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Hangar

Two vacant hangars at Van Nuys Airport are being converted into film stages another indication of Hollywood’s efforts to develop unorthodox locales for film production work. The hangars have been used for filming on a limited basis, but they will need a number of improvements to serve as full-time stages. “We’re in the preliminary stages of evaluating how to best make the buildings attractive and convenient to use for movie productions,” said Michael Bobenko, senior vice president of operations for the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., an agency that coordinates most of the permits for location filming in the city and county. At the EIDC’s request, Burbank-based Warner Bros. has twice this year sent teams to examine the buildings and draw up preliminary work plans. The studies indicate that it will take about $500,000 to make the necessary improvements, including increasing the power supply, installing air conditioning and insulating the facilities. Because the hangars would not be soundproofed, their use would be limited to shooting model miniatures and scenes for which sound is dubbed. The renovations would be paid for by the Department of Airports. Bobenko estimated that the department could lease the renovated hangars for $35,000 or more a month, about triple the current rental price of $12,600 per month. Since the hangars were vacated in 1990, there has not been much demand by aviation companies to use the hangars, said Jack Driscoll, executive director of the city’s Department of Airports. However, the hangars have been popular filming sites. “We figured that if they are going to be used for filming, let’s do this properly,” Driscoll said. “They could be marketed more effectively if they were in the kind of condition that the movie companies want.” He emphasized that aviation-related companies would remain preferred hangar tenants, and it is possible that the buildings would revert to that use if the right candidate approached the city. Warner Bros. is interested in the Van Nuys location because there is a shortage of well-equipped spaces suitable for filming in the Los Angeles area, said Michael Walbrecht, director of studio and production affairs at Warner Bros. Walbrecht said that Warner Bros. has used the hangars in the past, but the company would rent them more often if they were in better shape. “Right now those hangars are more or less four walls,” Walbrecht said. “They don’t have nearly enough power available and the office areas are strewn with rubble.” Under a contract now awaiting signature by the Department of Airports, the EIDC will assume authority over issuing film permits for the two hangars, a task currently handled by the Van Nuys Airport’s police department. The Department of Airports approached the EIDC about the renovation late last year, Driscoll said. The so-called “Air National Guard hangars” had been in use until 1990, when the Guard’s 40-year lease expired. Driscoll said that the Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve the conversion of the facilities for non-aviation use and it is unclear how long this might take. An FAA spokesman said the agency could not comment on such a move until it actually saw a plan. It could be a year or more before the plan is submitted for approval to the FAA as well as the Los Angeles City Council.

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