Auckland Film Studios profit on Hollywood blockbuster

Local government-owned studio returns to profit as its facilities were kept busy by the Hollywood production Emperor.

BUSINESSDESK: Local government-owned Auckland Film Studios returned to profit as its facilities were kept busy by the post-World War II Hollywood production Emperor, starring Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones.

Net profit, excluding property revaluations, was $400,000 in the 15 months ended June 30, from a loss of $2.4 million for the previous year, which ended March 31, 2011, Auckland Council says. 

The west Auckland-based studio's profitability is "heavily dependent on its utilisation for film production" and the studios were fully occupied from October 2011 to April 2012 with the filming of Emperor. The council does not invest in the production of films.

"As a result there are inevitably periods when the studios are not fully utilised," chairman Simon Allen and chief executive Gary Swift say. "In those periods, occupancy for the production of television commercials and short films provide a reasonable stream to contribute to fixed costs."

New Zealand's largest production lot has previously hosted films and TV projects such as The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Whale Rider and Xena.

"There is some indication of other films on the way but nothing that can be confirmed publicly," Mr Swift told BusinessDesk. "The main competition for us is studios in other parts of the world.

"New Zealand is a good place to make films and we have a good track record. We also have the advantage of seasonality." 

Auckland Council Investments, which manages the city's investments in the port and airport, inherited its stake in the studios from the Waitakere City Council in November 2010, after the region's eight councils were amalgamated.

The council increased its shareholding to 100% from 44.4% in February 2011 after majority shareholder Tony Tay Films went into receivership. The shares were acquired for $1.5 million.

The supercity's investment arm, which also owns the Post of Auckland and 22.4% of Auckland International Airport, posted an after-tax profit of $84.1 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from a loss of $56.2 million in the eight months of the previous year.

The gain was driven by an increase in its holding of airport shares and the ports continued profitability.

Shares in Auckland Airport are unchanged on $2.64. The stock has gained about 2.5% this year.

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