Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pinewood: James Bond's studios - but for how long?

Pinewood Studios Group's plans, announced in February, to open a new studio in Cardiff received a lot of press interest. Much of the media coverage brought up Pinewood's connection with James Bond. Some reports reminded readers that Pinewood Studios is where many Bond films have been produced, while others simply referred to Pinewood as the James Bond studios. The association between Pinewood and James Bond is so well established in popular culture that it is almost impossible to think of Pinewood Studios without thinking of James Bond (just as any mention of Aston Martin inevitably brings James Bond's DB5 to mind). There are, however, signs that this association – the Pinewood-Studios-equals-James-Bond-studios meme – is beginning to weaken as another hugely successful and popular franchise – Star Wars – begins production at Pinewood.

The report on Pinewood's expansion on the BBC news website was accompanied by an image of the Albert R Broccoli 007 stage and stated that “Pinewood and Shepperton Studios have created more than 1,500 films in more than 75 years, including the James Bond franchise.” An image of Daniel Craig as Bond in Skyfall was used in the Telegraph's report on the plans, and in a sub-headline referred to Pinewood as the studio that “created the James Bond franchise.” The image used in the Mirror's story was of the Carry On films, another franchise long-established at Pinewood, but the feature's sub-headline mentioned that the “studios have been used for James Bond films.” The main and sub-headlines in the Daily Express focused on the reactions of Welsh actors Michael Sheen and Matthew Rhys, but the first paragraph of the piece stated that “many of the Bond movies were shot” at Pinewood.

The connection between the Bond films and Pinewood was more explicit in the Daily Mail, whose story on Pinewood's plans appeared as an inset within a feature about the sale of tycoon Michael Dezer's collection of James Bond vehicles. And just to reinforce the point, the short piece about Pinewood had the headline, 'Dai Another Day', and mentioned that the studios are where the Bond are filmed.

A report in the Times was illustrated with an image of Daniel Craig's Bond, but it also stated that Pinewood is home to the new Star Wars films, as well as the James Bond series. Interestingly, a report in the Hollywood Reporter on the launch of a post-production facility at Pinewood Iskander Studios in Malaysia stated that U.K.-based Pinewood Studios is “where J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII will be produced.” There was no mention of the James Bond films.

Not every media story about Pinewood Studios' expansion in Wales referenced the James Bond films, but many did, which is testament to the strength of the association between Pinewood and the film series. The association may not always be so strong, however. As the production of Star Wars Episode VII gets under way, and the film eventually released, it is likely that stories about the studios will reference the Star Wars films more frequently, perhaps at the expense of references to the Bond films. Moreover, the report in the Hollywood Reporter hints that in some international markets Star Wars has greater cultural penetration than the Bond films, which may struggle to compete for press attention, especially when the publicity and hype surrounding the new Star Wars film really begins.

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