EXCLUSIVE: Some of the biggest studios in the UK, including two at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, are beginning to open their doors again as UK film and television shoots take their first steps back into production.
Elstree Studios and Twickenham Studios have announced that production work has resumed on their sites, while Deadline understands that other spaces, including Arborfield/Longrcoss Studios and Maidstone Studios, should be ready for business again in the coming weeks.
Arborfield was among the first to be impacted by the production hiatus when Netflix shut down the fantasy drama The Witcher on the same day that actor Kristofer Hivju tested positive for coronavirus on March 16. Managing director Bob Terry said work is underway to reopen the site and sister studio Longcross, where the likes of Captain Phillips and Skyfall have been filmed. He is holding meetings over the next two weeks to finalize safety procedures.
Maidstone Studios was also an early victim of the COVID-19 outbreak when an employee on-site was diagnosed with the disease on March 1. Home to UK television shows including Supermarket Sweep and Catchphrase, the studio has erected Perspex screens in its galleries, installed hand sanitizers and social distancing tape, and reconfigured its office space. Maidstone is aiming to reopen in early July.
Elsewhere, Pinewood Studios Group did not shut its Pinewood and Shepperton sites during the peak of the pandemic. The studios have extensive safety protocols in place for when major clients, including Disney and Netflix, decide to begin filming again. Pinewood Studios Group was among a number of companies to contribute to the British Film Commission’s production guidelines, published Monday.
BBC Studioworks has also kept sites open during the crisis, allowing shows including Piers Morgan’s Good Morning Britain to remain on-air. Work is now ramping up again across its studios, including a behind-the-scenes documentary on BBC soap EastEnders, titled Secrets From The Square, filmed at BBC Elstree Centre. A number of other shows are penciled in to return over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, work is back underway at Riverside Studios, with Deadline reporting this week that James Corden-backed production company Fulwell 73 has been using the space to film its BBC One entertainment show Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer.
Elstree Studios (another studio that remained open during the crisis) and Twickenham Studios would not disclose what productions are back up and running on their sites, but the latter said it was a “major Hollywood production.” Twickenham Studios partner Jeremy Rainbird said: “With the measures we have introduced we think it is a perfect place for people to re-boot various production workflows by accessing the site safely and securely.”
Deadline has contacted other significant UK studios, including Ealing Studios and Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, for an update on their plans over the coming weeks.