This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Insiders tell THR that NBC spent seven months working on plans that called for the combining of Studios 6B and 8G and turning them into a megastudio for Fallon as well as a showy theater for NBCUniversal to screen movies. Including a balcony, the facility would have fit an audience of 400.
The project, though, recently was scrapped, says an insider, and now when Fallon becomes host of Tonight, he’ll have to settle for a mere $5 million renovation of Studio 6B, where he currently hosts Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The insider says Fallon and Lorne Michaels, who will take over as executive producer when Fallon replaces Jay Leno, are OK with the less ambitious plan.
Work is set to begin in the summer and take about six months; Fallon will move his current show to Studio 6A until Studio 6B’s makeover is complete. When it’s done, Studio 6B will have an entirely different infrastructure and look, and it will accommodate an audience of about 240, up from the current capacity of 189.
Outside of an upgraded stage built five years ago for Late Night, Studio 6B essentially is the same facility as when Johnny Carson hosted Tonight there four decades ago, so a remake was in order — if not a $25 million overhaul.
One source says the reason for scrapping the more ambitious plan was some executives objected to losing Studio 8G, where Football Night in America is taped. Also, Studio 8G sits above Studio 6B, and combining them would have created a very tall studio but one no wider than each is now, potentially causing lighting and sound issues. Other insiders say NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke balked at the $25 million price tag and that some worried Fallon couldn’t fill a 400-seat theater five nights a week. Counters an NBC rep, “That’s simply not true.”