The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion in May 2021 about how Los Angeles’ television and movie production spaces not only have survived but have rebounded over the past 12 months and what this means for the future of the entertainment industry in the city of Angels.
Abbey Ehman, vice president at Lincoln Property Company, one of the largest and most diversified real estate firms in the United States, served as the moderator for panelists from RIOS, Hackman Capital Partners, JLL and VoyagerOne Studios/Virtual Production Occupier.
The Future of Soundstages Across Southern California
“Why did the studios all coincidentally migrate to this area? Within an hour's drive, you have pine tree-covered mountaintops, you have desert, you have beaches, you have every kind of set imaginable,” said Carl Muhlstein, international director at JLL.
Southern California will continue to be a prime location for soundstages echoed Bob Hale, a partner at RIOS. He believes content creation will remain centered in Los Angeles.
While the demand for soundstage space is at a peak, soundstage projects are a big commitment because it takes at least three to five years to get through the development process, said Hale. A California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review which is a law that requires California’s public agencies and local governments to measure the environmental impacts of development projects.
Typically, a soundstage is not built as a standalone product. Stages are usually 18,000 square-feet and one story.
The Transformation of Studio Space
Studios have undergone a substantial transformation, said Zach Sokoloff, vice president of asset management at Hackman Capital Partners. Before the pandemic, industry workers were seeing about 2.5 square-feet of production office and support space to every 1.0 square-foot of stage space. The ratio has been flipped on its head. Now it is more than 2.0 square-feet of production office and support space for every 1.0 square-foot of stage space. The space and cost requirements of the stages are so huge that studios are building in places where land is a bit cheaper.
“As tempting as it is to look at a warehouse and say, ‘Gosh, that could be a stage,’ there's really a lot more that goes into building a stage than simply putting up a concrete space,” said Sokoloff.
Virtual Production Is the Future
The Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, is a good example of how epic television and feature films are going to be made using virtual production, said Matt Hanna, founder at VoyagerOne Studios and Virtual Production Occupier. The program looks like it was shot around the world but in reality, the entire series was shot on a giant soundstage in Manhattan Beach in front of a giant LED wall, that tracked the movements of the actors who performed in front of the screen. The actors were able to see the environment being projected behind them.
Hanna added that his group just closed its first round of financing to build out a pilot facility in Burbank. The group hopes to book and build it out quickly and expand to more facilities in Los Angeles and other viable production hubs, both domestically and internationally.
“We plan to be in the virtual production services business and hope to find not only clients like Netflix and Disney, but also commercial production like music video production,” said Hanna. “We are going to be a content studio that is actively developing intellectual property utilizing the virtual production capabilities that we're building,” said Hanna.
His team is also planning to build an asset library, a digital catalog of the environments available to be put on the screen.
Get Involved in The Industry
Muhlstein suggested that professionals in the industry get involved in their local communities by writing a letter of support or perhaps helping the homeless. The Hollywood Chamber hosts a Homelessness Summit to have educated conversations on how to end the crisis of homelessness in Hollywood.
“I don't care if you're a renter, owner, Democrat or Republican, I think the tide is turning that we really need to do something about California’s homelessness crisis,” stated Muhlstein.
In summary, the entertainment industry will stay in Southern California and virtual production will be more common as the industry adjusts to coronavirus prevention practices.
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