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  • Elstree Studios

    Welcome to the beginnings of a site about Elstree Film Studios. The location has been used for movie / TV production since 1925.

    Film Studios at Elstree
    Elstree was a major centre for film production from the early days of cinema. There’s a great deal of confusion about which studios at Elstree were used for which movies / TV shows.
    This section covers Elstree Film Studios (also known as Shenley Road Studios, British International Pictures, Associated British Pictures, EMI Elstree Studios, Goldcrest Elstree Studios, Cannon Elstree Studios, Elstree Film & TV Studios)

    Other Elstree Studios;

    • BBC Elstree Centre (also known as Clarendon Road Studios, Neptune Studios, Rock Studios, National Studios, ATV Studios, Central TV Studios).
    • Millenium Studios
    • Gate Studios (also known as Station Road Studios)
    • Danziger Studios (also known as New Elstree Studios)
    • MGM Borehamwood (also known as Elstree Way Studios)

    Despite reducing the studio size by more than half in the late 1980s, Elstree is still a powerhouse of British film and TV production. A Tesco superstore was built on the former studio property in 1991.

    Elstree Studios – History

    1925
    After having seen the Neptune Studio operation (now the BBC Elstree Centre) which opened in 1914, the young British film producer Herbert Wilcox and a Hollywood producer J.D.Williams began building on a site just over the road from Neptune Studios.

    1927
    The first feature at the newly christened Elstree Studios (although they were built in Borehamwood) was Madame Pompadour, starring Dorothy Gish, released in 1927.
    The facility fell into the hands of Scottish cinema owner John Maxwell after a disagreement with the original investors and Wilcox & Williams. Maxwell named the studio British International Pictures (BIP) and signed up new talent including Alfred Hitchcock, while investing heavily in expanding the facilities. One of the admin buildings is named after Maxwell in recognition of his place in studio history. Maxwell’s first production The White Sheik was produced in 1927 and released just before Madame Pompadour

    1929
    Blackmail, being directed by Alfred Hitchcock at Elstree, became the first British film with sound (using the sound on film process). Following the success of The Jazz Singer in the US, silent sequences that had already been shot were discarded and reshot with sound.

    1936
    February – Several sound stages and admin buildings are destroyed by a fire.

    1939
    The studio goes dark during the war years, and is used as an ordnance depot and a garrison theatre. John Maxwell died during the war, and his widow sold a large number of his shares to Warner Bros who agreed to rebuild the facility during 1946/47. 
    After the reopening, the studio is known as Associated British Picture Corporation.

    1951
    March – The Queen and Princess Margaret pay a visit to the set of The Magic Box and meet Robert Donat and Maria Schell.

    1960s
    The studio takes on more TV production as cinema audiences decline, including The Saint and The Avengers.

    1970s
    Thorn EMI takes over the studios, and appoint Bryan Forbes as Head of Production.
    Financial problems continue, and the studio moves to a rental-only facility, where productions simply rent the empty stages, and provide all their own staff. EMI fails to inject enough money into the studios, and Bryan Forbes resigns, after greenlighting movies such as The Railway Children.

    1976
    George Lucas chooses Elstree to be the production base for Star Wars. Both the sequels also shot here, and he invited Steven Spielberg to also use the studios for Raiders of the Lost Ark and it’s Indiana Jones sequels.
    As the studio is once again profitable, a new large silent stage is built.

    1980
    Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is shot at Elstree, with all interior scenes of The Overlook Hotel filmed on soundstages.

    1986
    Thorn EMI decides to sell the studio, and it’s purchased by Cannon who sold off the film library and produced Superman IV. After financial problems hit the company, they put the studio up for sale, and George Walker of Brent Walker buys it after a successful campaign by local volunteers called Save Our Studio (SOS).
    Walker bought the site as a development opportunity and gained permission from Hertsmere Council to demolish much of the facility and sell 12 acres to Tesco provided they retained and rebuilt the remaining 15 acres as a viable, modern studio.
    With a general recession kicking in and Brent Walker owing £1,500 million pounds to 48 banks it was obvious things would not going to plan so the SOS Chairman Paul Welsh re-launched the campaign and for 5 years Elstree limped on until actor Tom Conti remarked ” the facility is worse than you would expect to find in a third world country.”

    1993
    Brent Walker closed the Studio for production with just one or two tenants hanging on. Equipment was sold off, generators removed, flat roofs allowed to leak and heating switched off.

    1996
    For 3 years the Studio remained moribund until Hertsmere Council took Brent Walker to court and won an amazing victory, which resulted in the historic facility coming under the ownership of the Council.

    1999
    Stages 1 & 2 were completed in 1999. George Lucas used the stages during the filming of the Star Wars Trilogy, and welcomed the opportunity to name stage 1 the George Lucas Stage. The stages were opened by HRH Prince Charles.
    Source: http://www.elstreefilmstudios.co.uk/studiohistory.aspx
    With thanks to Paul Welsh
    Elstree Studios Historian

    Elstree Studios Facilities

    Stages 1 & 2
    These state of the art sound stages were completed in 1999. George Lucas used Stages 1 and 2 during the filming of the Star Wars Trilogy and welcomed the opportunity of naming Stage 1 the George Lucas Stage. With a height of 15m these stages are ideal for larger set builds, tour rehearsals and productions requiring top quality facilities. Area – 1465sqm. (15,770 sq ft.)
    Size – 41.275m x 35.500m (135ft. 6ins x 116ft. 6ins)
    Height – 15m (49ft.)

    Stage 5
    Silent Stage 5 provides an excellent non sound sync stage with good entry and access plus associated offices
    Area – 503sqm (5,500 sq ft.)
    Size – 28.956m x 17.373m (95ft x 57ft)
    Height – 7.625m (25 ft)

    Stage 6
    Area – 357.096sqm (3,844 sq ft)
    Size – 18.897m x 18.897m (62ft x 62ft)
    Height – 7.625m (25ft)
    Sound stage 6 is a television studio with a laser levelled resin floor, production gallery and associated green rooms, wardrobe area and workshop.

    Stage 7
    Area – 462sqm (4980 sq ft)
    Size – 23.6m x 19.6m (77ft. 6ins x 64ft. 3ins)
    Height – 9.8m (32ft)
    Sound stage 7 is a television studio with a laser levelled resin television floor.

    Stage 8
    Area – 700sqm (7,550 sq ft)
    Size – 29.7m x 23.6m (97ft. 6ins x 77ft. 6ins)
    Height – 9.8m (32ft)
    Sound stage 8 is an all purpose studio for both film and television work incorporating a 9 ft. deep water tank.

    Stage 9
    Area – 700sqm (7,550 sq ft)
    Size – 29.7m x 23.6m (97ft. 6ins x 77ft. 6ins)
    Height – 9.8m (32ft)
    Sound stage 9 is an all purpose studio for both film and television work incorporating a 9 ft. deep water tank. Production offices are located between the stages at first floor level overlooking the stage with an external walkway leading down to the studio.

    More Information

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