The historic former Warner Bros. studio on Sunset Boulevard, now occupied by television station KTLA-TV Channel 5, has been put up for sale by Tribune Co. amid a wave of high-stakes real estate investment in Hollywood.
No price has been set for the block-size property at the southeast corner of Sunset and Bronson Avenue that also houses Tribune Entertainment and Tribune Studios. In recent years, other studios and historic properties in the neighborhood have sold for millions of dollars as investors race to take part in Hollywood's resurgence.
A real estate expert who asked not to be identified because he may become involved in the bidding process valued the property at about $175 million. Nearby Sunset-Gower Studios, the former Columbia Pictures headquarters, sold this month for more than $200 million.
KTLA occupies the prominent Colonial-style mansion facing Sunset that was built by Warner Bros. in 1919.
City officials expressed hope that the property would remain entertainment industry-oriented. Several historic properties in Hollywood are being turned into condos, apartments and shops.
Television shows filmed at Tribune's production facilities on the property -- but separate from KTLA -- include "Judge Judy," "Judge Joe Brown" and "Hannah Montana."
Chicago-based Tribune, which also owns the Los Angeles Times, has retained real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield "to explore strategic alternatives for the property," said Gary Weitman, a Tribune spokesman.
Even after a sale, KTLA would remain at its current location as a tenant for an indefinite period, said Carl Muhlstein, a Cushman & Wakefield broker. "They hope to start planning for a new facility either somewhere else on the site or nearby. KTLA has a long-term commitment to Hollywood."
KTLA needs to update its facilities, General Manager Vinnie Malcolm said. "We have been working around a lot of not-very-efficient uses of space. There is no question we could use a better physical plant."
Tribune is moving quickly to sell the property by year-end, Muhlstein said. That could coincide with the company's pending $8.4-billion buyout by Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell, expected to close in the fourth quarter.
A representative for City Councilman Eric Garcetti said the councilman hoped the property would continue to be a hub for entertainment businesses.
Garcetti "looks forward to having a continuing conversation with the new owners to ensure that we keep vital entertainment-related jobs right here in Hollywood," said David Gershwin, the councilman's chief of staff.
"This stretch of Sunset Boulevard and its surrounding neighborhoods have a critical mass of post-production facilities, entertainment venues and cultural institutions that makes this a prime location for film and television production in the years ahead," Gershwin said.
The Colonial-style building and a sound stage on the former Warner Bros. lot are registered historic properties, Gershwin said, and could not be demolished or substantially altered.
The studio, situated just west of the Hollywood Freeway, was the site of Warner Bros.' first studio. It is where talking pictures were born when Al Jolson recorded his first words in "The Jazz Singer" in 1927. In later years, Warner used the site to produce musicals and dramas.
Paramount Pictures Corp. purchased the studio in 1954 as an annex to its studios a few blocks to the south at Van Ness and Melrose avenues. In 1956, KTLA, then owned by Paramount, moved onto the lot, according to KTLA. Cowboy star Gene Autry bought KTLA and the studio from Paramount in 1964. It was sold to Tribune Broadcasting in 1986.
The site, which includes about 10 sound stages, has plenty of room for expansion, broker Muhlstein said. He predicted that a buyer would add more film and television production buildings and office space. There is little vacant office space in Hollywood, and Technicolor Inc. agreed months ago to rent an entire six-story office building under construction at Sunset-Gower Studios.
Other studio space has been taken off the market, creating a shortage of facilities, Muhlstein said. In recent years, about 70 acres' worth of production facilities such as KTTV's Metromedia Square, KCOP Studios and CBS Columbia Square have been closed to make way for residential and commercial redevelopment, Muhlstein said.
KTLA "is the only active television lot left in Hollywood," City Councilman Tom LaBonge said during a phone call from Ireland. "I hope Channel 5's beacon still stands brightly there as an active television production center. It's so much a part of Hollywood."
Hollywood's largest commercial landlord, CIM Group, will be among those evaluating the property, said Shaul Kuba, a company principal. "We are definitely going to be very interested."
The site is potentially big enough to accommodate studio production, housing, office and retail uses, he said, "but it would require a huge amount of planning to find the right balance."
The site will be marketed to large potential buyers such as CIM Group that are capable of closing the deal by year-end, said broker Michael DeSantis, also of Cushman & Wakefield.