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Commercial Real Estate

Sony Puts Culver Studios Up for Sale

April 09, 2002|BRAD BERTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Media giant Sony Pictures Entertainment put its famed Culver Studios up for sale along with adjacent offices formerly used by the company's television group.

The historic Culver City property featuring a Mount Vernon-replica facade, 14 sound stages and about 150,000 square feet of modern offices might sell for more than $100 million, real estate professionals estimate.

The complex along Ince Boulevard at Washington Boulevard opened in the early 20th century as the Thomas H. Ince Studios.

The famous burning-of-Atlanta scene from "Gone With the Wind" was filmed there, as were several classic films including "Citizen Kane" and the original "King Kong."

Culver Studios also has been the home of many television series dating to the early days of the medium. The property has carried such storied names as DeMille, RKO, Pathe, Selznick, Desilu and Laird, said real estate broker Carl Muhlstein of Cushman & Wakefield, who heads the sales team for Sony.

A Sony affiliate bought the studio for a reported $80 million in 1991. The acquisition came as Sony Pictures was relocating much of the former Columbia Pictures operation to Culver City, primarily to the nearby and much larger lot previously owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Sony custom-built two three-story office buildings for its television group in the mid-1990s during the Peter Guber/Jon Peters regime noted for extravagant spending. Muhlstein described the offices as "a private gated campus."

The studio might sell the lot with or without the pair of office buildings, which house Sony's ImageWorks visual effects group.

At the direction of its Japanese parent company--the world's leading consumer electronics manufacturer--Sony Pictures has been cutting costs in part by reducing development of new network television programming.

Although Sony continues to manage Culver Studios, independent production companies rather than SSony affiliates are the primary users of its sound stages, Muhlstein said.

Sony's recent sale of its interest in the Telemundo network also reduced needs for studio space. Sony owns and operates one of the industry's highest-profile studio complexes adjacent to SPE's nearby headquarters at Washington and Overland Avenue.

Although commercial real estate has generally been in the doldrums, Hollywood has pumped up production somewhat after a relatively slow period. Demand for local sound stages often exceeds capacity.

A variety of prospective buyers have expressed interest in the Culver City property, Muhlstein said, including such obvious prospective buyers as independent production operations, stage operators and real estate investment specialists.

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