater percentage of that potential business to the region.  

“Valuable jobs will be generated for Bristol’s talented crew base, local companies will see an increase in workflow and vital career opportunities for industry entrants from all parts of the city will be created, particularly for those living close to the Studios in South Bristol. All at a time when these opportunities are needed more than ever.”

She said Bristol and the West of England region had built a strong reputation for their creative sector, which has resulted in the recent arrivals of Channel 4 and Netflix and Bristol being named a UNESCO City of Film.

“In the past 15 years, Bristol Film Office has assisted TV & film production worth more than £235m of inward investment across the region, an average total of £15.8m per year, and is actively working with WECA’s Invest Bristol & Bath team to attract further production companies and related businesses to the area,” she added.

The Bottle Yard Studios are already the largest dedicated film and TV studio facility in the West of England.

Some 26 tenant businesses are based on site, including animation and VFX specialists Axis Studios, sound design company Radium Audio, Bristol Costume Services and post-production house Film@59’s kit hire arm.

New Motion Capture Innovation Studio run by EPSRC and University of Bath-funded research centre CAMERA (Centre for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research & Applications) is opening at the Studios this spring.

Titles currently in production at The Bottle Yard Studios include Stephen Merchant’s new BBC/Amazon Prime series The Offenders starring Christopher Walken, Netflix Original series The Last Bus and Starz Original Series Becoming Elizabeth starring Alicia von Rittenberg.

Upcoming titles due on screen this year include BBC One/HBO Nancy Mitford adaptation The Pursuit of Love starring Lily James. The Studios are also home to gameshows Tipping Point and Tipping Point Lucky Stars (ITV), The Crystal Maze (Channel 4) and The Crystal Maze US (Nickelodeon). 

The Spanish Princess image is courtesy New Pictures, STARZ. The Pale Horse image is courtesy Mammoth Screen, Agatha Christie Ltd, BBC

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