Biz assesses quake damage

Still reeling from the early ayem pounding of the most powerful earthquake to hit L.A. this century, Hollywood took stock of the damage Tuesday as engineers at the major film and TV studios sifted through the rubble of crumbled walls, collapsed soundstages and overturned filing cabinets.

Disney, Paramount, Sony, MGM/UA and Universal were shut down for the second day. Only 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. tested the quake’s dangerous aftershocks, staying open for biz with fringe staffing and a few TV series crews still shooting.

Officials from Culver City to the San Fernando Valley, near the epicenter of the Northridge temblor, said while the studios suffered some damage and a number of productions were interrupted, it wasn’t as catastrophic as some feared a day earlier.

It was still unclear what effect the quake had on the busy production facilities in Santa Clarita, with few reports coming out of the northern L.A. County community. But most Hollywood and valley studios were expected to re-opentoday, albeit not at full strength.

Non-functioning phone lines and shuttered offices made it difficult to fully assess the damage. One thing was certain though: the rhythms of the town were disrupted. Tables were empty at posh Beverly Hills dining and dealmaking spots, water damage slowed work on soaps and animated series, and the usual lineup of seminars and Oscar screenings were canceled.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents — from the highest studio execs, to sitcom actors, to the rank-and-file union crew members — spent Tuesday surveying damage to their own homes after the quake ripped through the area.

The quake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, has left at least 40 dead and 15,000 homeless, including many industry workers whose apartments and houses were leveled by the high-powered tremor.

Production companies, unions and industry guilds throughout the city also remained closed Tuesday as power and water outages hampered their work areas, but they, too, were expected to re-open later this week. Officials said they would adjust skeds to accommodate workers who suffered serious home damage, while trying to re-jigger production so as to meet delivery schedules.

Few expected delays to result in repeats during the season or, more significantly, during the crucial February ratings sweeps. While Universal’s theme park was open to tourists, the park’s “Earthquake” ride was closed as a tribute to those killed or injured in the quake.

One savvy producer — from IMAX, makers of bigscreen event films — sent a team up in a helicopter to capture footage of the havoc wreaked by the quake.

At Universal, five of the oldest sound stages on the lot suffered exterior wall damage and interior water damage from fire sprinklers that showered the area. The studio’s Lankershim Boulevard building, where the home distrib and marketing departments operate, also saw its windows smashed by the power of the quiver.

Walt Disney Studios remained closed as the billion-dollar movie, TV, theme park and merchandising empire was run through the company’s emergency operation center.

A handful of employees went into the Team Disney building and other studio facilities to begin the clean-up of the interior, while Disney’s employee hot line advised employees that all of the company’s Burbank-based facilities will re-open today. The hotline advised workers to wear casual clothes as “some offices may need to be rearranged.”

WB ‘operational’

At Warner, where execs said things were “basically operational,” studio chairman/CEO Robert Daly and advertising and publicity prexy Rob Friedman were on site to inspect the damage. Of WB movies in production, only the nearly complete Warren Beatty/Annette Bening pic “Love Affair” lost a couple of shooting days.

At Par, most of its films currently in production were on location out of state. And only a handful of producers with deals on the lot were in their offices at the close of business Tuesday, with most preferring to remain at home with their families.

Location lensing around the city and county slowly got back into gear. City of L.A. film liaison Cody Cluff — who was locked out of his offices Tuesday as structural engineers continued to inspect City Hall — said roughly 60 permits had been issued for Tuesday before the earthquake. “I know that some companies were making voluntary changes to their plans and some were canceling,” Cluff said.

At MGM/UA, reps said the Santa Monica complex was closed Tuesday as the building’s owner conducted a site inspection, but he expected Leo’s lair to be open for business today.

As for TV production, scores of shows were left in limbo by the quake. Local offices for the three networks were all closed.

Reps for Disney were not available for comment, but Par officials said “Hard Copy” and “Entertainment Tonight” were the only TV series taping on the lot Tuesday.

Par’s two “Star Trek” series, “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine,” as well as “Wings” are slated to resume production today, with the cast and crew of “Sister, Sister” getting back to work Thursday.

Shooting was disrupted this week for the sitcoms “Frasier” and “The Mommies.”

At Twentieth TV, a spokeswoman said that filming on the Steven Bochco shows “L.A. Law” and “N.Y.P.D. Blue” was postponed until today because some of those involved in the shows had homes near the epicenter.

Still, the quake failed to stop production on Twentieth’s “Picket Fences,” which continued shooting on the Fox lot.

At CBS, a pipe burst near the sets of the soaps “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” flooding certain areas, among them the publicity department. Both shows expected to be up and running as early as today.

The CBS/MTM Studio lot in Studio City was hit hard, with offices and the sound stage for “Seinfeld” damaged. The hit sitcom could be sidelined for a few weeks, sources said.

Columbia Pictures TV’s “Married … With Children,” TriStar’s “The Nanny” and Spelling’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” all suspended production for the week, and there were accounts of serious damage to the set of “The John Larroquette Show.”

Other productions shut down temporarily so that sets could be inspected include Spelling’s “Melrose Place” and WB’s “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. ,” both Fox series.

At Fox, one of “The Simpsons” creators lost his house, but devastation to the Film Roman offices (the animators of Fox’s “The Simpsons” and ABC’s midseason series “The Critic”) will have a greater effect on web skeds. Sprinklers went off on the North Hollywood building putting story board into peril.

Sources said that story boards for the first eight episodes of “The Critic” had already been sent to Korea for further animation, so the first run of the series is safe. But an additional four episodes earmarked for next season may be lost and have to be re-done.

The Screen Actors Guild suffered damage to the exterior of its new Wilshire Boulevard headquarters as several concrete panels crashed to the ground. A spokesman said offices would be closed for at least two days.

At the Writers Guild of America, the quake shook up some of the offices overturning bookcases and desks.

WGA spokeswoman Cheryl Rhoden said the guild’s theater would be closed for at least two weeks while officials inspected the structure. She added that funding for earthquake victims who were members of the guild was available immediately through the WGA Good and Welfare Fund.

A source at the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said its three-story headquarters was nearly enveloped in flames after most of the buildings on its Sherman Oaks block were leveled by the quake. The source said some of the structure’s facing was sheared off by the blaze. But IATSE officials could not be reached after examining the structure late Tuesday. “We’re kind of in the dark and everybody’s playing it by ear,” said a union source. “A lot of people are trying get their houses together.”

Execs at the Directors Guild of America actually showed up at the office to answer phones, but Tuesday night’s symposium on violence with a keynote speech by MPAA prexy Jack Valenti was canceled.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences building in North Hollywood suffered a caved-in ceiling and several exploded front glass doors.

George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound, located at the Lantana production facility in Santa Monica, sustained water damage from flooding, as did Lucas’ other Westside post-production company on Bundy Drive (formerly Lionsgate Studios).

Of course, there were some die-hard dealmakers who recuperated quickly from the disaster. One exec was on the phone with a contact just hours after the quake hit Monday, inquiring, “So, are we still on for breakfast today?”

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