20th Century Props reopens amid production rebound in L.A.

In a propitious sign for Los Angeles' production sector, one of Hollywood's largest prop houses is reopening six years after it shut down.

20th Century Props stunned the industry in 2009 when it closed its North Hollywood business amid mounting losses that it blamed on the flight of production from L.A. Several L.A. prop houses have closed or laid off employees in recent years as more business left the state.

But owner Harvey Schwartz has decided to reopen at a new location in Van Nuys, citing an upswing in production in Southern California that has renewed demand for props used on film and TV shows.

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Newly expanded film tax credits have enticed four out-of-state TV shows to L.A.  The California Film Commission on Tuesday announced that eight studio films also had been selected for tax breaks.

"Business seems to be coming to town, so it's looking good in Los Angeles these days,"  Schwartz said. "Everyone I talk to says props are doing really well right now."

20th Century Props officially reopens next Thursday but will be much smaller and more specialized than its former incarnation.

The  new business will operate out of an 18,000-square-foot facility on Roscoe Boulevard with an inventory of about 3,000 props, compared with 90,000 previously. The prop house will focus on renting, buying and selling mid-century modern furniture and lighting, which are popular right now among many film and TV set decorators.

Bob Zilliox, founding president of the Set Decorators Society of America, will manage the collection.

Schwartz, who has been in the prop business for nearly 40 years, launched the company in 1984. He expanded a decade later when he bought 20th Century Fox's prop department.

The prop shop, which supplied the chandeliers in the blockbuster "Titanic" and futuristic furniture in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," had been a fixture for two decades. His inventory included the rattan furniture set used on the TV series "The Golden Girls" and a desk owned by Howard Hughes and used in the movie "The Aviator."

After closing the business, Schwartz kept some of his key inventory -- among them a chair used by Liz Taylor in "Cleopatra" and a jet pack from "Minority Report " -- and opened a retail store in Beverly Hills called Harvey's on Beverly.

He will continue to operate the store while running the prop house, which will initially have a staff of five people. One of his new clients is HBO's "American Horror Story," which has relocated from Louisiana.

Twitter: @rverrier

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