Twentieth Century Fox’s hopes of setting up a European production base at the near-derelict Elstree Studios have suffered a setback, with the withdrawal of site owner Brent Walker Group from talks with the council on the studio’s future.
Hertsmere Council, which is determined to see Elstree continue as a film and TV facility, was trying to reach agreement with Brent Walker about taking over control of the site to sell it to Fox.
The leisure group, however, wants to sell the 15.5 acres for real estate development, and rejected the council’s advances. The council will now proceed with a compulsory purchase order, but this could take up to 18 months. It is also taking high court action to prove that Brent Walker has breached its planning agreement with the council, under which the leisure group guaranteed that Elstree would remain a film and TV studio for 25 years. If Brent Walker loses, it would forfeit its $15 million bond and the site.
Brent Walker claims that it has previously attempted to find film and TV investors, but received no interest. It argues that this leaves it free to develop the site in other, more lucrative ways.
But Hertsmere has had extensive talks with “a major film production company” – widely known to be Fox – about revitalizing Elstree. Sega Europe has also been connected with the site. The price on offer for the site is much lower than Brent Walker’s valuation, which is based on its potential for commercial development.