Pinewood Studios, the London film production facility, will open its gates to the general public to hold a series of drive-in movies, starting 31 October. UK facilities are rarely opened to non-industry personnel and such an event sets a precedent for the historic studio.
Pinewood Group’s corporate affairs director, Andrew Smith, said, “We are a working film and television studio. That is our primary business, not as a Disneyland or Universal theme park, but I’m very keen as a studio to break down the traditional barriers.”
The Studios recently celebrated its 73rd birthday, and the screenings are intended to be an informal and fun recognition of this. The program is designed to appeal to as many audience demos as possible, with the proviso that any film shown must have been shot in whole, or in part at Pinewood or Shepperton Studios. Older titles such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove sit alongside more recent fare Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia, Gladiator and Batman Begins. Hotdogs, hamburgers and a VIP waitress service will complete the drive-in experience.
Hosted on the studio’s paddock tank and surrounding lot, movies will be projected over six weekends onto the bluescreen backdrop, the largest in Europe, measuring 73.1m x 18.3m. A Christie 3-chip DLP HD projector will beam from a Blu-ray source to create a slightly smaller 35m to 40m wide image.
Smith said, “We did a trial earlier in the year and it was a great atmosphere. When you’re at a drive-in you can get out of your car, you can still hear the dialogue or the music. It’s more of a night out as opposed to going to see a film on a normal screen, you’re going for an experience that you’ve never had before.”
While enthusiastic to highlight the event’s unique experience, Smith emphasised he did not intend to compete with local exhibitors. There is also no intention to court any traditional screen advertising for revenue:
“No-one is suggesting this is something you would want to do every day for every weekend of the year, it’s a bit of a novelty. It’s a case of ‘it’s Saturday night, let’s go to the drive-in.’ It’s going to be an old film that’s been on general release already, not a new title.”
The Studios have recently seen increased levels of online public engagement, with a Facebook group and regular Twitter activity sharing information about what is being shot at the facility. An ambitious extension to the Studios, ‘Project Pinewood’, planned to develop 1,400 homes within the ‘living streetscapes’ of the backlot. However, trade paper Variety reported on Wednesday last week that the scheme has been rejected by the local planning authority, and that Pinewood plan to appeal against the decision.
If the appeal were successful, the first-phase of construction in 2012 would include a ‘Screen Crafts Academy’. In conjunction with training body SkillSet and the National Film and Television School, it aims to teach 120 students 20 different disciplines on one year foundation courses, ranging from model-making, wig-making, plastering and carpentry.
Smith said, “The film industry is an important part of the UK economy. Don’t forget that a good percentage of 16-23 year olds are unemployed at the moment, it’s about opening up skills and training. The film industry is not just about what you see on the screen, it’s also all those wonderful craft skills. The creative industries are one aspect of the economy that is currently growing, contributing around 7% of the UK’s GVA.”
Drive-in movies may be about a fun night out, but Smith is serious in reaching out to the public in anticipation of the future, “There are all these jobs in a film studio, plasterer’s apprentice, drapes apprentices, through to all the people who look after the infrastructure of the Studios. We’re very keen to get people to understand what goes into the running of a studio. It’s not just about standing either side of a camera.”