L.A. Center Studios gives majors run for money

With its modernist, New Frontier-era furniture, chrome ashtrays and rotary phones, the set for “Mad Men” — AMC’s critically acclaimed series about the ad agency boom era — evokes the 1960 Manhattan advertising world right down to the Cross pens that adorn the desks. Only the address isn’t Madison Avenue, but West 5th Street in downtown L.A., where Los Angeles Center Studios is located.

The sprawling, 20-acre facility is benefiting from the area’s own commercial and cultural boom, as trendy eateries, hipster hangouts and luxury lofts place an exclamation point on a downtown revitalization that has heretofore been long on hype and short on action. In keeping with many of its new neighbors, LACS features a few of its own lifestyle amenities, such as a gym, the Be Well Spa and the airy Flix Cafe.

“Our mantra is essentially that we are a hotel for the entertainment world,” says LACS president Sam Nicassio, “and we treat our clients the same no matter if they are here for three weeks or three years.”

In just nine years, LACS has become the epicenter of a downtown filming scene that has seen production skyrocket to the point where there’s hardly a day when certain streets aren’t closed down for shoots and neighbors aren’t complaining about the inconvenience.

But the studio — equipped with six soundstages (each 18,000 square feet), four production studios, 72 dressing rooms (which double as editing suites) and 450,000 square feet of office space — is completely self-contained, allowing filmmakers to go from the street to the soundstage with relative ease.

A 12-story office tower houses long-term tenants and is currently 94% occupied. Flanking the tower are wing buildings, which hold screening rooms. Its largest, the Beaudry Theater, seats 400.

In addition to “Mad Men,” the site is host to ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” CBS’ “Numbers” (a midseason replacement) and, preparing to begin its first season of lensing this fall, ABC’s “Women’s Murder Club,” with a space created to mimic that of the San Francisco Chronicle newsroom.

LACS also is home to Reelz Channel, a multimedia brand that provides entertainment news from the lobby level of the exec building.

Also located on the lobby level is an open “common” space suited for events with as many as 10,000 guests.

Although “The Aviator,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Terminator 3″ and “Charlie’s Angels” all made use of the facilities, LACS relies as much on musicvids, commercials and photo shoots as it does on high-profile features and TV series.

Nicassio says his aims for the future are to “be the first choice for filming and office space in the county. We’re proud of the creative community that we’ve helped develop and want to continue to be their partner for many years to come.”

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