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Manager Says Work Has Been Done : Studio Asked to Make Repairs

May 25, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

An investment company that owns Laird International Studios, one of the film industry's oldest production facilities, has been asked by the Culver City Redevelopment Agency to fix leaky roofs, repair wiring and provide more parking before it is sold.

The agency wants Kings Point Corp. to make the improvements in the studio, which has sets dating to 1918. The agency identified the problems in a preliminary report so that potential buyers will know what needs to be done to the property, said Community Development Director Jody Hall-Esser.

But Jack Kindberg, studio manager, said nearly all of the improvements sought by the agency have been made and he charged that the agency asked for them without first inspecting the studio.

Kings Point filed for bankruptcy in 1982 and has been approached by more than a dozen large production companies and investors interested in buying the studio, said Curtis B. Danning, the company's attorney and trustee.

The interested companies include Filmcorp and the Cannon Group, both based in Los Angeles, and Culver City-based Lorimar Telepictures. Both Filmcorp and Lorimar have filed statements of interest with Culver City in case the redevelopment agency decides to acquire the studio itself and put it on the market.

Laird, formerly known as RKO Studios, is where such movie classics as "Gone With the Wind" and "Citizen Kane" were filmed.

Hall-Esser said the agency's report on Laird was prepared to assure that the studio is upgraded by agency standards. The report, which was reviewed by the Planning Commission, will be revised and released again in about two months, she said.

The 14-acre studio at Washington and Ince boulevards in downtown Culver City is located in a redevelopment district along with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios and the new Filmcorp building.

Hall-Esser said that the agency has not prepared a report on MGM, which was recently sold and is reportedly on the market again. The report was written on Laird because it is an older studio and has more problems than MGM, she said.

More Parking Requested

The agency has said it wants Laird to repair walls and roofs of sound stages and improve wiring, heating and ventilation systems. It also wants Laird to increase its off-street parking; nearby residents have said that too many visitors and employees park on their streets.

The agency report urged the studio to preserve some of its buildings, including the two studios built by silent film producer Thomas Ince in 1918 with glass roofs and canvas walls, Hall-Esser said.

Kindberg said the studio already has made more than $4 million in improvements since Kings Point bought it in 1977. He said that the agency based its report on out-of-date information.

Most Repairs Done

The studio, which is in good financial shape, has performed about 80% of the repairs suggested by the agency, he said.

Kindberg said he hopes the agency will want to preserve a pair of bungalows, one used by the late actress Gloria Swanson, the other by Orson Wells while the late actor and director filmed "Citizen Kane." The agency has suggested that both buildings be moved or demolished to increase parking space in the studio.

Parking continues to be a problem, he said. The studio now has 450 spaces and the agency wants it to have about 700, he said.

Despite Kings Point's bankruptcy, Laird has been a profitable business, with nearly 100% occupancy. About 30 independent film producers lease office space or sound stages there. Film makers Blake Edwards and Norman Jewison have been longtime tenants, and actor-director Sylvester Stallone is making a movie on one of the studio's 12 sound stages, Kindberg said.

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