Innovation Partners buys studio from Pick-Vanoff

Sunset-Gower Studios, the original home of Columbia Pictures and one of the few independent studio spaces left in Hollywood, has been sold to a private equity fund in a deal estimated to be worth north of $100 million.

Silicon Valley-based Global Innovation Partners bought the studio from longtime owner Pick-Vanoff Co. as the first stage of a planned series of investments in the entertainment biz. Company has previously invested primarily in technology companies and facilities.

New owner plans largely to maintain business as usual at Sunset-Gower, with general manager Steve Auer continuing to run day-to-day operations. GI Partners will make some minor improvements, though, and is considering construction of a new soundstage or office space on the 17-acre property.

“We’re extremely bullish on Hollywood and the studio space as a business with recurring cash flow and a stable revenue base,” said GI Partners director Andrew Tainiter, who will serve as executive director of the studio along with partner Eric Harrison. “This will be the first of what I hope will be many media investments for us.”

Sunset-Gower has 13 stages and is home to several network shows, including “Six Feet Under” and “American Dreams.”

Classic pix shot there

In addition, the Nickelodeon Theater on Sunset is part of the property, which was originally developed as the Columbia lot in the 1920s. Classic pics including “It Happened One Night” and “From Here to Eternity” were shot there before it fell into disrepair during the 1970s when Col moved to Burbank with co-owner Warner Bros.

Partners Saul Pick and Nick Vanoff leased the studio in 1977 and purchased it in 1983 for around $6 million, transforming it into one of the few successful independent production facilities in Hollywood.

In the past decade, as film productions continued to shift to lower-cost locations, Sunset-Gower has focused nearly exclusively on TV productions.

“The studio was not on the market, but GI Partners pursued us very aggressively and they made a substantial offer that was hard to turn down,” explained Mark Pick, who was one of three active partners in Pick-Vanoff along with Nick Vanoff Jr. and Felisa Vanoff.

Pick added that his company will stay in the studio facility business and is in talks to participate in a joint venture to acquire another space.

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