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Construction to start on Imax headquarters in Playa Vista

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Renowned big-screen cinema purveyor Imax Corp. is set to break ground Thursday on a new West Coast headquarters that will house two large screening rooms, offices and production facilities for moviemakers.

The $45-million complex is being built in the commercial district of Playa Vista, a planned community south of Marina del Rey.

Imax's property will rise at the corner of Westlawn Avenue and Millennium Drive, next to the massive hangar where aerospace mogul Howard Hughes built his infamous wooden transport plane known as the Spruce Goose.

Developer Lincoln Property Co. is building the 66,000-square-foot facility that Imax will own. Lincoln also built more than 800,000 square feet of offices at Playa Vista and is developing the $260-million Runway office, retail and housing project that will serve as Playa Vista's downtown.

Imax will move all 120 employees now housed in Santa Monica to the new building when it is completed in about a year. The new three-story building will have room for the staff to grow.

Imax executives said the new Los Angeles headquarters will provide a more efficient use of space and accommodate the big-screen technology company's rapid global expansion.

"It's definitely in keeping with the growth of our company," said Imax Corp. Chief Executive Richard Gelfond. "We just had the biggest box-office quarter in our history. Our network grew by 20% year-over-year and we're now in 57 countries."

The new facility will provide a more modern, open space compared with the company's current offices in Santa Monica as Imax phases out film and becomes a fully digital operation. The location is ideal because of its proximity to major studios and Silicon Beach, Gelfond said, noting that Electronic Arts and YouTube also have facilities in the same Playa Vista development.

"Fifteen years ago, we were a film-only company," said Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax Entertainment. "We've evolved so gigantically since then, not only in volume but in the technology that we use. This building is more reflective of who we are and where we are today, and what industry is today."

The heart of the new Imax building designed by architecture firm Gensler is an interior amphitheater under a large skylight. The area will serve as the hub of the facility, where employees can interact with clients and one another.

The building will house two large screening rooms and a formal prefunction area for private screenings, Imax said. The production space and screening rooms will accommodate evolving technology in the filmmaking industry.

A grand lobby will connect two workplace floors by an interior atrium with enclosed glass conference rooms above. An elliptical outdoor courtyard will have movable seating to accommodate impromptu gatherings, activities and special events.

Once known for its nature documentaries, Imax has evolved into a major player in the exhibition industry, showing as many as 40 big-screen films a year, mainly fan-boy and action movies such as "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Star Trek Into Darkness."

The company, which has offices in New York and Toronto (where it is based), has more than doubled the size of its theater circuit in the last four years, expanding rapidly in overseas markets such as Russia, India and China, where it has relationships with most major exhibitors.

The company elevated its profile last September when it opened its largest Imax venue (in terms of seating capacity) at the former Grauman's Chinese Theatre, now called the TCL Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

Twitter: @rogervincent

richard.verrier@latimes.com

Twitter: @rverrier

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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