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Weston Homes to transform Denham Film Studios into £120m Art Deco inspired residential address

Award winning residential developer Weston Homes has acquired the famous Denham Film Laboratories in Buckinghamshire, originally part of the Denham Film Studios - where the movies of numerous Oscar winning films were processed and first screened to their directors. It will be transformed into an outstanding £120 million Art Deco and movie inspired residential address.  

The Grade II listed Art Deco main laboratory and head office building, built in 1936 and designed by Walter Gropius for film producer Alexander Korda, and the surrounding 11.94 acre (4.83 hectare) site will be transformed to create an exclusive residential address.

The new development will be known as the Denham Film Studios and will provide 224 converted and newly built homes; including 154 one, two and three bedroom apartments and 70 four and five bedroom family townhouses. The project will be highly inclusive, providing private homes for sale, ranging from one bed starter homes up to large five bedroom executive houses, complete with affordable housing of varying tenure.

Features within the new development will include a retained and restored cinema with bar and a community hall/fitness space. The new properties are designed around garden squares, landscaped grounds, rill waterfeatures, private gardens and protected woodland complete with parking and garaging.  

The main Grade II listed building will be converted into 49 elegant apartments, around this will be two new green squares and communal gardens, bordered by three new four storey apartment buildings providing 105 new homes. Around the eastern side of the site there will be avenues of new three and four storey terraced housing, and to the northern section two and three storey detached townhouses; all overlooking communal landscaping and private gardens. 

Under current plans the retained cinema – which was used to screen movies to Hollywood directors including Stanley Kubrick, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Steven Spielberg - will be refurbished and turned into a cinema theatre and club for residents; retaining an important link to the history of the site.

Reflecting the film studio history of the site, there will be movie themed public artwork in the grounds. Highly original and innovative, the new public artwork will take the form of large format plates of glass (each circa 1.6 metres high by 4 metres long) which will be etched with scenes from the famous movies produced at the film studios. The etched glass will be backlit so that they can be illuminated at night, providing highly striking movie themed artwork for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Subject to the necessary consents, the various streets within the development will be named after the famous historic movies, film directors and actors/actresses who worked at the film studios over the decades.

The Denham Film Studios site fronts onto the North Orbital Road in Denham, providing easy commuter access into central London. The Laboratories were built in 1936 by film producer Alexander Korda as part of a film-industry complex known as the Denham Film Studios.                                          

The main building is 66,740 sqft (circa 6,200 sqm) in size and was designed by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), the world renowned architect who headed the Bauhaus movement in Germany (1919-32). Gropius designed a three storey Art Deco building with crisp white render façade and continuous linear balconies, evoking 1930s Ocean liners. It is one of only three buildings that Gropius designed in the UK before he relocated to the United States. The building was given Grade II listing in 1985.

The Denham Film Studios and its main Laboratories buildinghave an exceptionally illustrious history, playing a central role in Hollywood and British movie making for almost 80 years. In 1937 HM Queen Mary visited the recently completed studios and film laboratory, followed in 1938 by HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In 1939 the film studios and laboratories were acquired by the Rank Organisation which owned the rival Pinewood Film Studios in Iver Heath. The Rank Organisation decided to focus all film laboratory work at Denham, but the adjacent Film Studios Lots were closed in 1952 in favour of operations at Pinewood Film Studios.

The Film Laboratories are famous for their central role in the production of some of the world’s most memorable movies, television programmes and TV advertisements. In its heyday it was the largest and most advanced film laboratory outside of Hollywood, producing over 500 million feet of film per annum on site, with completed films distributed to cinemas around the world. During the 1930s over 1,200 people were employed at Denham and even into the late 1970s there were some 700 employees at the complex.

The Film Laboratories have been used by world famous film directors to process, edit and review their films. They include Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, Michael Winner, Sir Peter Jackson, Alexander Korda, Ewan McGregor and Ridley Scott. Films produced and edited on site include: Goodbye Mr Chips, In which we serve, Brief Encounter, Treasure Island, The Great Escape, Clash of the Titans, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Alien/Aliens, Tommorrow Never Dies, ET, Superman 1,2 & 3, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Full Metal Jacket, GoldenEye, War Horse, Eyes Wide Shut, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.  

The 1930s building has an Art Deco stairwell with feature glass block windows, entrance foyer, storage rooms and film processing and editing rooms. One room stored all the original film footage and film scripts for the James Bond films. The top floor contained plush offices for the directors, one originally served as offices for Alexander Korda, the founder of the film studios, and was later the office of James Downer, the Managing Director of Rank Film Laboratories. The director’s boardroom table and chairs consisted of furniture from the movie My Fair Lady.

In one wing on the ground floor were two plush mini-cinemas; used to screen film footage to major Hollywood directors. Built in the 1930s and refurbished in the 1970s they were used by directors including Stanley Kubrick, James Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Steven Spielberg. Under current plans one of these movie theatres is being retained and restored to create a cinema theatre and club for residents.

Behind the main laboratory building there used to be (between the 1930s to 1960s) a large film water tank (40 metres by 40 metres in size, 4 metres deep), which was filled with water and used for filming movies including Treasure Island (1950), The Cruel Sea (1953) and The Dam Busters (1955). Parts of the movies Treasure Island and Full Metal Jacket were also filmed in the woodland on the site. In the 1990s the film water tank was converted into a large car park. Around the main Grade II listed building and water tank/car park there were once ancillary buildings of mixed style and ages.

During WWII the film laboratories were taken over by the US military and used for reviewing top secret film footage and photographs taken over Nazi occupied continental Europe and Scandinavia. The laboratories were also used to produce and edit US military training and propaganda films.

After WWII the laboratories were turned to the Rank Organisation and civilian use. In 2006 the Rank Organisation sold the site to MacAndrews & Forbes. In March 2014 a descision was made to close the site which by then was employing less than 70 people. The reason for the closure is that since 2009 there has been a very fast transition to digital filming, which has dramatically reduced the demand for traditionally shot films, making the laboratories at Denham redundant.

Now award winning residential developer Weston Homes has acquired the famous Denham Film Studios siteand are providing an exciting new future for this famous facility.

The main Art Deco building will be transformed into a stunning residential centerpiece for the development. The building will gain a new glass roofed central atrium rising from ground to top floor. The atrium space will contain a dramatic  feature stairwell, internal balconies and floor to ceiling glazing, allowing natural light to cascade into the new homes.

On each floor there will be new one, two and three bedroom apartments with features including large windows, high ceilings and retained period features. On the ground floor, the retained cinema will be refurbished to provide a private screening room, complete with studio bar and foyer, and there will also be a community hall/fitness suite within the new development.

Within the grounds of the development, the water tank/carpark and various ancillary buildings will be replaced by beautiful landscaped areas and new homes. The three new apartment buildings will compliment the retained Art Deco building with features including large windows, covered linear balconies and sleek contours.

Within the converted and new homes will be Weston Homes hallmark state-of-the-art specification including designer fully fitted kitchens, spacious stone paneled bathroom suites, stylish living rooms and luxurious bedrooms. The result will be new homes that combine history with all the facilities required for modern living.

Bob Weston, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Weston Homes said: “For almost 80 years the Denham Film Studios played a central role in the history of Hollywood and British movie making. With its iconic Art Deco centerpiece, the retained and restored cinema once used by Hollywood directors and its illustrious history this is without doubt the most exciting, glamorous and unique restoration projects Weston Homes has undertaken to date. Our vision at the Denham Film Studios is to create an Art Deco and movie inspired residential address within easy commuting distance of London via rail or road.

The Denham Film Studios will formally launch in Spring 2017 with an on-site marketing suite, dressed show-apartment and restored cinema for visitors to view. People interested in purchasing one of the homes are invited to contact Weston Homes now to register their interest.

Prices have not been set but are anticipated to start from £350,000, rising to £1,500,000. The development will provide a full range of homes from starter homes up to around a dozen five bedroom executive houses which will be priced above £1,000,000. To register an interest in the homes contact Weston Homes on Tel: 01279 873 300 or visit www.weston-homes.com.