Hollywood renaissance for Sunset Gower Studios
Hollywood renaissance for Sunset Gower StudiosJust as the Hollywood area of Los Angeles continues to enjoy a renaissance, Sunset Gower Studios finally is undergoing one of its own. The venerable facility is not only undergoing a makeover, it also is acquiring a shiny, six-story office building that will serve as the headquarters of postproduction house Technicolor, which will be its sole tenant. The plan is to restore some of the lost luster of one Hollywood's oldest, and still in use, studio spaces.
Sunset Gower Studios once was the home of Columbia Pictures. In the 1910s, an orange grove was converted into a patchwork of studios that were so low budget that the area was called Poverty Row. In 1920, mogul-in-the-making Harry Cohn began buying the spaces, eventually turning the area into the epicenter of Columbia Pictures.
In the 1970s, Columbia left Hollywood for Burbank, and the 15.9 acres were snapped up for $6 million by Saul Pick, a real estate investor, and Nick Vanoff, an independent producer, who renamed the facility Sunset Gower Studios. The 1980s saw an influx of TV productions, from "The Golden Girls" to "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." When the sound stages were next bought in 2004 for $110 million by private equity firm GI Partners, the facility was considered by many the runt of the litter.
Emmy-winning producer Robert Papazian, who took charge of the facility as its CEO, believed that to spur a rejuvination, a community atmosphere had to be accentuated. One of the things that he sought to do was to bring more film production back to the 12 stages with the promise of more personal service and less red tape. It seems to have worked and in recent months, Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Good German" and New Line Cinema's "The Number 23" shot there, as did Morgan Creek's "Georgia Rule."
The television front also remains strong, with the high-profile NBC series "Heroes" occupying three stages and Showtime's "Dexter" making a presence as well.
Sunset Gower also is expanding into commercials and music videos, and last week, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were on the premises, shooting a video for their song "Snow (Hey Oh)" as was rapper Chingy and FM Rocks. And the facility is in the midst of hiring an events coordinator to bring in bashes and functions.
Sunset Gower also is undergoing a facelift -- it is, after all, 85 years old. Painters are busy on scaffoldings giving buildings a new sheen, a courtyard parkette with a fountain is being built under a row of offices which used to house the Columbia writers, and art deco flourishes are being added to many structures.
The biggest change, however, will be the construction of the new glass office tower. The 96,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility will be lined with palm trees and sit right next to a brand new front gate.