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A N. Hollywood Studio’s Cautionary Tale

By Mel Lambert. With a storied past, Legends Studios in North Hollywood, CA is being prepped for an auction that could bring the facility back to life.

The view into Legends Studios’ large scoring stage/tracking room from its upper client lounge.

A major recording/production facility in North Hollywood, California, that formerly housed LA Sound Gallery and most recently Legends Studios is being auctioned after Chapter 11 bankruptcy transitioned into a Chapter 7 foreclosure. With an estimated value of between $3 million and $4 million, the venue will be sold at auction during the coming 6-8 weeks by Tranzon, in association with Tiger Group/Asset Intelligent, as a turnkey property with real estate and recording equipment, or separately. The multi-room complex has a fascinating past.

The landmark building in North Hollywood started life in 1940 as a 740-seat movie house named The Magnolia Theatre, designed by architect Clifford Balch. Closing in 1979, the venue was reportedly purchased by Barbra Streisand and refitted as a two-room recording studio, renamed Evergreen Studios. According to Phil Wagner, current president of Focusrite Novation US, and previously head of West Coast operations for both Neve and Solid State Logic, subsequently Evergreen Studios was owned by string player Gale Levant, and originally housed a Harrison scoring console. “It was then operated by mixer Paul Ratajchek, who mainly used the second room as a dubbing facility with his SSL 4K,” Wagner recalls.

After subsequent renovations and re-equipping during 1998/99 by musician/producer Craig Huxley, who owned the nearby Enterprise Recording complex and renamed the venue Enterprise 2, the facility featured a remodeled scoring stage housing a custom 104-channel Solid State Logic SL-9000 J-Series analog console. The dubbing stage was also upgraded to THX standards with a 200-channel SSL Avant two-operator/64-fader console, and targeted at smaller feature film and TV productions. (Reportedly, the late re-recording mixer Andre Perrault operated the room for many years.) Now repurposed as a scoring and re-recording facility, the complex last changed hands close to 10 years ago for a reported $6.5 million when Saboa Entertainment purchased the building from Media Concepts president Yves Chica and his wife Sock Yhun who, according to Wagner, leased the scoring stage to LA Sound Gallery, which subsequently installed a 72-channel SSL Duality console.

Built as a movie theater in 1940, the facility was renovated into a recording facility in the Eighties, changing hands numerous times over the ensuing decades.

According to a contemporary online ad, “This state-of-the-art facility offers a production, film or advertising corporation the opportunity to acquire a world-class asset with the most up-to-date tools available in the entertainment industry.” While in operation, the 15,000 square feet footprint included a Mixing Stage, a Scoring Stage with 30-foot ceilings, two Edit Suites, two Video Editing Suites and two ADR Recording Stages, plus kitchen and offices.

A Variety article from January 2009 named one of the LA Sound Gallery’s new co-owners as Matt Salazar, a composer-producer who reportedly spent $3 million refurbishing the venue, consulting with leading mixers on acoustic design. The 4,000-square-foot scoring stage became a live room with three ISO booths and space for up to 60 musicians.

A Mix feature from June 2009 quoted producer/composer Matt Salazar explaining that, having outgrown his small SSL -equipped production studio, he was looking to acquire a facility big enough to fit a new SSL Duality 72-channel console. The new owners retained much of the late-Nineties design—including unique, diamond-shaped diffusers, a George Augspurger 5.1 monitoring setup and all of the control-room treatments—but added baffling in the live room to “soften” the acoustics. “The shape of the room is conducive to having a big cathedral-esque sound,” Salazar explained. “We tuned the high end and the decay for clarity because we didn’t want to lose the depth of the room. We just tried to soften the upper-midrange frequencies so that, if you have a 30-piece string section, for example, and then you bring brass in, the brass won’t ring within the room and overpower what the strings are doing. It’s very balanced,” he concluded.

Salazar’s projects included original music for the Hannah Montana TV show and artist development for Warner Bros. and Interscope. Other projects included music for the Fox-TV series Fringe, The Simpsons, Family Guy and King of the Hill, plus sessions with composer Mark Isham and producer Mutt Lange.

The vintage 72-channel Neve 8078 analog console with Flying Faders automation in Legends Studios’ scoring stage control room.

Renamed Legends Studios, the Scoring Stage’s control room currently houses a vintage 72-channel Neve 8078 analog console with Flying Faders automation, linked to a machine room that contains two Studer A827 24-tracks and a two-track A80. Outboards include several Tube-Tec, Pultec and Fairchild dynamics/EQ units, plus a vintage EMT Model 250 digital reverb. There is adjacent parking for 70 vehicles, as well as gated VIP parking and a rear patio. The auctioneers may follow one of three formats, dependent upon pre-bids: either offer the entire complex as a job lot with hardware; or sell off the building separately from the production hardware.

According to LA-based vintage-equipment expert/reseller Dan Alexander, the large-format Neve 8078 console originated at The Site studio in Marin County, north of San Francisco, in the late Eighties. “The studio was owned by Dick Mithun, who expanded his original 8078 by adding more modules to create this 72-channel configuration. I know that [rock guitarist] Joe Satriani did a bunch of work at The Site, with engineer John Cuniberti.” “I’m 99 percent sure that this Neve 8078 is from The Site,” Cuniberti says. “It didn’t have a center section, only monitor/machine control and talkback. Glyn Johns and I both did Satriani albums on it. I also remember George Massenburg making a lot of albums there.

Now a professor of sound recording, Massenburg recalls working at The Site on a Journey single entitled “When You Love A Woman.” “We did scores of sessions on that console; it was the coolest and best. Unfortunately, that kind of heavy hardware is less and less necessary within today’s ‘post-quality-recording’ budget.” Engineer/producer John Neff also worked on The Site’s Neve console. “If I recall correctly,” he offers, “it was made from two smaller consoles, with a custom center section, and surround-sound panning added to the first section. It’s been 10 years [since I last saw the console], so things are a bit hazy.”

Tranzon Auctions