Warner Center Hotel Wants to Be a Star

Times Staff Writer

Psst . . . we’re gonna make you a star.

That was the promise echoing through the hallways of the Warner Center Marriott as three dozen film studio representatives partied Tuesday night in the hotel’s top-floor Presidential Suite.

The talk wasn’t about the latest sexy blonde bombshell, however. It was about the hotel.

Movie production executives were being courted by Marriott officials who want to make their 17-floor hotel a favored filming location for television and movies.


It was a refreshing change for the film executives. They have increasingly found themselves fighting for places in Los Angeles to use as settings for motion pictures, TV series and network movies-of-the-week.

Congestion and confusion caused by production companies setting up equipment have led to restrictions on filming in some business areas and neighborhoods. The cold shoulder has contributed to what some believe is a growing flight from Los Angeles by film makers.

Film industry officials said Tuesday’s party marked the first time that a business has heavily courted the studios’ lights, cameras and action.

“I’m very pleased to see this kind of activity,” said Kathleen A. Milnes, deputy director of the California Film Commission. “One of the biggest problems we have is people and major properties that say ‘no’ repeatedly to filming.”


$1 Billion Lost Annually

The growing problem of runaway production prompted a call earlier this year to create a Los Angeles city commission that would sell the city as an ideal production site for studios.

“We’re losing $1 billion a year, year after year, from productions that leave the state,” said Milnes, who attended the Marriott party. “In the L.A. area, we’re seeing a growing trend toward production in cities elsewhere in California.”

Milnes said studios spend about $4 billion a year on film production in California, with about 80% of that amount staying in the Los Angeles area.


In the two years since it opened, the 485-room Marriott hotel in Woodland Hills has been the setting for 20 major productions. The hotel charges studios $5,500 a day, plus the cost of hotel-catered meals for actors and production crew members, said David Iwata, the hotel’s marketing director.

Other hotels also roll out the welcome mat.

The 61-year-old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has a negotiable fee that averages about $5,000 a day, said Kelly Greene, its film coordinator. That price includes use of its Celebrity Suite--an ornate, 2-story room with a 1930s look. The suite was a real-life hideaway for movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

The Registry Hotel in Universal City has a more contemporary look. Its luxurious interior is used about four days a month by various production crews, said Zoe De Angelis, director of public relations. Fees range from $500 to $5,000 per day, depending on the size of the crew, said De Angelis, who this week mailed letters to studios to remind them that the Registry welcomes filming.


Other San Fernando Valley-area hotels, such as the Beverly Garland in North Hollywood and the Hyatt Westlake Plaza in Westlake Village, are also occasionally used as film backdrops, their operators said.

The Marriott’s aggressive we-love-the-movies attitude is refreshing, said Ralph Alderman, supervising location manager for Stephen J. Cannell Productions. Alderman’s crews have used the Warner Center hotel five times.

“There are places that I’d love to get in, such as office buildings, that view us as a nuisance,” said Alderman, who attended the Presidential Suite party. “When we’re here, we are aware this is a hotel and not a motion picture back lot.

“Once we were filming here during the cocktail hour and I sent someone to every table to buy everyone a drink and tell them that all we asked was that they be quiet during the take,” he said. “The hotel guests were very cooperative.”


And very happy to be part of the action.

“It was great fun,” said Charles Griffin, an architect from Knoxville, Tenn., who spent four days at the Marriott in June while an upcoming NBC movie, “Going to the Chapel,” was being filmed there.

“I was registering at the front desk when they shot a scene next to me. They used me in the background. I’ll be watching for myself when the movie comes on TV next month.”

Recruited as Extra


Griffin said he recognized actors from “Miami Vice” and “L.A. Law” who were performing in the movie. His experiences were a chief topic of conversation when he returned to Tennessee, he said in a telephone interview.

Hotel workers sometime also become part of the action.

Marriott lounge supervisor Mike Aldworth said he was recruited to be an extra in a scene for the TV show “A Year in the Life” when a location manager saw him walking through the hotel lobby.

“I saw myself when the show aired,” Aldworth said. “I looked all right.”