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KCET sells Sunset studio to Church of Scientology

The price is not disclosed, but the 4.5-acre studio has an assessed value of $14.1 million, county records say. KCET will stay there up to a year while seeking a place to move.

April 26, 2011|By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times

Financially strapped KCET-TV has sold its landmark Sunset Boulevard studio to the Church of Scientology for an undisclosed price, the station said.

KCET will remain at 4401 W. Sunset Blvd. for as much as a year while searching for a new base of operations. The station is in discussions with several production facilities it might move into as a tenant or owner, President Al Jerome said.

"We are now implementing Phase 2 of our transformation from a PBS affiliate to an independent public media center for the 21st century," Jerome said Monday in a statement. "New facilities and equipment will allow us to augment the quality, award-winning content that our fans love."

The Church of Scientology said the acquisition would expand its audiovisual capabilities and enable it to move further into broadcast production.

The studio includes two sound stages, extensive post-production facilities and modern TV, satellite and Internet broadcasting capabilities, the church said.

"It is a perfect fit, in both size and location, for the expansion of the Church of Scientology's production of religious and social betterment audiovisual properties, and we welcomed the unexpected opportunity to acquire it," the church said in a statement.

Los Angeles-based KCET, which is struggling to rebuild viewership after its recent split from PBS, plans to move its operations to a smaller location, real estate brokers said last month.

Terms of the deal were unavailable, but the 4.5-acre property has an assessed value of $14.1 million, according to county records.

KCET recently embarked on perhaps the most perilous journey in its 45-year history.

In January, the station dropped PBS and became the nation's largest independent public broadcasting station. KCET officials had tangled for months with network officials over dues, saying the $7 million that the station had to pay annually represented more than its fair share.

Dropping the PBS brand meant getting rid of the dues burden but also losing signature shows such as "Sesame Street," "PBS NewsHour" and "Charlie Rose."

The lot, which has served as a studio since 1912, used to be the home of Monogram Pictures and Allied Artists. Scenes were shot there for dozens of notable films, including "El Cid" with Charlton Heston, John Ford's "The Hurricane" and the Charlie Chan mysteries.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology was incorporated in 1954 and owns dozens of properties in Los Angeles County, including the former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital at Sunset and L. Ron Hubbard Way. The former KCET property is a few blocks from the church's recording studio in Silver Lake and near its Los Angeles headquarters.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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