With sound scenes at a premium as film and television production increases in Los Angeles County, NBCUniversal will build eight new stages as part of a larger development to increase production at its renowned Universal Studios facility.
The company’s announcement on Tuesday comes as independent film party operators and other old studios, including Warner Bros., launch projects that will add new sound scenes and other facilities to serve the prelude to production, boosted by the rapid growth of streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video.
“NBCUniversal is doubling its commitment to producing content in Los Angeles,” said Michael Moore, president and general manager of West Coast Study Operations.
NBCUniversal representatives did not put a price tag on the soundstage project, but noted that the company would invest $ 1 billion across the study base over the next five years.
The century-old studio along the Hollywood Freeway is one of the world’s most famous entertainment factories, where movies and TV shows have been created for generations and thousands of visitors tour trams annually. Its adjacent Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, which includes Harry Potter’s wizarding world, is one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions.
NBCUniversal needs to expand and upgrade its production facilities to meet demand, which has been growing for years but was turbocharged by the pandemic, Moore said. People sitting at home longed for entertainment, much of which is made in Southern California.
Plans call for eight sound stages to be built off Barham Boulevard by next summer, bringing the total number of stages in place to 37. The new stages designed by Bastien & Associates Inc. will have solar panels on the roof that will allow Universal Studios to reduce its dependence on the electricity grid during rush hour with electricity consumption.
The grading of the mountainside where the new sound scenes are to stand is complete. By moving land from a hillside to a flat surface, the space for new scenes was expanded from 8 acres to 12 acres. Outside the stages, there will be space for production base camps, where trucks, equipment and actor trailers are located.
“We’re creating more acreage out of what was previously useless,” Moore said.
The earliest sound scenes at Universal date from 1915, when movies were silent.
The new sound scenes are part of an ongoing upgrade of the grounds. The work started in 2020 on an 11-storey office building with 350,000 square meters to be used to house creative companies working on the studio. The office complex off Lankershim Boulevard will be completed in 2023.
A new staff center with a commissioner, sit-down restaurant, theaters and event rooms will replace the existing commissioner and former screening rooms and will also be ready by the end of 2023, NBCUniversal said. The center and office were designed by Lever Architecture in Portland, Ore.
Approaching completion is a new theater-like sound mix plant to be used for post-production. It will replace the existing post-production facility where the new employee center will be located.
Soundstages are one of the hottest categories in commercial real estate, as entertainment production continues to rise. The rise in video-on-demand streaming evoked “an insatiable appetite” for media-oriented real estate, such as studios and offices, according to real estate firm CBRE.
New demand for large entertainment-related spaces comes from old entertainment companies and new streaming services such as Netflix, Apple TV + and HBO Max.
The Los Angeles area already ranks as the world leader in sound stage capacity with more than 5.2 million square feet of certified space, data from FilmLA shows. Local soundstages have remained rented during the pandemic; location footage that had fallen to a drip during the worst months of the pandemic is coming back.
Last month, Warner Bros. announced that its historic Warner Bros. Ranch satellite studio in Burbank will be newly developed with 16 new sound scenes.
Warner is selling the land, but will lease the converted land from entertainment property owner Worthe Real Estate Group, which will own the land with San Francisco investment firm Stockbridge.
A new film studio in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles, which will have seven sound scenes, was announced in July by Hudson Pacific Properties Inc., one of the nation’s largest studio operators. Its Sunset Glenoaks Studios are expected to be completed by the end of 2023 in an industrial district on Peoria Street near Glenoaks Boulevard.
Other recently announced studio projects include a $ 650 million plan to build 17 sound stages in a location now occupied by the Los Angeles Times printing house on Olympic Boulevard in an industrial district in downtown Los Angeles. The Times’ landlord, Atlas Capital Group, intends to develop the car park around the printing house in the near future and eventually take over the building from the 1980s and convert it into stages. The Times may extend its lease there in the 2030s.
Los Angeles real estate developer David Simon plans to build a $ 450 million independent studio in Hollywood with five soundstages and support facilities, including offices and bungalows for entertainment creators. It would be called Echelon Studios and would replace a long-closed Sears store and parking lot on Santa Monica Boulevard west of 101 Freeway.
Hackman Capital Partners, the owner of Television City, formerly run by CBS, announced in March plans to make $ 1.25 billion in improvements to the Los Angeles site, including raising the number of sound scenes to at least 15 from eight along with production support facilities and offices for rent.
Unlike independent studios that rent space to entertainers, NBCUniversal is an owner-user, Moore said. “We are investing in the experience of the users of this production and business here on campus.”