Facility makes room for Academy

As the media turned their attention to the opening of Hollywood & Highland and its Kodak Theater last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences quietly continued work on another Hollywood revitalization project less than 10 blocks away, at the corner of Fountain Boulevard and Vine Street.

The Academy bought the historic building at 1313 North Vine St. and three adjacent parcels for parking for $21.5 million last summer. It is spending $5 million more for the first phase of renovation to make the address the home of the Academy Film Archive and the Players Directory, whose staff is slated to move in after the first of the year.

The 118,000-square-foot Vine facility opened in 1948 as a radio and television studio, with half of its eight stages being the first ever designed for the nascent television industry. Originally known as the Don Lee-Mutual Broadcasting building, its most recent tenant was AIDS Project Los Angeles. In 1984, it was ABC’s headquarters for the Olympics, and in the 1950s it was the home of KCBS-TV and KHJ-TV. A plethora of game- and talkshows, including Johnny Carson’s programs before “The Tonight Show,” have been broadcast from the site over the years.

Now, its air-conditioned stages will be transformed into climate-controlled storage vaults for the Academy’s vast celluloid collections, currently housed at the Waterworks building at La Cienega and Olympic boulevards. The move will allow the Margaret Herrick Library there to take over the space for its expansion needs, primarily for the Roddy McDowall Photograph Archive.

The Academy Film Archive has more than 45,000 items in its collection, including personal collections of directors, historic and current documentaries, Academy Awards shows, Oscar-nominated and -winning films, ancillary materials and some of the very first moving pictures from the early days of cinema.

“We look forward to a greatly expanded program of acquisition, preservation and restoration at the new site,” says archive director Michael Pogorzelski.

Because cramped space at its current location has made public use of the collections difficult, he says access for researchers, scholars and the public will be significantly improved. “It will be a much more hospitable environment and hopefully a lot more people will be able to use the viewing stations.”

Thick concrete walls of the studio spaces will be relatively easy to convert to archival film space, which is generally kept below 52 degrees. The first vault is scheduled for move-in in April, after the Academy Awards. A 300-seat screening room is slated for completion in July, along with staff offices, conference rooms, and work space for film preservation and conservation.

But the first to take up residence at 1313 North Vine will be the staff of the Players Directory, a print and online bible for casting directors that lists more than 20,000 actors. They’ll move out of the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters in January, freeing up space on the fourth floor, and relocate to the street level of the renovated building.

“It was natural for our department to move,” says Players Directory editor Keith Gonzales. “We’re sort of self-contained, so it’s easy for us to relocate.”

He also says the new location, because of its convenient parking and ground-floor accessibility, will make it easier for actors to come in and update their listings. “That was a problem we had in Beverly Hills that will no longer be an issue.”

Given the Academy’s mandate to support all aspects of cinematic culture, the Vine property looks to be a valuable resource that also provides ample room for future growth.

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