Elstree Studios

Last updated

Elstree Studios
Elstree Studios - geograph.org.uk - 1882776.jpg
One of the many Elstree Studios, at Shenley Road, Borehamwood
Hertfordshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Hertfordshire
General information
TypeGroup of many film and television studios
Address Elstree and Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
CountryUnited Kingdom
Coordinates 51°39′29″N0°16′34″W / 51.658°N 0.276°W / 51.658; -0.276 Coordinates: 51°39′29″N0°16′34″W / 51.658°N 0.276°W / 51.658; -0.276
Construction started1914 (1914)

Elstree Studios is a generic term which can refer to several current and demolished British film studios and television studios based in or around the town of Borehamwood and village of Elstree in Hertfordshire, England. Production studios have been located in the area since 1914 when film production began there. Two sites remain in use in Borehamwood: Elstree Studios on Shenley Road and the BBC Elstree Centre on Eldon Avenue.

Contents

Films shot at Elstree include: Britain's first sound film, Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929), The Dam Busters (1955), Moby Dick (1956), Summer Holiday (1963), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Where Eagles Dare (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), Star Wars (1977), The Shining (1980) and the Indiana Jones films.

Television shows shot at Elstree include The Avengers , Danger Man , The Prisoner , UFO , Robot Wars , The Muppet Show , EastEnders , Holby City , Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Big Brother . The music video for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was filmed at Elstree in November 1975. [1]

History and facilities

Elstree and Borehamwood parish UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Millennium
Studios
Red pog.svg
Sky
Studios
Elstree
The studios shown within Elstree and Borehamwood parish

Despite being called "Elstree Studios", only one studio has ever been located in Elstree itself, the remainder residing in the adjacent town of Borehamwood. When the studios were being established, Elstree was significantly larger than Borehamwood. Nowadays, Borehamwood is larger, but the old names have remained in use.

The civil parish that contains the town was called "Elstree". The local railway station was originally known as "Elstree" [2] (nowadays, it is called "Elstree & Borehamwood"). The local telephone exchange was also called "Elstree".

Eldon Avenue Studios, Borehamwood

Entrance to BBC Elstree Centre BBC Elstree Centre, Borehamwood (33045615514).jpg
Entrance to BBC Elstree Centre

The Neptune Film Company opened the first studios in Borehamwood in 1914. Production ceased during 1917, and the studio was sold to the Ideal Film Company who used the site up until 1924.

During 1928, the studio was sold to Ludwig Blattner who connected it to the electricity mains and introduced a German system of sound recording. The Blattner Studio was leased to Joe Rock Productions during 1934, which purchased the site two years later. Rock Productions built four new large stages. The site was again sold, and taken over by the British National Films Company between 1939 and 1948, although during this period a large portion of the studio was taken over by the British government for war work.

During 1953, the studios were bought by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., mainly for television production and were later sold to Lew Grade's Associated Television (ATV). The Eldon Avenue centre became the main television production hub for ATV. The smaller Studios A and B were used for schools and sitcoms, while Studio C was a drama studio. Studio D, with permanent audience seating, was used for light entertainment programmes [3] such as the ATV Morecambe and Wise series Two of a Kind (1961–68) and The Muppet Show (1976–81). [4]

When ATV was restructured as Central Independent Television in 1982, one of the conditions of its licence renewal by the governing body of the ITV network, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, was that ATV should leave any London-centric facilities and become more focused on the Midlands, the part of the United Kingdom to which it broadcast ITV programmes. They remained in operation by Central up until July 1983.

The BBC bought the Elstree site in 1984 to produce its new soap opera EastEnders (first aired on 19 February 1985). In addition to EastEnders, many other programmes have been made there including Top of the Pops , 'Allo 'Allo! , You Rang, M'Lord? , Grange Hill , Hangar 17 and Holby City . Most of the site is now devoted to EastEnders production, but Studio D is available for hire via BBC Studioworks.

Elstree Studios, Shenley Rd, Borehamwood

The Main Gate entrance at Shenley Road (late 1990s) Elstree Studios - Entrance Area.jpg
The Main Gate entrance at Shenley Road (late 1990s)

British National Pictures Ltd. purchased 40 acres (16 ha) of land on the south side of Shenley Road and began construction of two large film stages in 1925. The first film produced there was Madame Pompadour (1927). The company was renamed British International Pictures (BIP) and a second stage was ready for production in 1928.

Alfred Hitchcock made Blackmail (1929), the first British talkie at the studios in 1929. At the end of the silent-film era, six new sound stages were built; three of these were sold to the British & Dominions Film Corporation. BIP became Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) in 1933. [5] During World War II, the studios were used by the War Office for storage. [6]

In 1946, Warner Brothers acquired a substantial interest in ABPC, appointed a new board and decided to rebuild the stages. In 1969, EMI gained control of ABPC and the studios were renamed EMI-Elstree Studios. [7] In 1969, Bryan Forbes was appointed head of production of the film studio (see EMI Films). His tenure was short-lived and marked by financial problems, brought about by deliberately withheld funding and failed projects. Forbes resigned in 1971. [8] [9] During the period 1970–73, when EMI had a short-lived production and distribution deal with the American Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio, the facilities were known as the EMI-MGM Elstree Studios. [7]

In 1974, Andrew Mitchell took over from Ian Scott as managing director of the studios but was almost immediately told to close the facility and lay off all the staff. This was halted, but only with significant job cuts and closure of some facilities. The studio's immediate survival was secured through the facilities being used for Star Wars (1977). This led to subsequent Lucas productions such as the Star Wars sequels and Indiana Jones franchise being made at Elstree and also brought in directors Steven Spielberg. In 1979, Thorn Electrical Industries merged with EMI after EMI's debacle with its invention of the CT scanner, and the studios were renamed Thorn-EMI Elstree Studios. [7]

Stages at Elstree Studios ElstreeStudiosLot.jpg
Stages at Elstree Studios

The studios were put up for sale in 1985. Acquired by the entertainment and property company Brent Walker, most of the backlot and several facilities were demolished to build a Tesco superstore. A "Save Our Studios" campaign led to the site being purchased by Hertsmere Borough Council in February 1996 and management company, Elstree Film & Television Studios Ltd was appointed to run the studios in 2000.

The studios at Shenley Road are used for both film and television production, and the studios are the permanent home of BBC Studioworks during the redevelopment of Television Centre. [10] Shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Pointless are recorded there. [11]

Station Road Studios, Borehamwood

The former Gate Studios in 2004, before demolition in 2006 Borehamwood, Gate Studios from Station Road - geograph.org.uk - 746323.jpg
The former Gate Studios in 2004, before demolition in 2006

A single large stage was built in Station Road in 1928 by Whitehall Films Ltd, but the company was wound up in 1930. In 1935, Julius Hagen, the owner of Twickenham Studios, bought the site and formed a new company, JH Studios.

In 1937, financial difficulties forced Hagen to sell the studios to MP Productions owned by producer J Banberger.

During World War II, the studio was used by the government for storage.

In 1950, the site was bought by J. Arthur Rank, who renamed it Gate Studios and made religious films.

Production ceased in 1957, and the site was sold to Andrew Harkness, a manufacturer of cinema screens. Harkness Screens moved out of the site in 2004 having established a global manufacturing base in France and the US and relocated its UK operation to a new production facility in Stevenage. The building in Borehamwood was demolished in 2006 to make way for apartments new properties, the development being named Gate Studios in homage to the former site.

Imperial Studios, Borehamwood

Fire destroys three stages of British and Dominions Studios. The Illustrated London News 15 February 1936 1936-elstree-film-studio-fire.jpg
Fire destroys three stages of British and Dominions Studios. The Illustrated London News 15 February 1936

In 1930, the British and Dominions Film Corporation bought three new sound stages from British International Pictures Ltd on the adjoining site before their construction was completed, which they named "Imperial Studios". Alexander Korda made one of his greatest successes at the studio, The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), which starred Charles Laughton as the King. The film's success in the United States and elsewhere persuaded United Artists and The Prudential to invest in Korda's proposed Denham Film Studios. [12]

Film production continued until 1936 when fire destroyed the three stages. [13] British and Dominions made a substantial investment in Pinewood Studios at Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, and moved production there. The support buildings in Borehamwood that remained after the fire were sold off to various companies including Frank Landsdown Ltd, which opened a film vault service. The Rank Organisation bought the music stage for the production of documentary films. It later became the headquarters of the film and sound-effect libraries.

MGM British, Borehamwood

Amalgamated Studios Ltd constructed a large studio on the north side of Elstree Way between 1935 and 1937, but its plans collapsed and the facility was soon sold to Rank, who never used it for making films. After a brief period owned by the Prudential, the studios were purchased by the American film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1944 [14] and was renamed MGM-British Studios. [7] After improvements the studio contained seven stages totalling over 70,000 square feet (7,000 m2) of floor space. MGM sometimes leased the studios to other film companies including the 20th Century Fox-produced The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), for which a large set of a Chinese town, complete with artificial lakes, covering some 500,000 square feet, was constructed. [15]

Several stages were taken up with the sets for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) over its extended production schedule, and indeed Stanley Kubrick's film is sometimes blamed for making the studios financially unviable. The facility continued to be used until 1970 when MGM closed the studios. The American company formed a short-lived deal with EMI, while the site of its former studios was redeveloped for industrial use and housing.

Danziger Studios, Elstree

In 1956 the Danziger brothers converted a wartime plane engine testing factory into a film studio they called "New Elstree", [16] which was located to the west of the Aldenham Reservoir. The 7.5-acre (3.0 ha) site had six sound stages and employed 200. It was used mainly for second features and television series, but was closed by 1962 and sold in 1965. [16] The site is now occcupied by "The Waterfront" business park on the A411 Elstree Road. [17]

Millennium Studios, Elstree Way, Borehamwood

Established in 1993, the Millennium Studios on the south side of Elstree Way (opposite the site of the former MGM-British studios) offered television and film production space together with associated services. Productions shot there include the first series of CBBC's The Mysti Show in 2004 and one year of Channel 5's Trisha Goddard in 2005. [18] Millennium Studios relocated to Thurleigh near Bedford in 2010. [19]

A single television studio, Studio 2000, remains on the Borehamwood site, [20] and has been used for Rude Tube . [18]

Sky Studios Elstree, Borehamwood

In December 2019, media conglomerate Sky announced plans to develop a new studio facility at Rowley Lane. [21] The new studios are expected to open in 2022, [22] and to have 14 stages with the smallest being approximately 1,800 m2 (19,000 sq ft). [23] The site is also expected to house post-production facilities and an on-site screening cinema. [24]

Timeline

The following table lists all the various names of studios over time.

Clarendon Road
/ Eldon Avenue
    
1914–1917
Neptune Film
1917–1928
Ideal Films
Shenley Road
1925–1927
British National
Pictures
1927–1933
British
International
Pictures
Station Road
1928–1934
Blattner
1928–1934
Whitehall
Imperial Place
1929–1936
British and Dominions'
Imperial
1933–1969
Associated
British
Picture
Corporation
1934–1939
Rock
1934–1935
Consolidated
Elstree Way
(north side)
1935–1937
J.H.
1935–1944
Amalgamated
 
1937–1950
M.P.
1939–1953
British National
Films
1944–1970
MGM-British
1950–1957
Gate
1953–1958
National
(a.k.a. Fairbanks)
Danziger
1956–1965
New Elstree
 
1958–1981
ATV
 
1969–1970
EMI
1970–1973
EMI-MGM
 
1973–1979
EMI
 
1979–1986
Thorn-EMI
 
1982–1983
Central TV
1984–present
BBC Elstree
Centre
1986–1988
Cannon
1988–1996
Goldcrest
 
Elstree Way
(south side)
1993–2006
Millennium
1996–2007
Elstree Film & TV
2007–2008
Elstree Film
2008–present
Elstree
Studios
2009–present
Studio 2000
Rowley Lane
2022–present
(under construction)

Sky Studios
Elstree

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ABC Weekend TV</span> Former ITV service for Midlands & North England

ABC Weekend TV was the popular name of the British broadcaster ABC Television Limited, which provided the weekend service in the Midlands and Northern England regions of the Independent Television (ITV) network from 1956 to 1968. It was one of the "Big Four" companies that between them produced the majority of ITV networked programmes during this period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Associated Television</span> Former ITV service for London and the Midlands

Associated Television was the original name of the British broadcaster ATV, part of the Independent Television (ITV) network. It provided a service to London at weekends from 1955 to 1968, to the Midlands on weekdays from 1956 to 1968, and to the Midlands all week from 1968 to 1982. It was one of the "Big Four" until 1968, and the "Big Five" after 1968, that between them produced the majority of ITV networked programmes. In 1982, ATV was restructured and rebranded as Central Independent Television, under which name it continued to provide the service for the Midlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Borehamwood</span> Town in southern Hertfordshire, England

Borehamwood is a town in southern Hertfordshire, England, 12 miles (19 km) from Charing Cross. Borehamwood has a population of 31,074, and is within the London commuter belt. The town's film and TV studios are commonly known as Elstree Studios.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hertsmere</span> Place in England

Hertsmere is a local government district and borough in Hertfordshire, England. Its council is based in Borehamwood. Other settlements in the borough include Bushey, Elstree, Radlett and Potters Bar. The borough borders the three north London boroughs of Harrow, Barnet and Enfield, and is located mainly within the M25 Motorway.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">BBC Studioworks</span> Television studio provider in the United Kingdom

BBC Studioworks Limited is a commercial subsidiary of the BBC, providing television studios, post production and related services to the market.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ITC Entertainment</span> UK-based TV and movie production and distribution company

The Incorporated Television Company (ITC), or ITC Entertainment as it was referred to in the United States, was a British company involved in production and distribution of television programmes.

EMI Films was a British film studio and distributor. A subsidiary of the EMI conglomerate, the corporate name was not used throughout the entire period of EMI's involvement in the film industry, from 1969 to 1986, but the company's brief connection with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Anglo-EMI, the division under Nat Cohen, and the later company as part of the Thorn EMI conglomerate are outlined here.

MGM-British was a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer initially established at Denham Film Studios in 1936. It was in limbo during the Second World War; however, following the end of hostilities, a facility was acquired in Borehamwood, which remained in use until it was closed in 1970.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Associated British Picture Corporation</span> Film production company

Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), originally British International Pictures (BIP), was a British film production, distribution and exhibition company active from 1927 until 1970 when it was absorbed into EMI. ABPC also owned approximately 500 cinemas in Britain by 1943, and in the 1950s and 60s owned a station on the ITV television network. The studio was partly owned by Warner Bros. from about 1940 until 1969; the American company also owned a stake in ABPC's distribution arm, Warner-Pathé, from 1958. It formed one half of a vertically integrated film industry duopoly in Britain with the Rank Organisation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gate Studios</span> Part of Elstree Studios

Gate Studios was one of the many studios known collectively as Elstree Studios in the town of Borehamwood, England. Opened in 1928, the studios were in use until the early 1950s. The studios had previously been known as Whitehall Studios, Consolidated Studios, J.H. Studios and M.P. Studios.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ABC Cinemas</span> Movie theatre chain

ABC Cinemas was a cinema chain in the United Kingdom. Originally a wholly owned subsidiary of Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), it operated between the 1930s and the 1980s. The brand name was reused in the 1990s until 2000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">BBC Elstree Centre</span> TV studios in Hertfordshire, England

The BBC Elstree Centre, sometimes referred to as the BBC Elstree Studios, is a television production facility, currently owned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The complex is located between Eldon Avenue and Clarendon Road in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British and Dominions Imperial Studios</span> Former film studios in Elstree, England

Imperial Studios were the studios of the British and Dominions Film Corporation, a short-lived British film production company located at Imperial Place, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The studios were active from 1929 to 1936, when they were destroyed by fire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Elstree Project</span>

The Elstree Project is an oral history project which began in 2010, interviewing cast and crew members who worked at Elstree Studios. The project is conducted in partnership Howard Berry, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, and formerly involved Elstree Screen Heritage as a partner. The project is endorsed by the BECTU History Project and Elstree Film Studios.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elstree Studios (Shenley Road)</span> Film and TV production facility in England

Elstree Studios on Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire is a British film and television production centre operated by Elstree Film Studios Limited. One of several facilities historically referred to as Elstree Studios, the Shenley Road studios originally opened in 1925.

This is a timeline of the history of the former British television broadcaster ATV. It provided the ITV service for London at weekends and the Midlands on weekdays from 1955 to 1968, and for the Midlands all week from 1968 to 1982.

New Elstree Studios was a British film studio complex that was the main production centre for the Danziger Brothers from 1956 to 1962, and was one of several sites collectively known as "Elstree Studios". 60 B-movies and 350 half-hour TV episodes were filmed there, for both British and American markets.

References

  1. Purvis, Georg (2007). Queen: Complete Works. Reynolds & Hearn. p. 123.
  2. Butt, R. V. J. (October 1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 91. ISBN   978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC   60251199. OL   11956311M.
  3. Barfe Turned Out Nice Again, p.108
  4. Brian Jay Jones Jim Henson: The Biography, London: Random House, 2013, p.126
  5. Burton, Alan; Chibnall, Steve (2013). Historical Dictionary of British Cinema. Lanham, MD and Plymouth, England: Scarecrow Press. p. 43. ISBN   9780810880269.
  6. Warren, p. 71
  7. 1 2 3 4 Warren, p.76
  8. Batty D. Bryan Forbes, acclaimed film director, dies aged 86. The Guardian. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013
  9. "Stepford Wives film director Bryan Forbes dies aged 86". BBC News. BBC. 9 May 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  10. Jake Bickerton (7 August 2012). "News & Comments". Televisual. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  11. "Television Centre return delayed by two years". BBC News. 17 July 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  12. Patricia Warren British Film Studios: An Illustrated History, London: B. T. Batsford, 2001, pp. 26, 28
  13. "British Film Studios at Elstree Destroyed in $2,250,000 Blaze". Calgary Daily Herald . 10 February 1936. p. 9.
  14. "MGM Buy Film Studios at Elstree". The Guardian . 18 April 1944. p. 5.
  15. Warren, p.85
  16. 1 2 Tise Vahimagi "Danzigers, The", BFI screenonline
  17. "From B-movies into b-roads". Borehamwood and Elstree Times. Newsquest Media Group Ltd. 15 March 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  18. 1 2 Kempton, Martin. "Millennium Studios / Studio 2000 Borehamwood". TV Studio History. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  19. "Millennium Studios – The Story". Millennium Studios. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  20. "Welcome to Studio 2000". Studio 2000. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  21. "Sky to develop major new studio at Elstree". www.skygroup.sky. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  22. "Sky to build huge new Elstree film studio". BBC News. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  23. Sweney, Mark (3 December 2019). "Sky to create 2,000 jobs with new Elstree TV and film studio". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  24. Hazlegreaves, Steph (3 December 2019). "Sky reveals plans to develop 32-acre studio at Elstree". Planning, BIM & Construction Today. Retrieved 28 May 2020.

Sources