85.7 F
San Fernando
Monday, May 29, 2023


PETER BRENNAN Orange County Business Journal At a coffee shop in Studio City a couple of years ago, Gary Bastien drew diagrams of sound stages on a napkin while developer Ron Flesch looked on. Bastien took the napkin back to his Irvine office and put its main ideas onto his computer. Within a few weeks, he had the design of the $100 million Manhattan Beach Studios, whose first sound stage is scheduled to open this week. Its developers tout it as the first studio built from the ground up in California in 60 years. For Irvine-based Bastien & Associates, Hollywood’s boom has driven its own rags-to-riches story. “It’s 14 years of struggle, and all of a sudden you’re discovered on this niche sound-stage stuff,” said Bastien, while showing off the Manhattan Beach Studios. “The last two years, we’ve grown more than we had the previous 14 years.” Bastien’s firm has designed everything from sound stages to movie theaters to parking garages for Universal Studios Inc., Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and Twethieth Century Fox. It drew the plans for the CBS Studio Center in Studio City, the AMC/Media City Center in Burbank; the Icon Studios in Glendale, Ariz.; and the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. It’s also working on studios in Greece and London. Flesch, a partner with Roy Disney in the 550,000-square-foot Manhattan Beach Studios, praised Bastien’s work as reliable and economical. He said some architects don’t take into account the desire of developers to keep costs low on sound stages, which he described as “basically boxes.” “A lot of architects decide they are artists, and projects become expensive,” Flesch said. “Gary has a nice combination of both the artistic and the practical.” After graduating from USC in 1973, Bastien worked 10 years for an Anaheim firm before starting his own company in Irvine. Because he couldn’t afford to hire licensed architects, he hired new graduates. During this early stage, Bastien hit on an idea that has greatly helped his career using “tilt-ups” on a scale twice as large as normal. Tilt-up construction involves pouring cement into wooden frames on the ground and then lifting the resulting slabs by crane into place to form walls. Bastien says he was the first to use the cost-efficient tilt-up technique for sound stages. It involves the use of 61-foot-tall slabs that weigh 93 tons, twice the normal height and weight of tilt-up slabs. Hoisting the massive slabs into place is a crane capable of lifting 300 tons. The resulting cost savings have set Bastien apart from his competition. His Hollywood connections go back to the early ’90s, when a friend invited him to a meeting for a minor job at Paramount. “For an architect to call up studio executives cold is almost impossible. They won’t call you back. You have to be invited to a meeting and never let go,” he said. That minor job evolved into the four-story, 56,000-square-foot Gene Roddenberry Building. Bastien had his foot in the door and wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip away. “Architecture is a tough business,” Bastien said. “There’s a certain amount of luck involved. You have to find a niche and stick with it.” His contacts led him to other executives. They liked the tilt-ups, particularly when he showed how CBS Studio Center could be built for $115 a square foot rather than the average of $225 a square foot. His firm was selected out of 12 bidders. “We’ve found a way to build them the most economical way you could,” he said. Hollywood pays very well and is glamorous at times, said Bastien, but the stress level is considerable. “Everybody is just running as hard as they possibly can. They’re under tremendous pressure and dealing with huge financial implications if they make a mistake,” he said. Bastien tries to marry the artistic and the economical in his work. At Manhattan Beach Studios, the style is Art Deco. Some of the stages look like old-fashioned movie theaters. Other buildings feature large vertical windows. “These stages will look like all the other stages in Hollywood. People will walk in and say, ‘Yeah, this is a sound stage,’ ” he said. “It’s a thing about perception more than anything.” Bastien said business is so hot that another 50 or so sound stages could be added to the 300 already in Southern California. His next project is the Los Angeles Center Studios, a new studio designed to have six sound stages at the old Unocal Corp. headquarters property in downtown Los Angeles. “We’ve found a definite niche,” Bastien said. “Our timing was good.”

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Related Articles