January 2, 2017

Studios

Studio

In 1971, Elstree once again hit the headlines with the news that Bryan Forbes was to relinquish his responsibilities at EMI-M.G.M. Ian Scott, a director of A.B.P. in 1969, was appointed as the new managing director of the studios. By the end of 1972, in spite of the studio’s successes, U.K. box-office takings had taken a nosedive with a vengeance and independent producers were beginning to feel the pinch. 1973 was no better and Elstree was beginning to lose money. An even bigger blow came with the news that M.G.M. in the States was withdrawing from film distribution, and would be withdrawing it’s annual subsidy to the EMI Elstree studio. Later that year Ian Scott left the studios to join Thames Television, and Andrew Mitchell was appointed managing director of the studios.

In 1976, EMI closed six of the nine stages and announced 213 redundancies leaving a skeleton staff of 48. What Andrew Mitchell had done was to streamline the studios, modernising the facilities which would allow independent producers to hire whom they wanted for any given period of time. The studio was now free from the massive overheads of its former days. The studio practically hummed for eighteen weeks when the biggest blockbuster the studio had ever witnessed, Star Wars, was shooting at Elstree.

In 1976, EMI decided on yet another acquisition, and bought independent company British Lion Films, and some months later installed former British Lion chiefs Barry Spikings and Michael Deeley as joint-managers of the newly titled EMI Films Ltd. While EMI was to emerge its distribution arm with Columbia-Warner in 1978, the studios were to have further good production news. Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining was to take to the floor, and George Lucas’ Star Wars follow-up, The Empire Strikes Back, was to commence the following year. In 1979, Elstree was to have another change within, Thorn amalgamated with EMI and thus the studios became Thorn-EMI. Peter Laister took overall control for the company’s entertainment group.

However the 1980′s brought a downturn in production again and the studio fell into disrepair. In 1988 Cannon sold the studios to the Brent Walker group, who continued film production for a short while under the Goldcrest name until that company collapsed. Planning permission was granted for part of the land to be developed for purposes other than filmmaking – and so today half of the site has been developed as a supermarket. However a proviso was laid down that the remaining site must be used for film production for a further 25 years.

After a lengthy legal battle and prolonged period of closure, Brent Walker eventually agreed to sell the studios back by Hertsmere Borough Council in February 1996. Now called the Elstree Film & Television Studios, further state of the art sound stages were completed in 1999 and were opened by HRH The Prince of Wales.

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