The studios have played host to many productions over the years from huge blockbuster films to television shows, commercials and pop promos and is well known as the home of the Carry On, Superman, and James Bond film series.
Pinewood Studios was built on the estate of Heatherden Hall, which was a large, attractive Victorian house with spectacular grounds. It was purchased by Canadian financier and MP for Chiswick and Brentford, Lt. Col. Grant Morden, who spent a fortune transforming the mansion into a show-piece home, adding refinements such as a huge ballroom, a Turkish bath and an indoor squash court. Due to its seclusion, it was used as a discreet meeting place for high-ranking politicians and diplomats and the agreement to create the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed there.
On Morden's death in 1934, building tycoon Charles Boot bought the land and turned it into a country club. The ballroom was converted into a restaurant and many of the bedrooms became furnished suites.
In 1935, millionaire Methodist and flour magnate J. Arthur Rank created a partnership with Boot and together transformed the estate into a film studio. Boot based designs for the studios upon what were at the time the latest ideas being employed by other film studios in the production of movies in Hollywood, California. Boot named the new studio Pinewood because "...of the number of trees which grow there and because it seemed to suggest something of the American film centre in its second syllable." In December of that year construction began, with a new stage completed every three weeks. The studios were finished nine months later, having cost £1 million (approx. £37 million at 2012 prices). Five stages were initially completed and a provision for an enclosed water tank capable of holding 65,000 gallons, which is still used. In the years that followed he also undertook further work on both the Pinewood Film Studios and the Denham Film Studios, both of which had by then become a part of their newly formed Rank Organisation.
On 30 September 1936, the studio complex was officially opened by Dr Leslie Burgin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. The first film director to use the facilities was Herbert Wilcox, completing London Melody with Anna Neagle, portions of which had already been filmed at Elstree Studios before a fire there halted production. The first film to be made entirely at Pinewood was Talk of the Devil, directed by Carol Reed.
There followed a prolific part of Pinewood and British film history, with Pinewood soon leading the way in film industry innovation through the "unit system". This enabled several pictures to be filmed simultaneously, and ultimately Pinewood achieved the highest output of any studio in the world.
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During World War II Pinewood was requisitioned and subsequently the Crown Film Unit, No. 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit, Royal Air Force Film Production Unit and Polish Air Force Film Unit were based there. The Crown Film Unit completed many classic wartime documentaries including Roy Boulting's Academy Award winning Desert Victory. Fires Were Started, Coastal Command and Western Approaches were all filmed there during this period. As well as the armed forces using Pinewood, The Royal Mint and Lloyds of London were installed onto sound stages and opened for business for the duration.
The Company of Youth, the Rank Organisation acting school (often referred to as "The Charm School") which launched several film careers, was founded in 1945. The next year, Pinewood re-opened for (non-war-related) business.
Two landmarks in British film-making made at Pinewood were released in 1948: Oliver Twist, directed by David Lean, and Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes. Due to a shortfall in funds, brought about by financial overspends the previous year, Rank did not have enough money to market The Red Shoes sufficiently at first in the US, but it went on to become Rank's biggest earner up to that point, grossing over £1 million (the equivalent of £26 million in 2012 terms).
In 1948, John Davis was appointed managing director. By the following year, Rank had ran up an overdraft of £16 million (the equivalent of £364.5 million in 2012), and announced a loss of £3.5 million, mainly due to big budget flops. One of the largest of these had been Caesar and Cleopatra (1946), which was originally budgeted at £250,000, but which eventually cost £1,278,000 (the equivalent of £33 million in 2012). Many of the studio's directors were lured away by rival companies who promised greater independence. Charged with the task of turning around the Rank Organisation’s fortunes, Davis cut jobs and other studios in the name of greater efficiency, and sought to produce commercial films rather than pursue experimental initiatives.
During the 1950s, Pinewood gave birth to the huge financial successes of the Carry On... and Doctor film series, produced on behalf of Rank by Peter Rogers and his wife Betty E. Box, and directed by the brothers Gerald Thomas and Ralph Thomas respectively. Doctor in the House was the most popular box office film of 1954 in Great Britain. The Norman Wisdom comedies were also filmed at Pinewood.
The Sixties were buoyant years for Pinewood, which was no longer solely dependent on the Rank Organisation to fill its stages, now "Renters" (producers hiring the sound stages for a film-by-film agreement) were using half of the stages.
That same year J. Arthur Rank (by now Lord Rank) retired as Chairman and was succeeded by John Davis, who had started to move the Rank Organisation away from mass film production and towards more profitable areas like bingo and holidays.
The Seventies were an uncertain period for Pinewood and the film industry in general, with the studios being used more for television programmes, including Gerry Anderson’s UFO, Space: 1999, The Persuaders! starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore and Alien. Throughout the lean years of the 1970′s the Superman franchise almost certainly saved the studios from financial crisis.
Four James Bond movies, For Your Eyes Only; Octopussy; A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights amongst several other very large productions, such as Tim Burton's Batman, kept the studio busy during the decade.
Due in large part to unfavourable UK tax laws for inward investment in the UK film industry, the 1990′s were precarious and witnessed an all-time low in British film production generally, but many large-scale productions such as Alien 3, Tim Burton’s Batman Returns and three further Bond films (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough) kept Pinewood operating.
The Rank Group owned the studio until 2001, when they sold Pinewood to a group led by Michael Grade and Ivan Dunleavy. The purchase of Shepperton Studios from a consortium headed by Ridley and Tony Scott gave rise to The Pinewood Studios Group with both UK and international interests including Shepperton Studios, Teddington Studios, Pinewood Toronto Studios, Pinewood Indomina Studios, Pinewood Studio Berlin and Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, combining three studios as well as new and modern state-of-the-art purpose built facilities.
The Pinewood Studios Group was subject to a hostile takeover approach in 2011. Manchester-based The Peel Group acquired a 73% stake, but Warren James Jewellers retained a 27% stake so preventing a full takeover. As of 2012, Pinewood's management is waiting to see if the Financial Services Authority will cancel the listing in recognition of the fact that nearly all the shares are held by two groups.
The iconic 007 Stage was originally built for the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and featured a massive water tank, one of the largest in Europe. The stage burnt to the ground in 1984; it was rebuilt four months later and renamed Albert R. Broccoli's 007 Stage in time for filming to commence on A View to a Kill. Another fire on 30 July 2006 seriously damaged the stage, causing the roof to partly cave in. Construction of a new stage began on 18 September and was completed in under six months. Since then, the stage has accommodated huge productions including Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Quantum of Solace (2008) and the whole fishing village from Mamma Mia! (2008) was built on the stage.
As well as the world famous 007 Stage, which is the largest stage at any of the studios under The Pinewood Studios Group at 59,000 sq ft, the studio has fifteen other stages ranging from just 1,728 sq ft, to cater for productions of all sizes. One of those studios, the T Stage, is a specialist stage for both television and film productions and the Studios second largest stage at 30,000 sq ft.
Pinewood Studios paid tribute to Richard Attenborough's body of work by naming a purpose-built film and television stage after him. The Richard Attenborough Stage has an area of 30,000 sq ft. In his absence because of illness, Lord Puttnam and Pinewood Chairman Lord Grade officially unveiled the stage on 23 April 2012. Opposite it, is a post-production block named in honour of Stanley Kubrick.
The studio also has two specialist TV studios, named TV One and TV Two, complete with integral galleries, TV studio floors, TV lighting grids and SD or HD facilities. Both studios stand at just under 9,000 sq ft.
As stated earlier, Pinewood is situated on the old estate of Heatherden Hall which still stands today. The mansion, its gardens and other parts of the studios have been used in various productions over the years. Peeping Tom (1960) shows people driving out through the main gate and has various shots in the studios (showing things behind the camera), offices and corridors. Return to the Edge of the World (1978) includes shots of director Michael Powell driving into the studio. The iconic main gate (now no longer used due to the construction of a purpose-built security entrance 500 yards further along the road) also features in My Week with Marilyn (2011) when Eddie Redmayne greets Judi Dench. This film also contains many shots of the dressing-room corridors in the main make-up block. Heatherden Hall (converted to production offices) has appeared in several films: it was made to look fire-damaged and derelict for the 1972 children's film The Amazing Mr Blunden and also appeared as the Indian residence of Governor Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond in Carry On up the Khyber.
The studios have acres of backlots where huge sets have been built, from castles to whole villages including Godric's Hollow from the Harry Potter film series.
The proximity of the ancient woodland Burnham Beeches and Black Park to Pinewood (as well as to Shepperton and Bray studios) and the outstanding natural beauty of the forest have made Burnham Beeches a desirable filming location for productions being filmed at Pinewood. Burnham Beeches has been used for a large number of films, including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, First Knight, Goldfinger, The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Many other films and TV productions have made use of the facilities on offer at the Beeches. (For a more comprehensive list, see.)
Pinewood Atlanta is a joint venture between the studio and River's Rock LLC, an independently managed trust of the Cathy family, founders of the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain. The first production set will begin in January 2014.
Pinewood has extensive water filming facilities including the globally unique Underwater Stage and a huge Exterior Tank backed with a massive green screen measuring 240 ft x 60 ft.
In November 2007, Pinewood announced a £200m expansion plan, known as Project Pinewood. If built the development would see replicas of streetscapes and zones replicating locations from the UK, Europe and the USA. Planned zones include a college campus, Amsterdam, modern European housing, Venice, Lake Como, Paris, an Amphitheatre, Prague, West coast American housing, warehousing and downtown New York sets, Chicago, Vienna, a castle, a UK canal, Chinatown and a London street market built. In addition it will also be used as residential housing, with the proposed creative community, expected to be in the region of 2000 and 2250, being integrated with the film locations. Job creation is also a key part of the plan, helping to boost the economy of both the region and the nation as a whole.
Following consultations with the local community the plans changed to reflect the community's opinions and suggestions. However, the planning application was still rejected by South Bucks District Council in October 2009, following a prolonged opposition campaign by local residents, who formed a "Stop Project Pinewood" group.
Pinewood appealed against the decision and a public inquiry commenced on 5 April 2011 and on 20 January 2012, it was announced that the appeal had been turned down. On 15 May 2013, local councilors in South Buckinghamshire rejected a pared down version of the expansion plans. In a statement, the Chief Executive of the studios, Ivan Dunleavy, said he expected to appeal against the latest decision to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, who rejected the previous application, a year earlier.
Some of the most notable Pinewood productions (by release date) include:[clarification needed]
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