The turbulent history of the UK's Elstree studios, wherefilms from Star Wars to Indiana Jones have been filmed, is set totake another dramatic turn. Earlier this week, a public meeting was held todiscuss the future of the studio site, currently owned by Hertsmere BoroughCouncil, who bought the freehold studios in 1996 from the debt-riddenBrent-Walker Group.
The Studios are run by Elstree Film and TV Studios Ltd (EFTVS). The hitch,though, is that the lease runs out in 2007. Under local government law,Hertsmere is obliged to put the lease out to tender and to ensure it securesthe best financial deal for what is a public asset. This means effectively thatthe tenancy is up for auction.
Since 1996, Hertsmere has invested roughly £12 million in the Elstree site.Between £20m and £30m is needed to secure its long-term future. The Council hasretained consultants ATIS Weatheralls Ltd to advise how best to handle thetendering process. Whatever happens, it looks certain that the site will bepreserved as a studio.
"The Council's aim is to secure the long-term viability of the site forfilm and television use," Hertsmere Council's Exec-Director Eden Lee told ScreenDaily.com.
There is currently a Section 106 planning restriction on the site which meansthat it cannot be used for purposes other than filmmaking up until 2013.
Ironically, despite the upheaval the tendering process is bound to cause in theday to day running of the studios, Elstree is currently booming. Shooting hasjust begun on the big-budget Disney/Spyglass production of Hitchhiker'sGuide To The Galaxy and the studios are fully booked until September.