|Alternative names||Elstree Film and TV Studios|
|Type||Film and television studios|
|Address||Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 1JG|
|Current tenants||Elstree Film Studios Limited|
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.
The studio complex has passed through many owners during its lifetime, and is now owned by Hertsmere Borough Council. Known as the studios used for filming Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929)—the first British talkie, Star Wars (1977), TheShining (1980) and Indiana Jones (its largest stage is known as the George Lucas Soundstage), the studios are used both for film and television productions.
With the BBC Elstree Centre nearby, a number of the stages are leased to BBC Studioworks, and are used for recording television productions such as Strictly Come Dancing .
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. After discord among the partners, which by this time included Herbert Wilcox, their solicitor John Maxwell invested and was able to gain control of the company. The first film produced there was Madame Pompadour (1927).
By 1927, Maxwell controlled all the stock, and the company was renamed British International Pictures (BIP) and the second stage was ready for production in 1928. Maxwell placed Alfred Hitchcock under contract in a 3-year, 12-picture deal, and after several silents, he was responsible for Blackmail (1929), the first British talkie released, which was produced at the studios. 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 with BIP retaining the remaining stages. Elstree Calling (1930), made by BIP, was reputedly Britain's first musical film.
BIP became Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) in 1933,although the BIP name continued to be used for some purposes until 31 March 1937. Maxwell died in 1940 and during World War II, the studios were used by the War Office for storage.
In 1946, Warner Brothers acquired a substantial interest in ABPC, appointed a new board and decided to rebuild the stages. This was completed in 1948 and work began on Man on the Run followed by The Hasty Heart starring Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan.
The Shenley Road studios were frequently used in the 1960s for productions on film for ABPC's television arm, ABC Weekend TV. Later episodes of The Avengers were among these (which were credited to "ABC Television Films Ltd, Associated British Elstree Studios"). Several similar productions by ITC for ATV were also filmed there, including The Saint , The Baron , Department S and The Champions . All of these series made extensive use of a townscape standing set constructed at the rear of the studio site, originally for the 1961 Cliff Richard film The Young Ones .
In 1969, Electric and Musical Industries (EMI) finally gained control of ABPC and the studios were renamed EMI-Elstree Studios.
In 1969, Bryan Forbes was appointed head of production of the film studio (see EMI Films). Dennis Barker, in his obituary of Forbes for The Guardian , states that "This amounted virtually to an attempt to revive the ailing British film industry by instituting a traditional studio system with a whole slate of films in play."Under Forbes's leadership, the studio produced The Railway Children (1970), The Tales of Beatrix Potter (1971) and The Go-Between (1971), all successful films. His tenure though, was short-lived and marked by financial problems, brought about by deliberately withheld funding and failed projects. Forbes resigned in 1971. In his autobiography A Divided Life he states that "They were years of high hopes, of excitement, often of fulfilment and contrary to what various pundits said after the event, the programme proved a commercial success, returning according to the latest  figures a profit in excess of £16,000,000 on a capital outlay of £4,000,000." During the period 1970–73, EMI had a short-lived production and distribution deal with the American MGM film company, after the closure of their MGM-British Studios in Elstree. During this period the facilities were known as the EMI-MGM Elstree Studios.
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. Due to the sterling efforts of Mitchell and the help of John Reed who was on the board of EMI and Alan Sapper the head of the ACTT Union, he turned the studios into a four-wall facility, which effectively meant reducing the staff to administration, with the exception of the dubbing facility and having freelance crew being brought in by each production company. This was inevitable due to the changing nature of cinematic styles that relied increasingly on location shooting and the reduced financial involvement of EMI in its own film productions, thus rendering a permanent production staff employed full-time at the facility redundant.
Films shot at the facility over the next few years included the Agatha Christie mystery film Murder on the Orient Express (1974), directed by Sidney Lumet; Ken Russell's Valentino (1977; Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980); Fred Zinnemann's drama film Julia (1977); and most significantly for the studio's immediate survival through a deal brokered by Andrew Mitchell, George Lucas with 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 and Jim Henson. This was the golden era of the construction picture, which essentially required large studio facilities to fulfill the filmmakers' vision, before computer-generated imagery technology and Elstree became synonymous with this kind of picture due to the success of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.
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.
The studios were put up for sale in 1985. A management team beat off all other prospective buyers with the help of Alan Bond but the team had difficulty raising their share of the purchase price and Bond took over. Soon afterwards he sold the studios to the Herron-Cannon Group in 1986. In 1987, Weintraub Entertainment Group attempted to buy the studios, but the deal collapsed.In 1988, Cannon sold the studios to the leisure and property company Brent Walker plc and much of the backlot was sold off and demolished with a Tesco superstore being built on the land.
A "Save Our Studios" campaign was launched in 1988 by managing director, Andrew Mitchell, local Town Councillor and studio historian Paul Welsh, with the support of many film actors and the general public. Hertsmere Borough Council stepped in and bought the remaining facilities in February 1996 and appointed a management company, Elstree Film & Television Studios Ltd., to run the studios in 2000. The purchase ended an eight-year struggle that was due to have culminated in High Court action. Brent Walker's offer to sell the site to the council, for an undisclosed sum (but no more than its worth as a film studio), represented a victory for the local authority in upholding the planning agreements that protected the studios.
The studios are now most commonly known for being the home of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and the Big Brother house (previously at Three Mills Studios in Bow, East London). The Big Brother house was actually built on top of the studios' old underwater stage where scenes in The Dam Busters (1955) and Moby-Dick (1956) were filmed. Elstree Film & Television Studios Ltd's lease expired at the end of March 2007.
It was announced in 2012 that the studios would be the temporary home of BBC Studios and Post Production during the redevelopment of Television Centre.Shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Pointless were based on the site from spring 2013. The original plan was for the BBC to move back to refurbished Television Centre studios in 2015, however due to delays in the broader redevelopment of the old Television Centre site in July 2014, the lease was extended until 2017.
Elstree Studios are now operated by Elstree Film Studios Ltd, a company controlled by Hertsmere Borough Council. Feature film production continues alongside television production, commercials and pop promos; recent productions include 44 Inch Chest , Bright Star , 1408 , Son of Rambow , Amazing Grace , The Other Boleyn Girl , Notes on a Scandal , Breaking and Entering , Flyboys , Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith , Dancing on Ice and Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old? for Sky television among many others.
On 25 November 2019 it was announced that Elstree Studios would continue with their partnership with BBC Studioworks to provide television studio facilities. The arrangement will see the use of stages by the BBC continue until at least March 2024.
The United Kingdom has had a significant film industry for over a century. While film production reached an all-time high in 1936, the "golden age" of British cinema is usually thought to have occurred in the 1940s, during which the directors David Lean, Michael Powell, and Carol Reed produced their most critically acclaimed works. Many British actors have accrued critical success and worldwide recognition, such as Audrey Hepburn, Maggie Smith, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Joan Collins, Judi Dench, Julie Andrews, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet. Some of the films with the largest ever box office returns have been made in the United Kingdom, including the third and sixth highest-grossing film franchises.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bryan Forbes CBE was an English film director, screenwriter, film producer, actor and novelist described as a "Renaissance man" and "one of the most important figures in the British film industry".
BBC Studioworks Limited is a commercial subsidiary of the BBC, providing television studios, post production and related services to the market.
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.
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.
Elstree Calling is a 1930 British comedy musical film directed by Adrian Brunel and Alfred Hitchcock at 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.
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.
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.
Walter Charles Mycroft was a British journalist, screenwriter, film producer and director. In the 1920s he was film critic of the London Evening Standard, and a founder of the London Film Society, before joining the film industry.
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.
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.
John Maxwell (1879–1940) was a British film producer. Maxwell was the co-owner of British International Pictures, which emerged as the largest British studio following the Film Act of 1927. Maxwell was a Scottish lawyer who first came into contact with the film industry in 1912. In 1927 he took over the newly constructed British National Studios in Elstree after its founders ran into financial problems. Maxwell built a vertically integrated company incorporating film production, film distribution, initially through Wardour Films, and a large network of cinemas that enabled the company to compete with the leading German and Hollywood firms. Along with the facilities in Elstree, the company also acquired Welwyn Studios in Welwyn Garden City.