LJMU pulls out of £70m Liverpool movie studios

In a major blow to the £70m Littlewoods movie studio project in Liverpool one of the two anchor tenants – Liverpool John Moores University – is pulling out. Tony McDonough reports

Littlewoods, Capital & Centric
CGI of how the Littlewoods TV and film complex will look


Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) is pulling out of a deal to take 75,000 sq ft of space at a £70m film studios complex in Liverpool.

LJMU signed up to be one of two anchor tenants at the scheme at the former Littlewoods art deco headquarters near Edge Lane in 2020. Twickenham Film Studios, to be operated by TIME+SPACE Studios, has taken 85,000 sq ft of studio and ancillary.

However, the Liverpool Echo revealed on Wednesday that LJMU was pulling out as an anchor. The university insists it will remain an “active and close partner” of the project but will be investing further in its own campus and facilities.

In a statement it said: “Littlewoods is a remarkable project and the university is fully supportive of the transformational potential it has for film and TV industries in the city and the opportunities it will create.

“Screen, creative, digital and media disciplines are an important part of our portfolio; to provide our digital and creative arts students with an exceptional university experience, we will continue to invest in our existing city campus facilities, but will not be leasing space in the Littlewoods project.

“We will remain an active and close partner, committed to working in partnership with the film office, the city, the combined authority and the film industry locally to support inclusive growth in this sector.”

In plans backed by both Liverpool City Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Manchester developer Capital & Centric is set to convert the site into a premier TV and film production hub.

Thanks to the work of Liverpool Film Office over a number of years, Liverpool is already the second most filmed city in the UK. Major blockbusters such as Warner Bros’ The Batman and Netflix’s Munich: The Edge of War were filmed in the city.

However, the drawback for the city has always been the lack of a studio, sound stage and good post-production facilities. This means as soon as the cameras stop rolling, the bandwagon rolls out of town. This project seeks to address that.

Last year two pop-up studios known as The Depot were completed by Liverpool City Council at a cost of £3m. It is predicted that The Depot alone will create a £24m economic boost for the regional economy, creating 360 new jobs and 760 indirect jobs.

Last month it was revealed contracts were still being signed between the Combined Authority and current leaseholders Capital and Centric. Remediation work may start on the project before the end of this year. 

Liverpool City Council says talks are already under way with other education partners to replace LJMU. A spokesperson added: “The withdrawal of LJMU from the Littlewoods scheme is regrettable but it makes no material difference to the planned remediation of the site, the funding for which is set to be approved this month.”

John Moffat of Capital & Centric told the Echo: “We’re not doing the deal with LJMU as originally envisaged but we’re still in talks with them about being involved. This doesn’t change the overall vision for the Littlewoods Project.

“THere will still be an education provider whether the University is involved or not and this doesn’t impact on the Combined Authority pressing ahead with funding. The legal agreements are almost in place for us to kick start this massive regeneration project that will cement Liverpool’s position at the forefront of the UK’s film and TV industry.”

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