Saul Pick, businessman and Holocaust survivor responsible for developing many Hollywood properties including Sunset-Gower Studios and the Cinerama Dome, died May 8 of pneumonia at UCLA Medical Center. He was 85.
Pick and his partner, Nick Vanoff, bought the fabled Columbia Studios lot for $6.2 million in 1976 at a time when the lot was in extreme disrepair and several stages were being used as indoor tennis courts. He restored the lot and reopened it under the current name of Sunset-Gower Studios; within five years it was once again thriving, housing numerous production companies and included several ABC productions.
Pick also built the Buckminster Fuller-inspired geodesic Cinerama Dome in 1963; buildings on the corner of Sunset and Vine where Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank branches are now located; the Hyatt West Hollywood, best known as the Continental Hyatt House; and the former KHJ-TV studio, now owned by ABC.
In 1983, he purchased the landmark theater that at one time or another was the Moulin Rouge nightclub, the Earl Carroll Theater, the Aquarius Theater (where “Hair” made its L.A. bow) and for nine years was home to TV’s “Star Search”; today it is the Nickelodean Theater, where some Nick TV shows are produced.
Pick’s contribution to the Hollywood business community is further remarkable in light of his survival of Nazi concentration camps. Pick was born in Bendzin, Germany, now Poland, where he was studying engineering when he was drafted into the Polish army. After being captured by the Russians, he escaped from both a Russian POW camp and a Nazi prison camp before being recaptured. He lost his parents and four of eight siblings at Auschwitz.
He met his future wife, Mala, at a labor camp, but he was sent to Dachau and they were separated until the end of the war. They were reunited after the war at a German hospital, where Pick was recovering from typhus. They married in Munich, then immigrated to the United States in 1947. Mala died in 1977.
Pick first worked in Los Angeles as a carpenter’s assistant before going into business for himself. He produced aluminum doors and siding before expanding into Hollywood real estate, starting with the purchase of property at the corner of Sunset and Vine. He remained a powerful figure on the Hollywood business scene until his death.
He was a philanthropist as well, donating to homeless programs and school groups.
He is survived by his second wife, Karen; two sons, Mark (managing partner of Sunset-Gower Studios) and Bernard; two grandchildren; a brother; and a sister.