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Busy Studios Reach Out for Stage, Office Space

June 21, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

John Warren has been a motion-picture location manager for almost 20 years, but he just started cashing in on an idea that is helping to make Valencia an extension of Hollywood.

Last month, he opened Lindsey Film Studios, named for his 5-year-old daughter, in an industrial building near Magic Mountain, with dressing rooms, production offices and four fixed sets--a courtroom, morgue, hospital and police station. They are sets, he says, that have been popular, especially with television shows, for at least 13 years.

That's when Warren first had the idea but not the cash. So far, this year, he has invested about $1 million leasing the building, soundproofing it and constructing the sets.

He started the studio now, he says, because the time is right.

Hasn't Been Disappointed

"That's not to say that the time wasn't right 13 years ago, but it just wasn't as right. Then, we might have had people shooting in our studio 10 days a month. Now we're expecting at least 18 to 20 days a month."

So far, he hasn't been disappointed. "We had Universal here one day, Michael Landon Productions here the day before. We thought the studio would be booked three days the first month, but--instead--it was booked six days the first week, and we've been booked daily ever since."

Warren's experience in keeping sound stages rented is not unique. Nor is it confined to Valencia, which Warren's studio manager, Douglas Randall, calls "Hollywood North."

Although a threatened strike by the Directors Guild of America could slow activity after contracts expire June 30, the Hollywood film industry has been hopping with activity, stimulated by new markets in videocassettes and cable television. There are hundreds of new, independent production companies and many new heads of old production facilities.

These changes have contributed to a demand for and shortage of studio-related offices and large, well-equipped sound and tape stages. With increased demand and capital--from the booms in videos and stock, bond and film partnership offerings--the rush has been on to rent, renovate and build.

Vacant Stores Converted

Entrepreneurs like Warren have been developing stages-for-rent in vacant supermarkets and stores, but major and not-so-major studios are also planning, building and remodeling sound stages and offices on their lots.

Among the office projects being built is a four-story one at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, a 12-story one in Burbank for the Entertainment Sector of the Coca-Cola Co., parent of Columbia Pictures, and a five-story one at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.

A 50,000-square-foot building, with post-production facilities, is expected to be under way in July as part of a $50-million construction program at the Culver Studios, which changed its name in December--with a change of ownership--from Laird International. The lot also has been known as Selznick Studios, RKO and Desilu.

Besides two new sound stages and a renovation of 12 existing ones, the construction program includes refurbishing the three-story, 20-room Antebellum-style mansion, built by producer Thomas Ince, into offices.

Offices Renovated

More offices are being renovated at Lorimar Telepictures, which occupies the former MGM lot in Culver City. The 44-acre, 24-sound-stage property was acquired last year by Lorimar, a major television firm that, before the purchase, occupied rented quarters there.

Irwin Molasky, Lorimar vice president and one of its founders, said the historic Thalberg Building will be remodeled to provide offices for 300 people, and the beautiful old facade of the Producers Building will be restored, with the interior renovated into offices for 400 people.

Lorimar also plans to remodel its commissary at a cost of about $1.5 million, so there will be a deli, fast-food operation, and indoor and outdoor cafes.

The office pinch is also being felt by the Walt Disney Co., which got the Burbank City Council's go-ahead in May to plan a theme park, mall and hotel on a 40-acre redevelopment site near Disney's studio in Burbank.

Irwin Okun, Disney's vice president of corporate communications, said, "We have run into an office shortage, and we hope to build eventually on our property."

Stages in Florida

Disney also has a shortage of sound stages. "We have the smallest number of any of the major studios, with only four," Okun conceded.

However, Disney is building four sound stages near its Disney World in Florida to help accommodate its increased production from two or three live-action pictures this year to 15 planned in 1988.

MCA, which is building a studio and studio tour on 440 acres in Florida, has more than 30 sound stages on its 420-acre Universal Studios property in Universal City.

Jay S. Stein, president of MCA Recreation Services, acknowledged that Universal Studios has "no shortage of sound stages." As for offices, though, he said, "We have several concepts on the drawing board, and I believe we have wonderful capabilities here and in Florida for expansion."

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