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Goodbye Hollywood, hello Hertfordshire – the new moviemaking capital

Published: 8 March 2024

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Hertfordshire is now the number one destination in the UK for film and TV – and with the 96th Academy Awards taking place this Sunday it is clear to see why major movie moguls are choosing the county as the place to make movie magic.

With its stunning countryside, sprawling mansions and a plethora of heritage sites, Hertfordshire is often seen on screen in the movies. However, it’s the production magic that takes place across the five major studios situated in the county that is helping propel the county of opportunity into a golden era of film making – Elstree Studios, Warner Bros Studio Leavesden (WBSL), Sky Studios, BBC Studioworks and the newest proposal Sunset Studios in Broxbourne.

Two of the top three performers at the UK and Ireland box office were produced at WBSL, which is situated just outside Watford. According to the British Film Institute (BFI), Barbie earned £95.6m in box office revenue, while Wonka starring Timothée Chalamet and Olivia Colman came in third, grossing £58.4m. This has made the county the economic hub for the filming of many of today’s biggest TV shows and Oscar nominated movies.

Partnerships through the Hertfordshire Growth Board, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), district and borough councils and the Hertfordshire Film Office is testament to how Hertfordshire County Council is working with the creative sector to make it easier to do business here.

Cllr Jeremy Newmark, Leader of Hertsmere Borough Council and Chair of Elstree Studios, said: “These are exciting times for the film and TV industry and, here in Hertsmere, we are right in the heart of the buzz! 

“Within a short distance of our Civic Offices in Borehamwood are the council-owned Elstree Studios; BBC Elstree where Eastenders is based and Sky Studios Elstree where they’ve recently been filming the new Wicked movie.  Positioned right in between is Elstree Screen Academy where talented young people are honing their skills across a whole range of disciplines and we hope that many will go on to work in the industry in the future. 

“Of course the contribution this makes to our local economy is substantial as well as the opportunities it brings for local jobs.

“More broadly it is exciting to be working with partners across Hertfordshire to promote and support the industry.”

Not only is Hertfordshire the paramount pick for studio time but it is also a thriving centre of educational excellence with the Elstree Screen Arts Academy (ESA) and the University of Hertfordshire producing the next generation of home-grown film makers.

Students at ESA can study a wide range of courses, including creative media production, film studies, production crafts like set and prop design, as well as hair and makeup artistry. Students have had amazing opportunities working on major productions like The Crown, Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning and Paddington 2.

The University of Hertfordshire has a film and television programme which is in the top 20 for film production nationally, delivering industry ready graduates into the workplace. The university has close partnerships with leading industry figures. Former students have been winners of many prestigious television awards, with many going on to gain employment with leading companies and broadcasters such as BBC, Endemol, ITV and Sky.

With incredible education and employment opportunities on the doorstep and further investment planned over the coming years, the future looks bright for the county’s burgeoning creative industries.

Cllr Richard Roberts, Leader, Hertfordshire County Council, and Chair, Hertfordshire Growth Board said: “Hertfordshire has a rich heritage in filmmaking from Star Wars to Paddington, Saving Private Ryan to Band of Brothers. This is the golden age for Hertfordshire, spearheading skills development and driving job creation.

“It takes an army of different tradespeople and a diverse range of talent to produce a film. Thanks to our co-ordinated approach, working hand in hand with industry, we can ensure our residents and businesses are poised to benefit.”

New facilities that have been built in the past two decades include Sky Studios at Elstree, which sits on a 32-acre site, just off the Borehamwood exit of the A1, it has as many as 14 stages, covering 20,000sq ft, all using the latest in cutting edge technology. It is estimated that the studios could create over 2,000 new jobs.

Our county has a long history of film and TV excellence. Elstree Studios is world renowned and hugely successful and has been in existence for over 90 years. It has been the studio of choice for many legendary producers and directors with memorable films such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Elstree Studios has also produced TV shows including The Crown, Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice.

A new proposal to Hertfordshire is Sunset Studios, a US franchise that has produced movies such as La La land and the first X-Men franchise. Backed by a £700m investment, Sunset Studios has developed a 91-acre greenfield site in Broxbourne, it looks to create 4,500 new jobs and it is expected to become the largest film and TV studio campus in the UK. The studios will encompass 25 sound stages and is expected to contribute £300m a year to the local economy.

Last but very much, not least, is the Warner Brothers Studios, set in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, home to the Harry Potter films. Warner Bros has been making films in Hertfordshire for many years and invest heavily in the UK film industry.