Aerodrome to become pounds 200m film studio

Home movies: Malaysians buy 300-acre Bond set

Arts Correspondent

The British film industry yesterday received a pounds 200m boost that could create 3,000 new jobs over three years when a Hertfordshire aerodrome, which was the set for the latest James Bond film, became Britain's newest film studio.

It will have the largest backlot - outside filming area - in the world, and is likely also to host American-style studio tours for the public as well as shooting new films.

The Malaysian-based Millenium Group announced that it had exercised its option to buy the 300-acre Leavesden Aerodrome site in Hertfordshire, where the new Bond film, GoldenEye, was shot, for pounds 42.75 m.

It says the development of the former Rolls Royce aero-engine factory will take about three years and involve further investment of about pounds 150m. Angelika Brozler, joint chief executive of Third Millenium Studios, said: "We believe that Leavesden is a great site with enormous potential for the development project.

"The project will reinforce Hertfordshire's position in the British film and television industry and will generate substantial employment opportunities, with some 3,000 jobs estimated."

Rolls Royce left the Leavesden site in 1993 and Eon Productions leased it in June last year to create sound stages for the Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan. Rolls Royce wanted to turn it into a golf course and hotel, but planning authorities were eager to see it used as a film studio.

Michael Wilson, co-producer of GoldenEye, said: "The site is unique, as it not only offers eight acres of filming space under one roof, but also the largest backlot in the world. We were able to build five large exterior sets, including the recreation of St Petersburg, and film simultaneously on them.

"We are extremely happy that MGL identified the opportunity to turn this site into permanent studio facilities and hope to be producing all future 007 films here at Leavesden."

British Film Commissioner Sir Sydney Samuelson said yesterday's announcement was "a landmark ... indicative of the energy and persistence of those concerned with making the Leavesden project happen."

A spokesman at the British Film Institute said: "This is the most tremendous news, especially in the century of the cinema which we are celebrating at the moment."

Goldeneye opens on 21 November with a royal charity premiere in London.