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Monday, May 16, 2022

Any takers?

If you happen to be in the market for a property that has an Afghan village, blown-out buildings, helicopters and tanks, Saugus has just the spot for you. The Blue Cloud Movie Ranch, a nearly 100-acre property where such Hollywood blockbusters as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Iron Man” were filmed, is on the market. The property is listed at $7.5 million, which appears to be quite the deal – and may reflect a lesser demand for its location services due to the continuing flight of production to other states. About a year ago, the property went on sale for $15 million, according to real estate data firm CoStar Group Inc., which confirmed both figures with the listing broker. “It’s no secret that movies went out of town to other places around the country. But television was the bread-and-butter staple for these ranches and that’s off, too,” said Rob Gibson, a location manager currently working with MTV on a show called “Awkward.” The ranch is owned by Rene Veluzat, whose family has made a business of Santa Clarita Valley movie ranches. Other members own Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall and the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch in Saugus. Rene Veluzat, a former actor and stuntman who bought Blue Cloud in 2000, declined to be interviewed. The listing broker, Gail Kopp at the Canyon Country office of Realty Executives is also mum, saying “This isn’t a deal I can talk about.” It’s not exactly clear why the parties aren’t talking. Movie ranches don’t often come on the market, and brokers say it’s a specialized market with finite demand. “It’s a very niche business so there are only a handful of real potential buyers,” said John Cserkuti, a senior vice president at the Santa Clarita office of NAI Capital Inc., who is not involved in the deal. “You don’t hear about these changing hands very often and I don’t imagine there will be a lot of interest. And with such a small market, it doesn’t really surprise me that they lowered the price.” ‘Hollywood North’ Blue Cloud offers about 10 sets, including an airplane hangar, helicopter crash site, a cave, ’50s diner and more. It has, however, become most known for its desert military scenes used in “Zero Dark Thirty” and the “Iron Man” movies. A variety of popular movies and television shows also have been filmed at Blue Cloud through the years, including HBO’s “True Blood” and NBC’s military legal drama of the ’90s, “JAG.” Then there’s smaller production such as “Bounty Killer,” an action comedy film released last year about celebrity assassins hunting white-collar criminals responsible for an apocalypse. Colin Ebeling, producer of the film for Just Chorizo Productions Inc. of North Hollywood, said his group toured several ranches in the Santa Clarita Valley and decided on Blue Cloud for a few reasons, not least of which was financial. “We were working on a very tight budget, so we needed to find a very versatile place with all kinds of interiors, exteriors, vehicles and more,” he said. “I thought if ‘Iron Man’ shot there, there’d be no way we could afford it. But Rene was extremely flexible, and that’s rare in the industry.” Ebeling said he did not handle the financial details and could not provide exact rental costs, but added that Veluzat cuts rates for filmmakers needing the ranch for longer shoots or if they are willing to allow other shoots at the same time. In general, filming at ranches in the area can cost between $2,500 to $5,000 a day on average, depending on the need for sets and props, said Gibson, the MTV location manager, who has worked at Blue Cloud on a variety of TV shows, including TNT network comedy-drama “Franklin & Bash.” Still, the sale comes as filming in the Los Angeles area has yet to recover from a dismal stretch. While on-location feature production saw a nearly 20 percent rise last year from 2012, FilmL.A. Inc. reported that figure is still down about 50 percent from its peak in 1996. The non-profit, which coordinates and processes permits for on-location motion picture, television and commercial production in Los Angeles, also said TV filming saw an 11 percent bump last year to about 18,000 permitted production days – still down 39 percent from its 2007 peak. And there has been up a recent uptick in Santa Clarita, where the city has been aggressively promoting filming at its ranches and studios. The Santa Clarita Film Office recorded more than 1,200 location film days and 463 permits last year, which represented a 38 percent increase in film days and 28 percent increase in permits from the previous year. The office estimates that filming has an economic impact of more than $30 million for the city. “This is our third consecutive year of location filming going up,” said Russell Sypowicz, film office administrator for Santa Clarita. “The Santa Clarita Valley is known for our movie ranches. We hope to build on that number even more this year.” Indeed, Santa Clarita has been trying to identify itself as “Hollywood North” for years, given that there are about 10 private movie ranches in the area. In addition, the county Board of Supervisors gave its approval in August for Walt Disney Co. to change the zoning of 44 acres on its 800-acre Golden Oak Ranch property to build about a dozen soundstages. Valley politics To promote filming in Santa Clarita, the city has a strategy of annexing outlying county land where many of its rural movie ranches are located. The annexation process for Blue Cloud, at 28945 Bouquet Canyon Road, is expected to be completed within the next month. The site is just a few miles outside of the city limit, and would follow the city’s first annexation into its Movie Ranch Overlay Zone last month. That annexation took in the Sable Movie Ranch, Rancho Maria and Rancho Deluxe. Of the 692 acres in the annexation, 540 acres are dedicated movie ranches. Annexation allows the city to take over the film permitting process that is now run by FilmL.A. The non-profit charges a $625 permit application charge and a mandatory notification fee of $150, which can rise depending on how many residents need to be notified. The city film office issues permits as low as $143, which would allow for a filmmaker to shoot exclusively on one ranch for up to two weeks. Santa Clarita also has a notification fee, which starts at $124, and all filming, regardless of location, requires a fire inspection fee. “We’re not trying to make money directly, but trying to encourage more filming. Then the crews will spend more money at our local businesses and we benefit indirectly,” said Jason Crawford, the city’s economic development manager. Sypowicz from the film office said he was aware Blue Cloud was for sale, but declined comment on the matter except to say: “Rene cares very deeply about the Santa Clarita Valley and that industry.” The acquirer of Blue Cloud could benefit from the annexation, said Gibson the location manager, adding that the Santa Clarita office also gives filmmakers a much quicker turnaround on permitting requests. Still, he said it’s unfortunate to see Veluzat give up the ranch. Gibson said the Veluzat family has built a strong business in the Santa Clarita Valley and the industry. The Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch was the site for such TV classics as “The A Team,” and also featured iconic movie shots, such as the volcanic eruption in “Dante’s Peak.” It was the first movie ranch acquired by the family about 1940 by Rene Veluzat’s father. And Melody Ranch, run by Renaud Veluzat and Andre Veluzat, was purchased from Gene Autry in 1990. It’s the smallest of the three at 22 acres, and is most known for westerns dating back to the early part of the last century. “The whole family has a great reputation in the business,” Gibson said. “Even before I was in the industry, I knew about the Veluzat family.”

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