In the hangar where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose, DreamWorks unveiled plans Dec. 13 for a 1,000-acre studio and back-lot, billed as the prototype for 21st century production and no less than a savior for Los Angeles’ economic problems.
The new studio, to be called “DreamWorks Studio at Playa Vista,” is scheduled to break ground in June and to be finished in 21/2 years. IBM, Silicon Graphics and Digital Domain intend to locate facilities at the site.
The DreamWorks partners – Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen – also will be joint-venture partners in the entire Playa Vista project, which includes the studio, retail shops, businesses and 3,246 homes in its first phase.
For Spielberg, DreamWorks Studio represents the realization of a lifelong dream; politicians and business leaders see it as an infusion of an initial 8,000 new jobs; and the surrounding community regards it as a model for neighborhoods of the future.
The trio and its partners will provide $200 million in equity and another $550 million will come from financing for the first phase. The project still faces a few hurdles, including opposition from environmental groups and community activists, some of whom picketed the gathering.
Supporters note that the developers will give $12 million for cleanup and reconstruction of the tidelands area on the east end of the site.
Inside the gates of the former Hughes Aircraft Co. plant, dozens of politicians and business officials hailed the DreamWorks deal as a landmark in L.A.’s bid to become a multimedia capital.
“To say I am pleased and proud would be a terrible understatement,” Gov. Pete Wilson said. “I’m pleased as hell…. In my prior incarnation as a mayor, I would have sold my children to get a project like this.”
DreamWorks was lured to the site by a $70 million package of incentives – including tax breaks, discounts on permits and the state’s waiver of the $40 million cost to build new roads and other street improvements. The complex will include a 42,000-square-foot soundstage – which DreamWorks said would be the world’s largest – plus another 20 TV and feature soundstages.
An additional 2 million square feet of space will be available to other prospective tenants, expected to include firms involved in sound technology, commercials and post-production.
“There are technology companies who are already affiliated with us, as well as a number of them who just see this as an opportunity to take advantage of this convergence on this campus,” Katzenberg said.
Digital Domain, the special effects and multimedia company headed up by James Cameron, Scott Ross and Stan Winston, will be among the first outsiders to rent space.
In addition, IBM, GTE and Silicon Graphics will be the first participants in Playa Vista’s “technology alliance.” GTE will build a fiber-optic ring and high-capacity communications network of audio and video services for the DreamWorks studio and nearby businesses and residences.
The network will allow tenants to send and receive voice, data and video at extremely high speed. The network also will allow DreamWorks and other entertainment clients to link their production and post operations with other facilities.
The Playa Vista community is being billed as a “prototype community of the future,” using reclaimed water and on-site recycling, as well as a clean fuel internal transit system.