Sky have confirmed the first blockbuster movies to be made at its new Hertfordshire film and TV studios.

One of the first projects to be filmed at Sky Studios Elstree will be Universal Pictures' highly anticipated big screen adaptations of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked.

The untold story of the Witches of Oz will star Oscar-nominated British actress Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba and chart-topping Thank U, Next pop star Ariana Grande as Glinda.

When it opens later this year, Sky Studios Elstree will house 13 sound stages across 27.5 acres, and enable £3billion of production investment over the first five years of operation.

Wicked is based on the bestselling novel by Gregory Maguire and will be directed by filmmaker Jon M. Chu and produced by Marc Platt.

A prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the story of everything leading up to Dorothy’s arrival in Oz.

The film adaptation of the record-breaking musical comes from Universal Pictures, a sister company of Sky and part of the Comcast Group.

Filming is set to start later this year at Sky’s new state-of-the-art film and TV studio just off the A1 at Borehamwood.

The movie musical is being split into two parts, as Jon M. Chu revealed in a social media post last month.

The In the Heights and Crazy Rich Asians director posted: “As we prepared this production over the last year, it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to wrestle the story of Wicked into a single film without doing real damage to it.

"As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years.

"So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one Wicked movie but TWO!!!

"With more space, we can tell the story of Wicked as it was meant to be told while bringing even more depth and surprise to the journeys of these beloved characters.”

The filmmaker added that Grande, Erivo and himself pledged to create “nothing less than an experience that honours its foundation for all the fans who’ve waited for this movie”.

Featuring crowd-pleasing musical theatre favourite Defying Gravity, Wicked debuted on Broadway in October 2003 with Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth and Joel Grey as the original cast members playing Elphaba, Glinda and the Wizard, respectively.

The show tells the backstory of The Wizard Of Oz and what happened before Dorothy arrived in the enchanted world. Wicked launched in the West End in 2006 and is playing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

The Wicked movies are due to be released over successive Christmas holidays, with the first film due in cinemas in December 2024.

Sky has also announced its largest ever slate of new programming to be shown through 2022 and beyond, including a raft of new commissions across drama, comedy and original film.

Herts Advertiser: Sheridan Smith stars in Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything.Sheridan Smith stars in Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything. (Image: Sky)

Announced at its Up Next 2022 event at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, hosted by Claudia Winkleman, Sky will launch over 200 Sky Original shows across all genres this year – a 60 per cent increase from 2021 and testament to Sky’s investment in the UK creative economy.

The showcase set out Sky’s promise to bring audiences the best TV shows from the UK, the US and Europe, featuring world-class talent including Kenneth Branagh, Suranne Jones, Katherine Ryan, Romesh Ranganathan, Keeley Hawes, Sheridan Smith, Billie Piper, Colin Farrell, Liam Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Jodie Turner-Smith and Letitia Wright.

Herts Advertiser: Billie Piper returns in I Hate Suzie Too, a Sky OriginalBillie Piper returns in I Hate Suzie Too, a Sky Original (Image: Sky Studios.)

Among the new titles announced are a major adaptation of Heather Morris’ bestselling novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a life-affirming and heartrending story of bravery and love in the darkest of places, and the return of the critically acclaimed dramas I Hate Suzie Too starring Billie Piper and COBRA: Rebellion starring Robert Carlyle.

Also announced were three new original comedies featuring some of the UK’s favourite talent, with Sheridan Smith in Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything, Romesh Ranganathan and Katherine Ryan teaming up for Romantic Getaway, and there’s a new spin on a Christmas classic with Suranne Jones starring in Christmas Carole.

Adding to the line-up are a range of new Sky Original films.

Letitia Wright stars in the tender and moving drama Aisha, Colin Farrell dazzles in the beguiling sci-fi drama After Yang, while Brian Cox, Jodie Turner-Smith, John Cena and Ann Dowd star in the political thriller, The Independent, and Russell Crowe directs and stars alongside Liam Hemsworth in the thriller Poker Face.

Herts Advertiser: Russell Crowe directs and stars in Poker Face.Russell Crowe directs and stars in Poker Face. (Image: Sky)

Speaking on the new commissions, Zai Bennett, managing director, Content Sky UK and Ireland, said: “Great stories have the power to help us connect with each other, and at its best entertainment isn’t something we watch, it’s something we feel and experience.

"That’s why we’re creating and investing in world-class original storytelling to give our customers even more of their favourite shows and films than ever before.

“We’re delighted to be working with some of the best UK and international talent, both on and off screen, to bring these stories to life."

Herts Advertiser: Sheridan Smith attends the Up Next event in celebration of forthcoming Sky shows at the Theatre Royal in London.Sheridan Smith attends the Up Next event in celebration of forthcoming Sky shows at the Theatre Royal in London. (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Herts Advertiser: Katherine Ryan and Romesh Ranganathan attends the Up Next event in celebration of forthcoming Sky shows at the Theatre Royal in London.Katherine Ryan and Romesh Ranganathan attends the Up Next event in celebration of forthcoming Sky shows at the Theatre Royal in London. (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)