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Elstree Studios

Last Modified April 16, 2019

Hertsmere owns many assets, but perhaps its biggest and most well-known is Elstree Studios.

We bought the studios in 1996 following a Save our Studios campaign launched by the public when the site was being dismantled and due to be sold off by its owners Brent Walker.

The purchase ended an eight-year wrangle which was due to have culminated in High Court action but was a victory in the end for the council and community in upholding the planning agreements that had protected the studios.

Since then the studios has gone from strength to strength. As well as providing jobs, supporting services and boosting the local economy the studios generates in excess of £1m a year for the council which is used to provide services for local people.

Elstree Studios George Lucas Stage









Studios' history


 British National Pictures Ltd bought 50 acres of land on the south side of Shenley Road and began construction of two large film stages in 1925

, with the first film being produced there in 1927 (Madame Pompadour).

British International Pictures (BIP) took over the studios in 1927 and the second stage was ready for production in 1928. In 1929, Blackmail, the first British talkie released, was produced there. At the end of the silent-film era, six new sound stages were built; three of these were sold to the British and Dominions Film Corporation with BIP retaining the remaining stages. BIP was absorbed into the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) in the early 1930s.

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. In 1968, Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI) bought control of ABPC and the studios were renamed EMI Studios.

The studios struggled for some time during this period, not least 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.

Some major film directors continued to work here however. Sidney Lumet, Murder on the Orient Express (1974); Ken Russell, Valentino (1977); Stanley Kubrick The Shining (1980) were just three, but it was George Lucas with Star Wars (1977) that helped the studios' immediate survival and led to subsequent Lucas productions such as the Star Wars sequels and Indiana Jones being made there.

In 1979, Thorn Electrical Industries merged with EMI and the studios were renamed Thorn-EMI Studios. Due to the parent company's numerous unsuccessful investments in film releases that attempted to capture the American market, with no success whatsoever, the studios was put up for sale in 1985.

The Herron-Cannon Group became its owners in 1986, but just two years later Cannon sold the studios to the leisure and property company Brent Walker plc and much of the back of the site was sold off and demolished, with a Tesco superstore being built on the land.

In 1993 Brent Walker closed the studio for production with just one or two tenants remaining. Equipment was sold off and for three years it remained empty until the council took Brent Walker to court and won an amazing victory, which resulted in the historic facility coming under the ownership of the local community.

The Studios have since been restored with millions of pounds spent re-equipping the stages and building further sound stages, which were opened by H.R.H The Prince Charles in 1999.

It remains under the ownership of the council today.

Film and television production

The Studios continues to produce films and television shows.  For more information please visit the Elstree Studios website.

Some of the most famous feature films have been produced at Elstree - including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies, Superman, Moby Dick, The Dam Busters, The Shining, Ice Cold in Alex, The World's End starring Simon Pegg, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows starring Jude Law and Robert Downey Jnr, Brian Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer, Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson and the multi award-winning The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth.

You can read more about the studios' history and what it has to offer.

Related External Links

  1. Elstree Studios

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