(Above photo - Star Wars was shot at Elstree Studios in the 1970s, just down the road from Canonbury Antiques )
The county of Hertfordshire has always had a long and illustrious history with film production as we are surrounded by studios and the film industry. Perhaps the most well known is Elstree Studios which is a mere ten minutes from the Canonbury Antiques showroom. The first studio here was built in 1914 and since then films such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Shining, The Dam Busters, The Kings Speech and Britain's first talking picture, Alfred Hitchcock's 'Blackamail' (1929) were all made down the road from us at these famous studios. Oh and Eastenders - and Big Brother - were also shot on the Elstree stages. Also, pop impresario and local boy Simon Cowell had his first job as a runner at Elstree Studios.
(Above photo - Londoner Alfred Hitchcock shot 'Blackmail' (1929) at Elstree )
Just a bit further around the M25 from us sits the Warner Brother Studios at Leavesden which is where they filmed much of Harry Potter (as well as Batman, The Dark Night and Spiderman, to name a few) and is well worth a visit for the studio tour, great for kids and Harry Potter fans a like. Of course of late, with the advent of Netflix and other streaming services, we've since entered the Golden Age of TV production as big budget productions hit the small screen. From the Soprano's to Game of Thrones, via The Crown and Mad Men, it really is a great time to enjoy all this creativity. Of course, with our large stock range and proximity to the industry, we are well equipped to offer our prop and furniture hire services to the Hertfordshire film industry. Whether it's a period drama set in the 1920s or an Elizabethan (or Victorian, Jacobean or Regency) whodunnit, we have all the pieces needed to give the sets and stages authenticity. Indeed, when we first moved into our current showroom around ten years ago, the previous owners ran a prop making business from the premises - when we moved in there was even a Star Wars X Wing fighter in the warehouse which I am sure would have been worth a fortune! We still have the Bollywood sign they left, now standing proudly above the entrance to the office.
(Above photo - Visit the Harry Potter Studios - just 10 minutes around the M25 from us )
We've provided furniture and props to many productions - of course we can't name them as we sign NDA forms - but we love working around the Hertfordshire film industry and can also offer our services as consultants for period authenticity and other historical insights on shows and films. The UK film industry - pre the Corona shutdown of course - experienced a boom time for the last 5-10 years and was home for many productions, from HBO and Disney to Netflix and Amazon Prime. In fact, due to the UK's talent in the creative industries and the insatiable thirst for content from the numerous streaming services around, much investment has been made into the UK film industry. In December 2019 it was announced that a large investment is being made to crate Sky Studios Elstree which will create 2,000 jobs for the local economy with the backing of Sky's parent company Comcast. The new facility will be 32 acres with 14 sound stages over 20,000 square feet. Elstree Studios managing director Roger Morris said: “Sky Studios Elstree will be of immense importance to the UK Film and Television industry – it will not only boost the local economy of Hertsmere and Hertfordshire, but will also have a major impact on the UK’s creative sector as a whole.” Similarly, Netflix has invested in a permanent production base at Shepperton Studios and Disney has secured a space at Pinewood Studios.
(Above photo - Elstree Studios just outside Borehamwood, Herts )
The beginning's of the Hertfordshire film industry can be traced to 1914 when American film maker J.D Williams fist opened a studio in Elstree as the area was smog free but still close to London. Williams has noticed the UK appetite for films as there were always queues (lines) around the cinemas and he soon realised the UK was an important market and hence it was important to establish a production base here. Alfred Hithcock - himself a Londoner - started making his films here including the critically acclaimed silent film 'The Ring' (1927) which firmly put the Hertfordshire film industry on the map.
(Above photo - Star Wars director George Lucas outside Elstree )
As a consumer it's hard to keep up with all the new - often very big budget productions - that are on offer across Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBO, Sky and all the other streaming networks and TV services. There's not a time in history - from the Vikings, to the Romans, the whole epoch of British monarchy - that hasn't featured with it's own series. Many of these series can contain up to 12 episodes so that's a lot of content and time to fill. I really enjoy watching these shows and spend a lot of time studying the sets for historical accuracy and to see if I can spot any of our goods.
(Above photo - Childwickbury Manor just outside St Albans - former home of Stanley Kubrick )
In fact, the pull of the Hertfordshire film industry was so great, that Stanley Kubrick - perhaps the world's most acclaimed director - moved here in the 1960s and shot all of his films here since then, including Lolita, Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. Until his death in 1999, he lived at Childwickbury Manor just north of St Albans. The house was also used as a location for both Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. Famously, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman lived locally for the duration of the shoot of Eyes Wide Shut and there is a funny story of Tom Cruise being refused service at Blockbuster Video in Bushey as he wasn't able to provide ID required to rent a movie. Clearly the Blockbuster clerk, didn't buy the whole 'I'm Tom Cruise' line even when Tom picked up copies of Rain Man / Top Gun / Jerry Maguire / Risky Business etc to provide photographic evidence of who he was!
(Above photo - Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut )
Just to give a sense of the scale and history of the Hertfordshire film industry, please find below credits for films and productions shot at Elstree Studios (a small selection):
Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall
The Likely Lads
A Doll's House
Confessions From A Holiday Camp
Empire of The Sun
Death In Venice
Return of the Jedi
Saving Private Ryan
Notes On A Scandal
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
(Above photo - - Local boy Simon Cowell's first job was as a runner at Elstree Studios )
(Above photo - The view of Elstree Studios from Tesco's! )
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