Believe it or not, the little village of Iver Heath plays host to more of Hollywood's biggest movies these days than any L.A. studio lot. This year alone Avengers: Age of Ultron; the latest Bond film, Spectre; and Star Wars: The Force Awakens all came from Pinewood Studios’ storied stages just outside London. It’s no surprise to find 007 at Pinewood: 22 of 24 Bonds were shot there. The lot even boasts a 59,000-square-foot stage—the largest in Europe—dedicated to the franchise’s late producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. But the rabid internationalization of the film industry, coupled with generous U.K. tax incentives, has led to an invasion of blockbusters that’s sent Pinewood scrambling for space. After years of wrangling with local neighborhood councils and greenbelt activists over expansion plans, last year communities secretary Eric Pickles approved an ambitious expansion that is doubling the studio’s size with a $313 million development. The neighbors may complain about the added traffic, but the British film industry cannot be ignored: The treasury estimated that U.K. film production rose above $1.5 billion in 2013 and showed no signs of slowing. And no one wants to turn away Hollywood’s gargantuan productions for lack of space. “Next year will be our 80th birthday, and it is very much the cornerstone of the British film industry,” explains Andrew Smith, the Pinewood Studios Group’s director of strategy and communications. “We have a long pedigree and history here,” he says, alluding to such Pinewood-shot classics as Great Expectations (1946) and The Red Shoes (1948). “But it’s not just about what’s happened in the past—it’s building for the future as well.”
The House That Bond Built
As Pinewood celebrates its 80th year, 007’s favorite studio is becoming Hollywood’s as well.