Elstree was a major centre for film production from the early days of cinema. There’s a great deal of confusion about which studios at Elstree were used for which movies / TV shows.
This page covers MGM Borehamwood (also known as Amalgamated Studios, MGM British Studios and Elstree Way Studios)
- BBC Elstree Centre (also known as Clarendon Road Studios, Neptune Studios, ATV Studios, Central TV Studios)
- Elstree Film Studios (also known as Shenley Road Studios, British International Pictures, EMI Elstree Studios, Cannon Elstree Studios, Goldcrest Studios, Elstree Film & TV Studios)
- Millenium Studios
- Gate Studios (also known as Station Road Studios)
- Danziger Studios (also known as New Elstree Studios)
MGM Borehamwood (also known as MGM-British Studios)
MGM-British was a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and was initially established at Denham Film Studios in 1936.
After the Second World War, MGM-British took control of the former Amalgamated Studios site, between Shenley Road and Elstree Way, at 120 acres, this was one of the largest facilities in Europe.
Photo credit: Unknown, courtesy Mike Grant.
Left to Right: Frederick Ordway III (NASA adviser), Donald Slayton (NASA astronaut), Arthur C. Clarke, unknown, Stanley Kubrick, George Mueller (Senior Administrator, Apollo project).
More about Frederick Ordway III’s work on 2001: A Space Odyssey can be read in this article.
The studio closed in 1970, and operations were transferred to the (at the time) EMI Elstree Studios down the road, and the studio site was cleared for other industrial and residential uses.
This 1973 documentary features MGM Borehamwood closure around 4 minutes in.
(Watch on BBC iPlayer)
The Studio Housing Estate which takes up part of the site has street names relating to the cinematic past.
Amalgamated Studios in Borehamwood begins construction, on the north side of Elstree Way bordered by Shenley Road, adjacent to Thrift Farm.
MGM-British is set up as a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), based at Denham Film Studios. The site was the largest in the UK at the time, occupying an area of 668,000 sqm (around 165 acres).
1937 / 1938
Amalgamated Studios finishes construction. However, the costs of construction were beyond the means of Amalgamated Studios, so they sold the studio to J.Arthur Rank in 1938.
1939 – 1945
During the Second World War the studio was requisitioned by the British Government.
Percy Jackson writes:
The Elstree Road film studios were used for the construction of major sub-assemblies for the Handley Page Halifax bomber. As I recall,there was nothing stored there. The entire site being given over to aircraft manufacture. Its official designation was DU5 (Dispersal Unit No5)
I started work there as an apprentice fitter in September 1942. I was transferred to the company main site at Cricklewood in 1945 when the production of aircraft was scaled down.
The assemblies produced at the site included:-fuselage centre section, intermediate wing, tailplane and rudder assembly.
Because of its size the fuselage centre section had to be transported on a 60 foot long trailer, known as a ‘Queen Mary’. This vehicle was often driven by Sir Frederick Handley Pages daughter.
After the war Rank decided to sell the property.
MGM British Studios acquired control of the Amalgamated Studios in Borehamwood, increasing the number of stages to seven, with a total of 70,000 sq.ft.
The studio buys Thrift Farm at the west side of the site, to allow the backlot to expand.
A supplement to Kinematograph Weekly is published with some great articles about the work of MGM Borehamwood.
The studio closed in 1970, and operations were transferred to the (at the time) EMI Elstree Studios down the road.
Newspapers report on April 24th 1970 that “a joint venture for production and distribution of motion pictures in the United Kingdom was announced by James T. Aubrey Jr., president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and John Read, joint managing director of Electric & Musical Industries Ltd. of London.”
The MGM Borehamwood studio was closed immediately.
Early hours of May 31, 1973: A large fire damages a number of buildings during demolition of the old studio buildings in preparation for use as a cold store by Christian Salvesen. (Evening News newspaper report) .
During 1973, a film crew from Holiday on the Buses filmed some of the demolition for the climax of that movie.
A BBC documentary featured the MGM Borehamwood closure in ‘The Big Screen’, covering film finance.
1973 – 1986
Remaining studio buildings are used as a cold storage facility by Christian Salvesen.
The clock tower was finally demolished when Christian Salvesen finished operations at the former studio.
Despite local campaigns, Salvesen had declared the building obsolete, and as none of the buildings were listed, there was nothing to stop demolition.
The final clearing of the site began for industrial purposes. A leisure complex and a library was built on an adjacent site, and the backlot area was cleared for residential use.
A Sainsburys Distribution Centre is built where the main studio buildings were.
The expansive MGM Backlot stretched out to the west of the main studio buildings, and has now all been converted to industrial uses and housing.
As well as temporary sets for productions such as Inn of the Sixth Happiness, the backlot was home to permanent sets such as the French and British streets seen below, and used in the Pink Panther films.
Thanks to Roger Garrod for some of these photos, and to Dave Larson, USA for his work restoring the photos.
The 1973 backlot stills are from the essential 1981 Wilf Watters documentary about Film Studios in Hertfordshire.
East Anglia Film Archive – Wilf Watters documentary
Productions shot at MGM Borehamwood
Feature Film (73)
|The non-snowy maze featuring scenes with Wendy and Danny in daylight was built on the former MGM Borehamwood backlot, as there was no room on the backlot at EMI Elstree Studios after the Overlook Hotel and maze exterior was built there.
|Holiday on the Buses
|At the end of the movie, when Stan gets a job as a demolition operative, the brick building he demolishes is the old Stage 06 at MGM Borehamwood, previously used as the base for The Prisoner.
|A Clockwork Orange
|No Blade of Grass
|One More Time
|The Walking Stick
|Alfred the Great
|Captain Nemo and the Underwater City
|Goodbye Mr Chips
|William A. Graham
|2001: A Space Odyssey
|This epic movie has been cited as one of the primary causes behind the closure of MGM British studios because Stanley Kubrick's film occupied more and more of the available studio space - eventually using all of it - for almost two years, thus rendering the facilities massively unprofitable in the long run. The studio closed in 1970.
|Dawn of Man sequence was shot on Stage 03 at MGM
|Much of the movie was shot around the MGM Borehamwood backlot.
|Where Eagles Dare
|Brian G. Hutton
|The castle was a superb large scale model built on the MGM British backlot at Elstree.
|Dance of the Vampires (aka Fearless Vampire Killers)
|Quatermass and the Pit
|Roy Ward Baker
|The Dirty Dozen
|Blowup / Blow-Up
|The Ricky Tick Club scene was shot here, along with other interiors.
|Val Guest, Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Richard Talmadge
|What's New Pussycat sequence
|Eye of the Devil
|J. Lee Thompson
|Filmed February & March 1964
|The Alphabet Murders
|Up Jumped A Swagman
|Where the Spies Are
|A Shot in the Dark
|Stage 05 and it's tank were used for the Paris apartment and Seine River.
|Children of the Damned
|Night Must Fall
|The Americanization of Emily
|The Chalk Garden
|The Yellow Rolls-Royce
|Come Fly With Me
|Murder at the Gallop
|Production began on October 1, 1962, with a budget of $1.5 million. Exterior shots of Hill House were done at Ettington Hall, now Ettington Park Hotel near Stratford upon Avon.
|I Thank A Fool
|Murder She Said
|Edmond T. Gréville
|Too Hot to Handle
|The Angry Hills
|Another Time, Another Place
|Corridors of Blood
|Inn of the Sixth Happiness
|Chinese village was recreated on the MGM British Studios backlot.
|The village set cost more than $250,000 and covers half a million square feet. The total movie budget was around $4 million.
|This forgotten movie features some shots of Clarendon Road in Borehamwood. The exterior of an MGM studio building also features, as does the car park (for the dog track scene).
|Shot in 30 days.
|Fire Down Below
|The Man Who Never Was
|Stranger from Venus
|Knights of the Round Table
|Never Let Me Go
|Production designer Alfred Junge's castle set was to dominate the Borehamwood skyline for some years after.
|Miniver Story, The
|The Elusive Pimpernel (aka The Fighting Pimpernel)
|Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
|Edward, My Son
|The first MGM movie to be made at the new studio.
|The second movie to be made at the new MGM studio.
TV Series (6)
|Creator / Showrunner
|The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine
|The MGM Borehamwood backlot featured in one sketch, filmed after the studio had closed, just before the sets were demolished.
|Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson
|The series featured studio buildings as a cost-saving exercise. The Harlington-Straker main office block is Neptune House at what is now the BBC Elstree Centre. After the closure of MGM British Studios in 1970, production moved to Pinewood.
|Journey to the Unknown
|Patrick McGoohan, Pat Jackson, Don Chaffey, David Tomblin
|1964 - 1966
|1960 - 1962
- Borehamwood & Elstree Times article (2006)
- LA Times article about props left after the production of Kubrick’s 2001
- Avengers filming information
- The Prisoner filming information
- Britmovie Forum entries about MGM Borehamwood
- Blog from Elstree historian Paul Welsh
- Facebook MGM Borehamwood History group