$50m Upper Hutt film studio for large international productions set to open

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

A film studio being constructed in Upper Hutt will be ready for business from next month.

Lane Street Studios was the vision of a fourth-generation Upper Hutt family led by Rod Evans, who provided $50 million for redesigning the Wallaceville site, which was formerly a data centre.

“These facilities have been specifically designed and built to attract large international productions as well as being able to cater to support domestic screen projects as well,” chief executive Kristy Grant said.

“We’re speaking to quite a few international and domestic production companies about using the facilities and the way the industry works is the structure has to be complete before any contracts are signed.”

Grant said talks are continuing with 12 production groups on how progress with the studio is going, and the level of interest has been “good”.

The main studio, which boasts a studio space for filming visuals, offices, a small cinema, an art room, editing suites, a dining area, make up room and wardrobe, is expected to be complete by November.

Construction on two sound stages, which can be connected for a total space of just under 4600 square metres, is set to be completed by the end of April next year.

Up to 500 crew members will be able to work onsite during a production.

“Specifically for Upper Hutt, we’re close to some great locations,” Grant said.

“The demand continues to grow… we’ve got a lot of backlog of content to create and demand for facilities and for production in New Zealand is really, really strong and continues to grow,” she said of the screen industry after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief strategic officer Melissa Conway said a point of difference with the studio is that every aspect of the design has been informed by industry leaders, from the ability for rooms to be changed up depending on the production, natural lighting being present for creating art pieces and layering the walls of editing suites to improve the listening experience and soundproofing the rooms.

“(We’re) really aiming to cover every base so that people have what they need here.”

It’s hoped another large room will be used at times for vocational training to help increase the number of workers in the screen sector.

“There are lots of graduates who are keen to get jobs and we’re looking at how we sort of bridge that gap to get them in, be totally job ready,” Conway said.

Construction began in August last year, but plans for a part of the studio to open from December last year were pushed back due to building delays caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.

“We’re not too far behind schedule, which has been a mercy.”