Hollywood went on high alert Thursday after the FBI warned about possible terrorist attacks at movie studios. Studio entrances were shut down, barricades were ordered set in place and many studio tours were abruptly canceled indefinitely.
“The FBI provided a threat advisory to the movie studios in Los Angeles,” confirmed Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the FBI, adding, “The uncorroborated threat states that a film studio in California could be the target of a terrorist attack in retaliation for any possible bombing attacks by the United States in Afghanistan. It seems to be a credible threat.”
Under the new security orders, most studios will have only one point of entry and there will be a greatly heightened security force manning it.
While studios will try to conduct business as usual, the security alert has greatly heightened tension on the various lots.
At Par, execs were worried Thursday night about a cast and crew screening of the new “Star Trek” series “Enterprise” but went forward with the event after some internal debate. Security was significantly beefed up.
NBC, whose Burbank headquarters aren’t far from those of Disney and Warner Bros., received no formal notification from the FBI.
“We took precautions last week, and those are still in place,” a Peacock spokeswoman said. Those measures include barricades in front of entrances and heightened security. Tapings of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” continued with studio auds.
CBS officials were also briefed on the threat to movie studios, but a spokesman declined comment on the matter. Eye web has beefed up security, however.
While the FBI warning was disseminated by the Motion Picture Assn. of America to heads of studios by MPAA prexy-CEO Jack Valenti, it made no mention of the threat’s link to U.S. action against Afghanistan. That country is the suspected location of terrorist Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in the recent terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Valenti was in Silicon Valley on Thursday meeting with technology execs, and could not be reached for comment. An MPAA spokesman said the trade org would not release any additional information about its conversations with the FBI.
What is clear is that substantial security changes are coming to the movie studios.
Internal memoranda obtained from sources at 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Disney, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. all point to a comprehensive approach to managing the threat. Only MGM held off on notifying employees of what specific changes might be in store, promising to detail those initiatives this morning.
Warner Bros., like other studios, was implementing particularly stringent measures: three studio gates were closed; barricades were ordered set up; armed guard details and metal detectors were to be installed. All incoming packages will be X-rayed, and all vehicles will be subject to search. Business travel was being discouraged, and video conferencing encouraged in its place.
For now, Universal Studios is continuing to operate its popular — and profitable — studio tours, though it is “tightening and increasing security.”
‘Era of uncertainty’
So too, at Fox, where News Corp. prexy and CEO Peter Chernin observed that “the entire country is learning to live in an era of uncertainty.” He also cautioned employees that “we will all be subject to long delays entering the facility,” and as a result “we urge you to remain on the lot during the day.”
At DreamWorks, gates were likewise being closed, and business travel was being left to the discretion of employees, but not encouraged.
Mimura, the FBI spokeswoman, added that “several of our agents have had briefings with the main security offices of the studios.”
At Sony, “the Culver City police department will be increasing patrols around the studio” according to an internal memo distributed to staff Thursday.
“Our leaders have stressed the need for us all to continue with our normal work routines,” wrote Sony prexy Mel Harris, adding “Our colleagues in New York have done this, and we are counting on you to do the same.”
Some of Hollywood’s top talent agencies, like CAA and ICM, reacted by admonishing their clients to avoid taking meetings at the studios for now, while other shops like UTA and William Morris have simply advised clients of the heightened measures.
(Josef Adalian, Tim Swanson, Cathy Dunkley, Dana Harris, Kirstin Swanson, Michael Schneider, and Melissa Greco contributed to this report.)