Amazon Reboots the Studio Where ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘E.T.’ Were Made
CULVER CITY, Calif. — It was as if they were stepping into 1940, the heart of Hollywood’s golden age.
The stucco bungalow where Orson Welles puffed on his pipe between “Citizen Kane” scenes shimmered in the sun. White roses bloomed along a path leading to the cottage where Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh changed into their “Gone With the Wind” costumes. You half expected Cecil B. DeMille to come bounding out of the nearby studio administration building, a mansion modeled after Mount Vernon, to bawl out an underling.
Yet a gathering here last week was not about Hollywood’s past as much as its future. The official purpose was to commemorate the $12 million restoration of four studio buildings. But the visitors may as well have come to cut the ribbon on a new era in the entertainment industry — one marked by the ascent of streaming giants like Amazon Studios, the compound’s new tenant.
“This historic place has become newly relevant,” a beaming Jeffrey Cooper, Culver City’s mayor, told the crowd as Jennifer Salke, the Amazon Studios chief, sliced a green-and-white sash with gargantuan scissors.
“So exciting!” Ms. Salke said, shaking Mr. Cooper’s hand. Two of her Amazon Studios lieutenants, Albert Cheng and Jason Ropell, clapped nearby.
Amazon is only renting Culver Studios, as the 14-acre lot is called. Hackman Capital Partners, a real estate investment company, has owned the rectangular property since 2014 and lured Amazon with a plan to spend $600 million on seven new studio buildings and other upgrades by 2021.