Ealing Films returns after 40-year interval

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The Independent Culture

Ealing Films, which produced some of Britain's best- known comedies, is to be resurrected after the new owners of the west London studios won planning permission for a massive revamp of the site.

Ealing Films, which produced some of Britain's best- known comedies, is to be resurrected after the new owners of the west London studios won planning permission for a massive revamp of the site.

Its first release for more than 40 years will be an all-star cast, which includes Dame Judi Dench, Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, in a production of Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance Of Being Earnest.

Established in 1902, Ealing's are the world's oldest working film studios and were home to the comedies of the 1940s and 1950s. During that period exactly 100 films were made under the Ealing name, including classic works produced by Michael Balcon such as The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets.

The BBC bought the studios in the 1950s and produced countless television shows there, including Colditz and The Singing Detective.

The BBC sold the site to BBRK, a group of special effects businesses, but the studios had to be rescued from receivership in 1995 by the National Film and Television School. In April last year a consortium of producers, Fragile Films, the Idea Factory and Manhattan Loft Corporation bought the studios.

In the past few years the studios have been hired out to film makers, responsible for movies including Notting Hill, Spiceworld and the latest Star Wars episode. They have also been used for television shows such as The Royle Family.

This week, Ealing council in west London gave planning permission for an overhaul that will allow Ealing to provide 258,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art production facilities, with new sound stages, post-production suites and rehearsal rooms.

The award-winning architect James Burland has drawn up redevelopment plans for the 3.8-acre site. Central to his scheme is the renovation of the original, high-quality sound stages, which were home to the classic Ealing comedies.

George Perry, the chairman of Forever Ealing, which has campaigned for the studios to make films under their own banner again, said: "Ealing Studios has a great past and now it can have a great future. Forever Ealing, established to help save the Studios from closure, happily looks forward to Ealing resuming its honoured place on the map of world cinema."

Uri Fruchtmann, chairman of Fragile Films, part of the consortium that now owns the studios, said: "We are creating for the first time in 42 years Ealing comedies again. We intend to take Ealing into the future while keeping the glory of the past and providing a home for the creative film and television community."

Asked if all the new films to be produced at Ealing would have a unifying feel to them, as with the old Ealing comedies, he replied: "Some of the old Ealing comedies did have a unifying theme about individuals fighting the state. But 100 films were made at Ealing, and we remember about 10 of them. "We will certainly not be calling everything made here an Ealing comedy, The Royle Family is not an Ealing comedy."

Sean Hinton, the managing director of Ealing Studios, added: "Getting permission to renovate the physical space is the first, critical step along the road to Ealing's future. We are also working on exciting plans for expanding our activities in producing television, film and digital content under the Ealing banner."

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