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Fountain Studios in 2008
|Former names||Associated-Rediffusion Studios|
London Weekend Television
Lee International Film and Television Studios
Limehouse Television Studios
|Address||128 Wembley Park Drive,|
|Current tenants||Wembley Park Theatre Ltd|
|Client||BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, SKY|
|Owner||Quintain Ltd (since March 2017)|
|Landlord||Quintain Ltd (since March 2017)|
A number of companies owned the site before it was purchased by Fountain in 1993. Originally a film studio complex, it was formerly the base for the ITV contractors Rediffusion from 1955 to 1968, and London Weekend Television from 1968 to 1972. More recently, the studios were best known for being the venue for the live stages of ITV shows The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent. Other programmes made at Fountain include The Cube and the British Comedy Awards. Fountain Studios has also hosted Pop Idol, Test the Nation and The Kumars at No. 42. The last shows to be broadcast live (and recorded) at the studios were The X Factor on 4 December 2016, after which the studio closed and the site sold to property developer Quintain.
In 1927, Ralph J. Pugh and Rupert Mason founded British Incorporated Pictures with the intention of creating an American-style studio complex in the former British Empire Exhibition's Palace of Engineering. They bought a lease at Wembley in June 1927, though it was for the Lucullus Garden Club Restaurant site, not the Palace of Engineering. Their financial backing fell through and in May 1928 the lease was sold to Victor Sheridan. Sheridan announced that £500,000 was to be spent on developing the biggest and best-equipped studio centre in Europe, British Talking Pictures engaged with Dynamics Corporation of New York to develop and supply a new improved Electromagnetic horn driver known as the Type 1 for its state of the art studio. Sheridan sold his lease to British Talking Pictures a few months later. In September 1928, British Talking Pictures formed a subsidiary, British Sound Film Productions, to make films at Wembley. Wembley Studios was Britain's first purpose-built sound studios. Its three sound stages were officially opened in September 1929. Perhaps because of a major fire, the studio was never as successful as had been hoped. They were taken over by the American Fox Film Company, who leased the site and then bought it outright in 1936.
Fox used the studio for the production of their 'quota quickies'. A change in the law in 1938 led 20th Century Fox to use other studios, but it retained ownership. During the war the studios were leased to the military (the Army Kinematograph Service and RAF Film Unit), with intermittent rental to independents. Ealing Studios filmed Ships with Wings at Wembley in 1941. There was a fire at the studios in 1943.
In the 1950s the studios were used by Mercia Film Productions, who made feature films, and Rayant Pictures, who made shorts and adverts. The last film made at Wembley was Ealing Studios' The Ship That Died of Shame (US: PT Raiders, 1955).
Wembley Film Studio was taken over by Associated-Rediffusion, ITV’s weekday broadcasters for London, in January 1955. Two of the existing studios were fully converted by the time commercial television began in September 1955, with the other two by the end of the year. An expansion on the site, the newly built Studio 5, opened in 1960. It was the largest television studio in Europe, and could be split into two parts for separate productions when required. The first production was An Arabian Night with Orson Welles. Shows such as Ready Steady Go!, No Hiding Place and Take Your Pick were to follow. During the 1960s the studios were home to some of the most popular programmes on the ITV network, including The Rat Catchers, Blackmail, At Last, The 1948 Show and The Frost Report. The Beatles appeared on more than one occasion at the studios.
When Associated-Rediffusion lost its weekday ITV franchise in 1968, the television studios entered a difficult period. For a time they became LWT’s broadcast base and were used to record shows such as On the Buses, Please Sir and Upstairs Downstairs. The 1970s through to the 1990s saw the demise and demolition of the film studio complex and the decline of the television studios under many different owners.
Fountain Television began its existence as a studio and post-production facility in New Malden, Surrey in 1985. After hosting shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Wizadora, the company took the opportunity to purchase the badly run-down Wembley site in 1993 for redevelopment.
Studio 5 (now known as Studio A & Studio B), is 14,000 sq ft including the firelanes. An unusual feature of the studio is a soundproof double door which can be lowered in 30 minutes to reconfigure the space into two separate studios, each with its own independent control facilities. When used as a single studio, it was the largest fully equipped television studio in the UK – 500 sq ft larger than HQ1 at dock10, MediaCityUK in Salford and 2,000 sq ft larger than Studio 1 at BBC Television Centre. Internationally, larger studios exist in Germany and in the United States, although many of these fall into the category of soundstages and are not fully equipped television studios.
Fountain undertook the daunting task of the refurbishment and by 1994 the first shows began to trickle in. Hearts of Gold with Esther Rantzen, Talking Telephone Numbers and The Day Today were amongst the first shows to use Fountain's facilities.
In January 2016, it was confirmed that the studios had been sold for £16 million to a property developer, Quintain. The lease (at present up to eight years) for the site is still available and several parties have expressed an interest. The most likely use will be to retain the building and turn it into a 1,000-seat theatre and that may start after the decommissioning of the studio equipment for sale by auction in February 2017.
The site was leased from Quintain by Wembley Park Theatre Ltd in September 2017 for a 'meanwhile use' of the site until the site is demolished to make way for new developments. The duration of this use was for up to seven years as submitted by Quintain on November 2017.
The existing buildings to be repurposed on a temporary basis as an event space (primarily concentrating on theatrical use). The multi-functional venue will be predominantly focused on a main auditorium which will be designed for use in a number of layouts. This will be formed from the 1,340 sqm former studio space. In addition, various parts of the building will be used in a number of layouts and for a number of functions, including the former offices, restaurant, storage areas and car parks. Work started in September 2017 with minor modifications to the scene dock area and the addition of extra fire doors. It is expected that the first productions will start in the early part of 2018 Brent Council has various documents relating to the Theatre use here
Since being leased by Wembley Park Theatre Ltd, two events have taken place. The first was the Mtv EMA after party on 12 November 2017 and on 29 November 2017 the Elton John's AIDS Foundation club love charity event.
London promoter LWE hosted a club night on 6th May 2018 featuring The Martinez Brothers headlining a Cuttin' Headz showcase. That was followed on 10th May 2018 by an appearance from Paul Kalkbrenner. Some photos of the current state at that time can be found here
A press release was issued on 23 May 2018 stating that the studios would open in the latter half of 2018 as a flexible 1000–2000 seat theatre by Troubador Theatres (the same company that owns Wembley Park Theatre Ltd) as well as bar and restaurant.
Fountain Studios was home to many popular entertainment programmes. List of shows, studio used and network broadcast on below:
- Harris, Simon (4 December 2017). "Farewell to the home of X Factor: Studio to be demolished after semi-finals". ITV News. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
- Kempton, Martin. "An incomplete history of London's television studios".
- Rachael Low (13 September 2013). History of British Film (Volume 4): The History of the British Film 1918 - 1929. Routledge. pp. 227–. ISBN 978-1-136-20634-4.
- "Inside Wembley Studios – Part 1 - Studios". Transdiffusion. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- Fox Film Company on IMDb
- Wood, Linda. "British Films 1927 - 1939" (PDF). British Film Institute. pp. 6, 9.
- Patricia Warren British Film Studios: An Illustrated History, London: B.T. Batsford, 2001, p.182-84
- team, Code8. "On screen - WEMBLEY PARK". Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- "Full text of "Kinematograph Year Book 1954"". archive.org. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- "A Guide to Rediffusion Television Studios". Rediffusion Television Ltd. April 1967. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
- "ITV". Wembley Park Studios Archive. Retrieved 3 August 2017. (Use drop down menu for page access as they are not individually indexed.)
- Lewis, Rebecca (16 January 2016). "Fountain Studios home to The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent sold for £16m". Metro.
- Nathan Spendelow (14 January 2016). "Britain's Got Talent and X Factor studios in Wembley set to close". getwestlondon.
- Brent Council (3 November 2017). "Temporary change of use for a period of seven years from television studio (Use class B1) into a theatre".
- "Brent Council Planning" (PDF).
- "Old Fountain Studios opens this weekend: Here's the first look inside". DJMag.com. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- "Brand new theatre announced for Wembley Park". www.quintain.co.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2018.