Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Every year, the BAFTA film awards present a trophy for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema. Introduced in 1978, the award recognises an organisation or a person’s career and influence on the British Film Industry. This year’s recipient, announced today, is Pinewood/Shepperton, two of the British industry’s most important film studios whose contribution to filmmaking has resulted in some of the greatest movies of all time. Under strict instruction not to let anyone working at the studios know about the award, RT spent a day last week touring Pinewood and Shepperton and learning a little more about these stalwarts of film.

The Orange British Academy Film Awards begin on British TV on BBC Two from 8pm, continuing on BBC One from 9pm on Sunday 8 February. A preview show featuring interviews from the red carpet will be broadcast on BBC Three from 7pm.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Our tour begins at Pinewood, and the first thing that catches your eye as you head through the main gates is 007 stage. All but two of the official Bond films have featured scenes shot at Pinewood, and the franchise is a regular cash cow for the studio.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

007 stage was built in 1976 for The Spy Who Loved Me, after the production was unable to find a stage big enough to contain the Liparus Supertanker set. At 59,000 square feet it’s the largest sound stage in Europe, and has burnt to the ground twice — most recently after filming had wrapped on Casino Royale in 2006. It’s been the Louvre for The Da Vinci Code, the Chocolate River Room for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and most recently played host to desert scenes and a Persian fort for videogame adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

One of the more exciting stages on the Pinewood lot is U-Stage, built in 2005 to provide a safe, permanent and controlled environment in which to shoot underwater. Managed by a permanent team of divers and specialists who assist productions shooting underwater footage on the stage, it holds 1.2 million litres of water which is maintained at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, 87 Fahrenheit.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Windows provide easy views underwater allowing RT to stay suitably dry for these shots as the team demonstrate their underwater camera. They wouldn’t tell us which production the boat belonged to, but we’ll know when the first of the Ant Pirates trilogy is announced any day now (probably).

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

From the surface, the team are able to feed into the camera from the video village. Scenes shot since the stage was built include the closing scene from The Bourne Ultimatum, Keira Knightley drowning in Atonement and the armada sequences from Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Pinewood’s city street, which can be dressed to look like just about any urban backdrop, is a familiar sight for RT. We were here just a few weeks ago visiting the set of Kick-Ass and the production had dressed the street as New York. The two storefronts in the middle of the picture here were dressed as Atomic Comics, the comic book shop featured in the movie. The interior set was built here too.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Providing a giant blue-screen backdrop, this outdoor tank (empty in the picture, obviously) is an ideal location for any shooting designed to look like it was filmed at sea. As comedienne Dawn French sank to the bottom at the end of the French and Saunders Titanic spoof she complained of a foul taste. Jennifer Saunders explained why: “It’s the old Bond tank. Three Bonds and George Lazenby have peed in this.”

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

The walls of Pinewood’s main offices are festooned with production art from the many films that have passed through the studio. Icons include the Carry On series, David Lean‘s Great Expectations, Superman, The Shining, Batman and Mission: Impossible. Over the last couple of years Mamma Mia!, Quantum of Solace, Sweeney Todd, The Bourne Ultimatum and Stardust, to name a few, were shot here.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

And so to Shepperton, where we’re quickly informed to keep quiet on the two big projects on the go at the studios. Signs for both litter the lot, but announcements haven’t gone out and the management team are keen to respect their tenants’ privacy. Opened in 1931 as Sound Lighting Studios, Shepperton has changed hands many times, with former owners including Ridley and Tony Scott and The Who.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Slightly smaller than Pinewood, Shepperton has played host to a slew of movies including The African Queen, The Third Man, Dr. Strangelove, the Pink Panther movies and Batman Begins. Sir John Mills worked at the studio on Great Expectations and The Colditz Story. “What has always remained with me about working at Shepperton has been the sheer professionalism of everyone, both in front of and behind the camera,” he said.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Aside from being a former owner of the studios, Ridley Scott has returned to Shepperton many times over the years, having shot Alien, Legend, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator here. “From the moment I entered Shepperton, I knew the place was special,” he says. “Anywhere that had had within its walls Carol Reed directing Orson Welles in The Third Man, was going to mean a great deal to me.”

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

H-Stage at Shepperton was moved from Isleworth Studios in 1948 and has played host to many of the most ambitious sets built on site. A full-scale reproduction of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship the Tyger was built on hydraulic rams on this stage for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and just a few years ago H-Stage housed the Batcave from Batman Begins. Built over 9 weeks, the set was 250ft long, 120ft wide and 40ft high and 12,000 gallons of water flowed through it every minute, serving a waterfall, a river and the dripping cave walls.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

If you have a spare £300,000 hidden down the back of the sofa, you could spend it on your very own version of the Korda Theatre, a state-of-the-art facility for sound mixing. Named after Hungarian producer/director Alexander Korda, whose contribution to British cinema in the 40s and 50s was vast, features mixed here include Shakespeare in Love, Gosford Park and Troy.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Shepperton’s Littleton Manor, known as the Old House, dates back to the 13th Century and houses production offices and facilities. Its corridors doubled for interior shots of the hospital where Damian was born in The Omen while the grounds served as a backdrop for an encounter between Father Brennan and Damian’s father.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

It may look like any other overgrown British stream, but this is a fully-fledged river that runs through Shepperton’s backlot. As hard as it may be to believe, this scene doubled as Africa for the Bogart/Hepburn classic The African Queen. One of the studios’ popular legends goes that there’s an unusually large number of parakeets in the area because they were released during the production of that movie.

Inside Pinewood/Shepperton

Built for The Golden Compass, Shepperton now has its very own Western street on the backlot, which marks the last spot on our tour. We’re not entirely convinced the British weather is going to help to complete the Wild West look, but it seemed to be pretty convincing as part of the His Dark Materials adaptation.

First came word that a newcomer called Daeg Faerch would be playing the young Michael Meyers in Rob Zombie‘s "Halloween." Then we learned that Malcolm McDowell would be stepping into the role of Dr. Loomis — aka the raving doctor who chases Mike all over the place. And now we know who’ll be playing the big killer himself.

The actor’s name is Tyler Mane, and you most likely know the guy if you’ve seen "X-Men," "Troy" or "The Devil’s Rejects."

Zombie’s version of "Halloween" opens in … August.

For more information visit Bloody-Disgusting.com.

Tom Cruise‘s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III remained the most popular film in North America for the second straight weekend while the big-budget disaster film Poseidon opened in second place to disappointing results.

The frame’s other new releases, the Lindsay Lohan comedy Just My Luck and the soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins, opened miserably as well giving the industry little to celebrate. Overall ticket sales fell behind those of the comparable weekend in each of the last four years as a sluggish marketplace waits for that one true summer blockbuster that draws the masses into the multiplexes.

Despite a weaker-than-expected opening weekend, Paramount’s MI3 enjoyed a respectable sophomore frame dropping 49% to an estimated $24.5M to retain its standing as the number one film. Playing in an ultrawide 4,059 theaters, the Ethan Hunt actioner averaged a solid $6,039 per location and raised its ten-day total to $84.6M. The decline was very similar to the 48% second weekend fall for last summer’s big spy flick Mr. & Mrs. Smith which grossed $26M in its sophomore shot after a $50.3M bow. The Pitt-Jolie vehicle, however, captured a more muscular $96.7M in its first ten days thanks in part to a June release when more students were out of school.

With so many action sequels tumbling by 55% or more on the second weekend, Mission: Impossible III managed to hold up relatively well. Competition from Poseidon was not formidable so moviegoers were not drawn away to another big event pic. The latest Ethan Hunt film will face its true test this Friday when the much-anticipated thriller The Da Vinci Code starring that other Tom opens followed a week later by the mutant juggernaut X-Men: The Last Stand. At its current pace, look for MI3 to reach $130-140M domestically making it the lowest grossing installment of the decade-old franchise. The first Mission: Impossible grossed $181M in 1996 while MI2 took in $215.4M in 2000. Overseas, MI3 jumped to $129.2M in foreign sales putting the worldwide tally at $213.8M in under two weeks. The global box office gross looks to be on a trajectory to hit $350M.

Failing to sink Cruise’s ship, the ocean liner disaster pic Poseidon settled for the runner-up spot this weekend opening with an estimated $20.3M from 3,555 locations. Warner Bros. generated a decent but not impressive per-theater average of $5,717 with its first pricey entry of the summer movie season. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One), the PG-13 film was a remake of the 1972 picture The Poseidon Adventure and starred Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, and Richard Dreyfuss as passengers on a luxury ship who must fight to survive after a rogue wave capsizes the vessel. Poseidon opened weaker than other big-budget maritime action films like 2003’s Master and Commander ($25.1M), 2000’s The Perfect Storm ($41.3M), and even 1995’s infamous Waterworld ($21.2M).

Although audiences in years past have flocked to May disaster films like Twister, Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow, this time Poseidon lacked the goods to draw in a paying audience. Reviews were not kind which also made the adult-skewing picture a tough sell. Varying reports on the film’s budget put the production cost in excess of $160M so a stellar run internationally and on DVD will be needed in order to turn a profit. Poseidon set sail in a handful of Asian countries to the tune of $4.4M this weekend, but will open in most foreign territories in June and July.

Once again scoring the best hold among all wide releases was the Robin Williams family comedy RV which dipped a mere 14% in its third weekend to an estimated $9.5M. The Sony hit has collected a solid $42.8M in 17 days.

Ticket buyers ignored Lindsay Lohan’s new film Just My Luck which flopped in its opening weekend grossing a mere $5.5M, according to estimates. The Fox release averaged an unlucky $2,165 per location and played almost exclusively to a teen girl audience. Studio research showed that the crowd for Luck was a remarkably high 80% female and 70% under the age of 25. Critics, not surprisingly, panned the film.

Horror flick An American Haunting enjoyed a solid sophomore session dropping only 36% to an estimated $3.7M for fifth place. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing, the PG-13 thriller has banked $10.9M in ten days and should scare its way to a mediocre $17-19M. Universal’s 9/11 thriller United 93 followed with an estimated $3.6M, down just 33%, lifting the cume to a decent $25.6M.

The teen gymnastics pic Stick It dropped 41% to an estimated $3.2M to land in the number seven spot with a total to date of $22.2M for Buena Vista. Fox’s animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown, still the top-grossing film of 2006, grossed an estimated $3M sliding just 29% in its seventh weekend. No other film has spent as many weeks in the top ten this year. Cume stands at $187.4M domestically and over $600M worldwide.

Sony’s fright pic Silent Hill placed ninth with an estimated $2.2M, off 45%, for a sum of $44.5M thus far. The New Line flop Hoot fell 37% to an estimated $2.1M in its second outing as the total inched up to a dismal $6.2M. Last weekend, the owl film had the distinction of suffering the worst opening in history for a film debuting in over 3,000 theaters. Hoot’s puny $3.4M bow in 3,018 sites beat out the dismal $6M launch from 3,006 theaters of 2004’s New York Minute starring the Olsen Twins for that unfortunate honor.

Another film failing to connect with kids was Buena Vista’s new soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins which kicked off its run with a weak estimate of only $2M. The PG-rated film failed to qualify for the top ten this weekend and averaged a poor $1,989 from 1,007 locations.

Two April releases fell from the top ten this weekend. The spoof comedy Scary Movie 4 dropped 44% to an estimated $2.1M in its fifth frame. With $86.6M to date, The Weinstein Co. release looks to finish with roughly $90M which would not be far off from the $110M of its predecessor 2003’s Scary Movie 3. The Lionsgate family drama Akeelah and the Bee declined 41% to an estimated $2M in only its third turn. Cume sits at just $13.6M and should reach $16-18M.

Opening in limited release this weekend, Miramax’s family reunion comedy Keeping Up with the Steins grossed an estimated $621,000 from 138 locations for a respectable $4,500 average. The PG-13 film stars Garry Marshall, Jeremy Piven, and Daryl Hannah. The Swaziland-set drama Wah-Wah debuted in 25 theaters and grossed an estimated $57,000 for a mild $2,270 average. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, and Emily Watson, the R-rated film is distributed by Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Among indie films expanding into more markets, Sony Classics grossed an estimated $1.2M from its comedy Art School Confidential after widening from 12 to 762 theaters across the country. That left the John MalkovichAnjelica Huston starrer with a pitiful $1,593 average per venue as it failed to register with moviegoers on a national level. Cume is $1.4M. Fox Searchlight expanded its Indian drama Water from 36 to 62 locations and grossed an estimated $257,000 for a $4,138 average. Total sits at $593,000 with more markets opening on Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $77.7M which was down 15% from last year when Monster-in-Law opened at number one with $23.1M; and down 23% from 2004 when Troy debuted in the top spot with $46.9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

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