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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 15:22 GMT
Historic studios look to future
James Bond in Die Another Day
Bond has a long history with Pinewood
Film studios Pinewood, Shepperton and Ealing have formed the backbone of the British film industry for the last 70 years.

They are among a handful of British industry names which have genuine cache around the world and their histories are inextricably tied to some of the most important films in cinema history.

Given the vagaries of the film industry, it is remarkable that they have survived at all.

Ealing can trace its history back to 1902, and has a good claim for being the world's oldest film studio.

It also has a strong claim as the crucible for some of the most creative and well-known British films ever made.

It was founded in 1902 by impresario and filmmaker Will Barker.

Originally based in north London, the studios relocated to their current home in Ealing five years later.

Rich crop

The golden age of the studio started in 1938, when Michael Balcon took over as studio head.

Although the studios are best know for a rich crop of comedies from 1949 onwards, the genre itself only represented 20% of total output.

The Lavender Hill Mob
The Lavender Hill Mob was filmed at Ealing
Its most famous comedies were produced between 1949 and 1955 and included Passport to Pimlico, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit and The Ladykillers.

But the studio was also responsible for classic dramas such as The Blue Lamp and The Cruel Sea.

A 40m re-development of the site is now underway, with the aim of not just refurbishing the facilities but also re-establishing the brand name.


While Pinewood and Shepperton are venues for production, Ealing, co-owned by Fragile Films, wants to become a studio in the old-fashioned sense - producing, developing and filming movies from scratch.

Ealing studio
Ealing studio's history goes back to 1902
Oscar Wilde adaptation The Ideal Husband, which was a decent box office success, was the first film to be released under the new studio branding.

Pinewood and Elstree too have undergone a huge redevelopment as they aim to compete with the wealth of facilities offered by US studios.

Steve Jaggs, managing director of Shepperton and Pinewood Studios, said: "Our size is the key factor. We are on a par with the biggest American studios and can offer facilities to rival anyone.

"We have the right sizes and selection of stages. They range from 45,000sq ft to 2,000 sq ft.

"The increased use of special effects has brought more work here because we have a controlled environment for all types of films."

Live action

Pinewood attract a range of films with varying budgets.

"The biggest film we have had here this year is Tomb Raider II and we have got Thunderbirds, the live action film, and The Trojan War set to start soon.

Pinewood Studios came into being when Charles Boot, a builder with movie ambitions, bought Heatherden Hall and its estate in 1934.

Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott is a co-owner of Pinewood-Shepperton
A year later Boot met J Arthur Rank and the two became partners in the studio project, investing 1,000,000.

The first film to be completed at the studio was London Melody while Talk of the Devil, in 1936, directed by Carol Reed, was the first film made entirely at the studio.

1947 was a landmark year for the studio, with six major productions made at Pinewood, including Oliver Twist, directed by David Lean, and the 500,000 production of The Red Shoes.

Classic and landmark films to have been made at the studios include: Ill Met By Moonlight, Carry On movies, Peeping Tom, Whistle Down the Wind and To Sir With Love.


The Bond movies have a long history with Pinewood, begining with the first Bond movie Dr No and stretching until the most recent film Die Another Day.

In 2001, Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios merged.

Filmmakers Ridley and Tony Scott, co-owners of Shepperton, united with Pinewood's Michael Grade and Ian Dunleavy to manage the new company.

"Obviously, I would say we are the most important asset to the British film industry," said Mr Jaggs.

He added: "Historically, we have been the backbone of the film industry - going through good times and bad times.

"The fact we are still here says a lot about the studios."

Ealing: Home of British film
09 Aug 02 |  Entertainment
Ealing for the 21st Century
21 Jun 01 |  Entertainment
UK studios merger takes on Hollywood
12 Feb 01 |  Entertainment
Carry On Pinewood
21 Jun 01 |  Entertainment

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