Less than a year after the fire last July that destroyed the celebrated 007 stage at Pinewood, the stage has been fully rebuilt and is back in action. The news comes as Pinewood makes its case to keep the next 007 film, Bond 22, in Britain.

The studio is already in discussions with Bond producers about hosting the film, which is due to be released in November 2008. Pinewood sources have pointed out that, at 59,000 square feet, the Bond stage is the largest of its kind in Europe. (Thanks to the rebuilding, even more space is available now to producers than before the fire.)

'They are using the existing footprint from the original 007 stage but
have cleverly engineered the building to create additional space and
more user-friendly facilities,' a Pinewood spokesperson commented of
the re-build.

Although Casino Royale was partly shot at Barrandov Studios in Prague, the Bond team still made extensive use of Pinewood. The Venice Palazzo sequences, for example, were done at Pinewood using the studio's exterior tanks and 007 stage. The Casino Royale team spent seven months at Pinewood, from January to July 2006.

Universal's screen version of Abba-themed stage hit Mamma Mia, starring ex-Bond Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep, will be the first production to use the newly rebuilt 007 stage.

Contacted by ScreenDaily, Bond production company Eon refused to comment on its plans for Bond 22.

Earlier this week, ScreenDaily reported that Barrandov had taken part in talks with MGM, Columbia Pictures and Eon Productions to discuss hosting the 22nd James Bond film in Prague.

Barrandov Studio Tomas Zelazko told the Czech daily Hospodarske noviny that no decision on the shooting location had been made yet, but that the producers had been 'very satisfied' with their experience shooting Casino Royale in Prague.

Since the filming of Casino Royale, Barrandov Studios has opened a new 4,000-square-meter soundstage to rival the traditional Bond stages at Pinewood-Shepperton.

But the Czech Republic still offers filmmakers no tax incentives. At the beginning of the year, the UK introduced a new tax credit, available to films spending 25% of their budget in the UK. The tax credit should go some way toward recovering productions like Casino Royale that have been lured abroad.

Filming on Bond 22 should begin early next year with a planned premiere of Nov 7, 2008. Neither MGM or Columbia were willing to comment last night.