The Hollywood Studios Preservation Coalition unveiled an accord Wednesday that is intended to settle a two-year battle between preservationists who want to save old film studios and lots, and entertainment industry executives who want to modernize them.
The voluntary agreement, announced at the George Burns Stage at Hollywood Center Studios, formalizes a system in which four Hollywood studios and two preservation groups represented in the coalition will resolve their conflicts through negotiation and discussion. The coalition will reach a consensus on any renovation or demolition plan affecting a historically significant building before any action is taken.
“This is an agreement that honors the old while making way for the new,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo, who appointed the coalition two years ago as animosity between preservationists and studio executives grew.
“They started out with very little common ground,” Woo said of the coalition members, “but they’re all standing here together in support of this.”
George Burns himself, a month shy of his 95th birthday, was on hand to applaud the agreement. Standing in front of the sound stage where he and his late wife, Gracie Allen, starred in “The Burns and Allen Show” in the 1950s, Burns quipped that the agreement will help save studio buildings constructed at the dawn of Hollywood’s film age--buildings that are now almost as old as him.
Under the agreement, two preservation groups, the Los Angeles Conservancy and Hollywood Heritage, rated all the buildings on the lots of the four participating studios in order of historical significance.
The studios--Hollywood Center, Paramount Pictures, Raleigh Studios and Tribune Broadcasting Co.--agreed to seek approval from the coalition of any expansion or demolition plans. In return, the preservationists agreed not to nominate studio buildings for blanket protection as city landmarks, a move that could hamper modernization efforts.
“This is really an understanding, a detente, if you will,” said Albert J. Tenzer, a vice president at Hollywood Center Studios. The studio had considered suing the city of Los Angeles, which Tenzer said had condemned some of his studio’s buildings but would not allow them to be destroyed because of their historic significance.
Built in 1919, the studio was once the headquarters for silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd. Jean Harlow got her first starring role there.
Located on Las Palmas Avenue, the studio became the focal point of the squabble between industry executives and preservationists two years ago. At the time, its efforts to demolish some seismically unsafe buildings built in the 1920s were blocked by preservationists, who wanted the city to declare the entire site a cultural-historical monument.
Studio executives and preservationists quickly began expressing concern that Hollywood Center’s problems would have industrywide implications.