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Monday, 26 April 2010

Hammer Films Bray Studios Faces Demolition

Bray_Studios_Frontage.jpgBray Studios - considered the spiritual home of cult British films and the home of Hammer Film Productions for years - could be turned flattened and turned into homes, unless a new campaign to save it succeeds.

Earlier this month, the Maidenhead Advertiser reported that current owners the Bray Management Company says the the operation - set to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year - is struggling to keep up with technological advancements.

Once the home for Hammer Film Productions, a planning application was recently submitted to the Royal Borough for repairs to Grade II listed Down Place, the site’s central building. The application notes that the studios, formerly used to provide offices and facilities in connection with the film business, have been hit hard by the economic downturn and are no longer a viable business - and hinted at plans to turn the historic site into housing.

Down Place was originally bought by Hammer Film Productions for use in their horror films, and then was gradually enlarged to become the studios that exist now. Films shot there include The Mummy, The Curse of Frankenstein, the Dracula film series and many more.

Other films and television shows have used the studios down the years, including a number of shows produced by Gerry Anderson such as Space:1999 and for effects work on various Doctor Who stories such as Frontier in Space and The Invisible Enemy.

Bray Studios Today from the air - image via GoogleMaps.jpgThe studios were sold in November 1970, but are still in use for recording, but, as a result of the current recession, faces stiff competition for business from nearby Pinewood Studios and elsewhere.

The plans to level the site for housing came to light in an application to replace the roof and windows of Down Place which were discussed and approved at a Bray Parish Council meeting earlier this month. The documents discussed revealed a further application is likely for extensive work to convert the site into housing.

Fans of Hammer Films and British film history have moved swiftly to highlight the threat, starting a Facebook campaign group, blog and Twitterfeed to raise awareness about the studios' plight,

"We quickly must look at the question of what can be done to help save the Studio," urges campaign organiser and Hammer Films expert Robert Simpson.

"In the first instance we have to assume that a huge volume of cash is needed - Down Place itself is in an unhealthy state of repair. It needs a large amount of work done if the Grade II listed building is to be preserved.

"...According to the information released Bray Studios is no longer viable as a business model - though we would suggest that the Studios need new capital investment to upgrade the equipment and allow it to compete once again," he continues. "The present owners clearly have no intention or desire to do that. Instead they see the chance for a quick profit in residential accommodation that will unburden them of their responsibility. Bray Management Ltd looks at the studios as property rather than a cultural landmark and facility.

"We are open to ideas and suggestions, and ways of raising funds to keep the studios alive and within the film industry," he says, appealing to Hammer Films fans and the wider British film community for support. "We want to maintain its historic integrity, and allow it to flourish. We want it to remain distinctive.

"Perhaps investors can be found with millions to spare on developing, upgrading and protecting the site? Perhaps there is a way we can find for a stay of execution allowing a campaign to build and find the resources before the site is compromised.

"...Bray Studios is a true independent studio space, and some fine examples of British film and television have been made here. Don't let that be destroyed."

Save Bray Studios Campaign

Save Bray Studios Facebook Campaign Group

• Campaign Blog: braystudios.blogspot.com

• TwitterFeed: http://www.twitter.com/braystudios

Bray Studios Web Links

Bray Studios: The Studio Tour
Unofficial guide to Bray Studios and its history

David Rattigan's Bray Studio Guide

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