Our Heritage

A HISTORY OF BRINGING DREAMS TO LIFE

For more than 80 years, Pinewood Studios has enabled storytellers to bring their creations to life and audiences across the globe remember these six words on screen: “Made at Pinewood Studios, London, England”.

From hosting super spies and superheroes, Pinewood has been home to a galaxy far, far away, helping create the movies that have made audiences laugh and cry in equal measure. Some of the most glittering careers on both sides of the camera, have been launched behind the iconic gates of Pinewood.

How did it all begin?

The Victorian estate of Heatherden Hall in  Buckinghamshire was owned by Doctor Drury Lavin in the late 19th Century. The next incumbent world-famous cricketer K.S. Ranjitsinhji sold it to Canadian financer Lt Colonel Grant Morden, a political high flier who lavished over £300,000 (over £5 million in today’s money) transforming the mansion by adding a huge ballroom and Turkish bath amongst other features.

During the 1930s it became a retreat and private meeting place for politicians and diplomats. The agreement to form the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed at Heatherden Hall.

When Morden died in 1934, the estate was purchased by building tycoon Charles Boot who turned the mansion into a country club for the rich and famous, however his main aim was to turn the land into a film studio.

Boot officially renamed Heatherden Hall, Pinewood, in his own words, 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.”

Charles Boot teamed up with J. Arthur Rank, the Methodist miller and millionaire to joint-finance the project in a move that ultimately led to the development of the Rank Organisation which embraced not only film production and film distribution at home and abroad, but also catering, leisure time activities and a wide field of manufacturing interests which would, at its height, employ more than 30,000 people.

The completion of building at Pinewood was fast and the Studios were opened officially on 30 September 1936 followed by frenzied production activity until the depression hit the British film industry.

The Second World War saw the Studios requisitioned by the Government for storage – its sound stages becoming home to mountains of sugar, flour and other much-needed wartime supplies. Already occupied by the Royal Mint, other important industries were soon evacuated to Pinewood, particularly Lloyd’s of London who moved into the Studios just days before hostilities broke out in September 1939.

After the war, the British film industry witnessed a resurgence in fortunes. American production companies soon started to flock to the Studios, attracted by lower production costs, its unique feel of being typically British yet untypically like a film studio, as well as the superior skills and facilities compared to US counterparts. Early post war classics made at Pinewood included Great Expectations, Black Narcissus, Oliver Twist and Genevieve.

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Under the burden of the heavy financial pressures facing the organisation in the 1950s and the introduction of television, cheaper (to make), populist entertainment became the order of the day at Pinewood which gave rise to some of the most renowned film series in British cinema history: The Doctor series, the Carry On films as well as the antics of Norman Wisdom.

The 1960s became a boom period for the Studios, particularly for large-scale American productions, as well as the iconic James Bond with which Pinewood has become synonymous over the past half century. Stars who filmed at Pinewood during this time include Diana Dors, Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Simmons, Sophia Loren, Michael Caine and Elizabeth Taylor amongst others.

Lord Rank’s death in 1972 coincided with a downturn for the British film industry although it continued to host big productions including Fiddler on the Roof, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, Francis Ford Coppola’s version of The Great Gatsby and Alan Parker’s musical gangster spoof Bugsy Malone. The Studios were near financial crisis during this decade, only to be saved by the Superman franchise.

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The 1980’s were precarious due to unfavourable UK tax laws, but many large-scale productions such as Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and Tim Burton’s Batman kept Pinewood ticking over.

During the 1980s, it was decided the studio would cease to be fully serviced and become a facility where filmmakers bring in their own labour and staff.

The early 1990s witnessed an all-time low in British film production due to unfavourable UK tax laws but as the decade progressed, Pinewood achieved a remarkable resurgence as the Studios were acquired from The Rank Group PLC by a team led by Michael Grade and Ivan Dunleavy.

Early in 2001, it was announced that Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios had successfully completed a merger, creating one of the largest and best-equipped facilities in the world. Renowned filmmakers Ridley and Tony Scott, co-owners of Shepperton, united with Pinewood’s Grade and Dunleavy in managing the new company.

Lord Grade and Mr Dunleavy remained at the helm until 2017 and spearheaded the growth and global expansion of the Pinewood Group.

In recent years Pinewood has been home to the Star Wars saga, Daniel Craig as James Bond, Beauty and the BeastJurassic World, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Paddington.

Pinewood operates across five territories offering international sales, marketing, studio development and consultancy, as well as providing stages and water facilities, post production and creative services to the film, TV and games industries, in the UK, Canada via Pinewood Toronto Studios, Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios and Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios, and has a joint venture in the US with Pinewood Atlanta Studios which is now the largest studio facility and media hub outside of Los Angeles. Pinewood recently opened a representative office in Beijing.

In the UK, as part of its 10-year expansion scheme, June 2016 saw the completion of 5 new stages and 10 new workshops at Pinewood Studios.

One of the first productions to make use of these state-of-the-art sound stages was Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool produced by Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Jamie Bell and Julie Walters.

On 5th October 2016 Pinewood was acquired by Aermont Capital and became a private company. Mr Paul Golding is the chairman and interim chief executive.

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