You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Prelude to plentiful present

Sunset Gower Studio @ 100

The owners of Sunset Gower Studios believe the key to its future lies squarely in its past.

Since acquiring the former home of Columbia Pictures five years ago, Hudson Pacific Properties has initiated a plan to simultaneously upgrade the facilities while preserving their historic nature. Management is betting a younger generation of filmmakers will want to work beneath a window overhang installed to give Rita Hayworth’s makeup man natural light. Or gaze up at the roof partition erected so “Gilda” could privately sunbathe au naturel while also having access to hi-def control rooms.

Howard S. Stern, president and director of Hudson Pacific Properties, says, “It’s good business judgment to preserve the classic Hollywood influences, but also to embrace and invest in the future.”

When the company acquired Sunset Gower and next-door neighbor Sunset Bronson Studios shortly thereafter, it analyzed the facilities’ client base and where media technology was headed before coming up with a plan the studios’ client base further.

A gleaming new office building — Hollywood’s first such project in more than 30 years — was completed and leased long-term to Technicolor as what Stern calls a catalyst. “You have the early 1900s buildings contrasting with this stainless steel post-production facility right there at the same campus,” Stern says. “And I think they can exist together. Old doesn’t mean run down and dirty.”

The owners upgraded the studio’s control rooms and brought fiber optics to all buildings, also turning their attention to the “writers’ courtyard” adjacent to the building housing Columbia’s bygone team of scribes.

What had degenerated into little more than a toolshed was restored to a beautifully groomed rec area. “It wasn’t a major capital expenditure, but it was part of the core studio feeling,” Stern says. “We said, ‘Let’s make this an aesthetically pleasing common area where people can gather.’ ”

Hudson Pacific wants to create “not so much an industrial filmmaking lot but a campus, introducing some landscaping, gathering areas and meeting areas; moving away from that hard industrial edge,” says exec VP Christopher Barton.

Gower’s production offices and sound stages are teeming with long-term tenants, some drawn to the attractive grounds and spiffed-up offices alone.

The pervasive sense of history seems to matter as much as the modern trappings.

“When the cast and crew walk onto Stage 7 at Sunset Gower, we walk past a plaque reminding us that we’re occupying the same space as ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ and ‘Death of a Salesman,’ to name just two classics,” says Aaron Sorkin, creator-writer of HBO’s “The Newsroom.”

Even Columbia’s less classy product (the Three Stooges filmed there, nyuk nyuk) is seen as a plus. “We’re also reminded that Stage 7 is where they shot ‘The Monkees’ and ‘The Gong Show,’ and that helps us have a sense of humor when things get tough,” Sorkin says.

Over the next four years Hudson Pacific will turn more attention to Sunset Bronson, where Warner Bros. shot “The Jazz Singer” before the studio moved to Burbank.

A 400,000- sq.-ft. development including a parking structure is scheduled, and a $250,000 exterior renovation of Jack Warner’s mansion building — the site’s one historic landmark — has just been completed.

“There’s no reason why we can’t bring about both technical and aesthetic improvements while preserving the historic nature of the studios,” Barton says.

Such efforts may be rare elsewhere in town, but Sorkin explains why they’re important. “From the moment you enter the front gate, you feel like a link in a chain that stretches back a century. On that lot is why you wanted to make movies.”


New York-based Nestor Films relocates to Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, becoming the first studio in Hollywood.

William Horsley builds a film processing laboratory and studio on the south east corner of Sunset and Gower.

Columbia purchases facilities on Gower Street and an office building on Sunset.

“It Happened One Night” wins 5 major Oscars for Columbia, establishing it as a serious independent.

Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was filmed on the lot.

“The Jolson Story” becomes Columbia’s highest grossing film of all time.

Columbia establishes a television arm, which makes it one of the first studios to invest in the new medium.

“On the Waterfront” won eight Oscars including Best Picture.

NBC series “I Dream of Jeannie” was filmed on the lot.

Columbia merges with Warners and ceases operations at Sunset and Gower. Production companies take over leases.

“Married With Children” debuts and is among a slew of the TV shows shot there.

GI Partners buy Sunset Gower Studios. Technicolor begins construction on future home.

Major productions on the lot include Showtime’s “Dexter.”

Sunset Gower Studio @ 100
Prelude to plentiful present | Cohn brothers’ stomping grounds dissed in early days | Chamber an echo of Barton’s studio job>

More Film

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content