Group takes over Culver Studios

Investors also developing prod'n facility in Gotham

HOLLYWOOD — A fledgling bicoastal facilities-management group has formally taken over the ownership and operation of Culver Studios and a nearby office building from Sony.

Lehman Bros., Pacifica Ventures and Pacific Coast Partners are partnering on the property acquisition, which has been in escrow for the past two months (Daily Variety, Feb. 20).

Using the name Studios City Los Angeles, Lehman and Pacifica are also developing a production facility in Gotham dubbed Studios City New York.

“Studios City Los Angeles is proud to become the new owner of this legendary facility, home to some of the greatest films and television shows ever produced by Hollywood,” said Ron Lynch, newly designated prexy at Culver Studios. “Our goal at SCLA is to make the Culver Studios the first choice of producers when they begin evaluating their production needs.”

Lynch is a former exec at Sony, Universal, Disney and Orion.

Execs from L.A.-based Pacifica Ventures will fill out the rest of the SCLA administrative offices. Those include Dana Arnold, who will serve as CEO; Hal Katersky, chief financial officer; and Lee Tomlinson, head of marketing and sales head.

Pacific Coast is the owner-operator of Downey Studios in eastern L.A. County.

The partners — who paid $125 million for the properties, about $80 million for Culver alone — held a press conference Tuesday outside the Culver City facility, which Sony has operated as an annex to its historic main lot a few blocks away. Deal also includes the adjacent digs of Sony Pictures Imageworks and Sony’s animation unit.

Sony will remain a key customer for many of the 14 soundstages at the 95-year-old Culver facility. And the animation and Imageworks divisions have inked a lease-back arrangement to continue occupying a portion of the office building, built in 1996 and set for a 30,000-square-foot expansion.

Films now shooting at Culver include Sony/Revolution’s “Skipping the Holidays” and 20th Century Fox’s “Fat Albert”; TV shows in production there include Fox’s “Arrested Development” and ABC’s “Life With Bonnie.” Classic films shot at the site include “Citizen Kane” and “King Kong.”

Culver was built by film pioneer Thomas Ince and later was used by Cecil B. DeMille, David O. Selznick, Desilu Prods. and Grant Tinker’s GTG. Modern-day use has involved both film and TV production by Sony and others.

Studios City New York is planned for a property located on 11th Avenue between 44th and 45th streets in Manhattan. Some 400,000 square feet of office space, soundstages and editing suites is planned in a 15-floor structure.

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