Outside, the architecture is turn-of-the-century New York.
But on the inside, nearly everything is state-of-the-art at the new 516-seat movie theater on the Warner Bros. lot, matching any of the best movie houses in Los Angeles--and perhaps the world, studio and industry officials say.
With 35 speakers surrounding the auditorium, a whirling helicopter on the screen sounds as though it is actually flying over movie-goers. And the sound is spread so evenly throughout the theater that no seat is a bad seat.
Although it is any movie-goer's dream, only a select few will be able to watch new movies at the theater after it opens Tuesday. It is reserved primarily for special screenings by filmmakers and world premieres, such as next week's debut of "The Bridges of Madison County."
"What we manufacture are films," said Gary Credle, the studio's president of facilities, "and we didn't have a showcase of our own. We'd rent from other available facilities. . . . Nine out of 10 of our films we will show here. We make 'em here, we show 'em here.
"It's the excitement of being on our own lot, on a site where so much of our history was made."
Sparing no expense on the Steven J. Ross Theater, named for Time Warner's late chairman, the studio imported wall covering from Japan, seats from Spain, speakers from England and specially crafted German glass for the projection booth.
It was built to blend into Brownstone Street, the same 1920s thoroughfare that served as the backdrop for James Cagney movies and the film "Dick Tracy."
Credle declined to say how much the deluxe screening room cost, but said the equipment alone cost 10 times as much as that found in most multiplex theaters.
"I suspect it's as good a theater as you'd find in the world," said Tony Witzel of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. "When studios have an important show, they often go to theaters where the quality is not very good. It's advantageous for the studios to have a theater of their own, where they can be assured of the quality."
Southern California, entertainment capital of the world, already has some of the best movie theaters anywhere, Witzel said. Those found on studio lots such as Warner Bros. and Universal, he added, are even more impressive because industry executives like to closely scrutinize movies before they are released.
"We worked on the premise that we were pressing the recent sound systems to the maximum, that we would surpass the best venues in town," said sound engineer Robert Budd, who spent more than two years working on the theater.
"The trick is not just to make something louder, but to preserve all the subtlety."
Glancing at the theater's ceiling, he added with pride: "This is really the first theater to push the envelope on what sound systems need to press toward."