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A ‘Lighthouse’ in Beverly Hills

Hollywood’s next big opening is set for Friday, July 28--and it isn’t just another movie premiere.

That’s when CAA will move into its artfully eccentric new building on the corner of Lasky and Santa Monica in Beverly Hills, just a few blocks from its current quarters on Century Park East.

Competitors are whispering that the irregular, sand-colored, I. M. Pei-designed structure is a monument to the agency’s growing mood of self-importance. “We’ve heard all of that,” counters agency president Michael Ovitz. “It’s very simple. We have two floors in (our current) building. We pay an astronomical sum of rent. We made a decision that it would be economically prudent to be our own landlord.”

This is not your everyday corporate headquarters.

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The central feature of the 65,000-square-foot building--the cost of which Ovitz declines to discuss--is a semicircular skylight that will be illuminated at night, “like a fanciful lighthouse,” in the words of one planning memo filed with the city of Beverly Hills.

Under the skylight is an atrium that will be crisscrossed by connecting bridges, to facilitate rapid communication inside the agency. “It’s built for access,” explains partner Ron Meyer. “It’s conceivable at a point that everyone could come out onto areas of the building and see each other.”

Principal art will include a centerpiece designed by New York sculptor Joel Shapiro and a 28-foot-high painting to be executed at the site by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein within a month after the opening date.

The new building will have three stories, but CAA still hopes for permission to install a gymnasium on top for employees and clients. The agency was denied a zoning variance last year, but planning officials now say they are contemplating a regulatory change that would permit such facilities without need for a variance.

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“It’s not something we should talk about,” Ovitz says of the debate over the gym, which won’t go in for at least a year even if approved.

Ovitz clearly takes his agency’s new digs seriously. At a ground-breaking ceremony last year, he had it blessed by a Chinese feng shui master, who sprinkled rice and wine on the site. And a time-lapse camera mounted across the street will provide raw material for a movie of the building’s birth.

Some observers take a lighter view, however. By one report, for instance, a clever graffiti artist recently turned the construction sign into a Hollywood in-joke.

“I. M. Pei--or play,” it said.

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