The storied 32-acre Warner Bros. Ranch backlot complex at 411 North Hollywood Way in Burbank, California, will be overhauled to make way for what’s set to be the largest studio development in the United States complete with 16 new soundstages, a multi-level parking structure, support facilities, and a 320,000-square foot office building.
A deal for the planned land swap agreement, first announced in 2019, was officially struck late last month between Warner Bros. and a partnership of Worthe Real Estate Group and San Francisco-based real estate investment firm Stockbridge. Per the deal, Warner Bros. will assume occupancy of the redeveloped parcel in 2025 following the transfer of ownership in 2023 and subsequent $500 million redevelopment led by Worthe. As detailed in a press release, Warner Bros. will also become the sole long-term tenant to fully occupy two yet-to-be-built Frank Gehry–designed office buildings, which will together comprise an 800,000-square-foot office complex abutting known as the Second Century campus. That forthcoming campus, owned and built by Worth and Stockbridge, is currently under construction on a Ventura Freeway-abutting portion of The Burbank Studios site that was formerly home to NBC Studios. The Burbank Studios complex is located about a mile south of the Warner Bros. Ranch, the latter of which is also home to offices for Warner Brothers Animation and The CW.
Additionally, the freshly formalized deal stipulates that Warner Bros. will acquire the remaining portion of The Burbank Studios campus situated adjacent to the Second Century development from Worthe and Stockbridge, “providing the Studio with additional production office space and eight soundstages, as well as a mill building and a commissary.” The Gehry buildings, which form the first component of the larger deal between Warner Bros, Worthe, and Stockbridge, are expected to open in 2023 in conjunction with the centennial of the Burbank-headquartered mass media and entertainment conglomerate best known for its film studio division.
Back at the old Warner Bros. Ranch, which was first established in 1934 by Columbia Pictures and renamed the Warner Ranch when Columbia decamped to Culver City in 1990, Worthe has envisioned “an entirely new landscape” to rise on the historic Burbank property. This means that a slew of iconic film and television history backdrops will likely be erased and/or relocated to make room for 926,000 square feet of office and studio space. When operated by Columbia, the ranch served as the time-traveling, geographically disparate outdoor backdrop for a considerable number of classic television sitcoms including Father Knows Best, Dennis the Menace, Batman, I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Waltons, The Partridge Family, and The Donna Reed Show. Although fire destroyed a swath of the ranch in the early 1970s, the facility has remained in continuous use over the decades as a satellite lot for Warner Bros. and is more contemporarily known as the site of the Griswold family home in Christmas Vacation and the where-exactly-is-that? fountain that the cast of Friends romps in front of during the opening credits. (As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the famous Park Boulevard fountain has since been relocated to the main Warner Bros. studio lot.) Most recently, a quaint suburban backlot house located on Blondie Street (the ranch’s main slice of ersatz 1950s suburbia) served as the residence of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany on WandaVision.
The development team has not yet named which architecture firm will develop a master plan or design the new buildings at the Warner Bros. Ranch.
“We are very pleased to further our ongoing relationship with Jeff Worthe and his outstanding team, and we’re excited for this opportunity to utilize the best-in-class Ranch property that the Worthe Group is creating over the next few years,” said Jeff Nagler, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Studio Operations, in a statement. “Continuing to enhance our state-of-the-art studios and full-service offerings for our productions and partners is a key priority for our company, and the new Ranch Lot development will certainly fulfill this goal in the Los Angeles area.”
As noted by Urbanize LA, the overhaul of the Warner Bros. Ranch comes at a time when major industry players are scrambling to build out new soundstage and office space to meet the rapid, pandemic-spurred demand for new original content put out by streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, the latter owned by WarnerMedia. As part of this shift, older Los Angeles-area studio compounds are being revamped, and traditional backlot facilities—namely the Warner Bros. Ranch—equipped with exterior sets that have set the scene for countless film and television productions, are being wholly redeveloped.
This past July, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 144, which, among other things, includes a $150 million incentive for soundstage production and a $180 million increase to the current film and television tax incentive program.
When completed, the 16 new soundstages at the redeveloped Warner Bros. Ranch will join the existing 32 soundstages at the main Warner Bros. lot and eight at The Burbank Studios facility, yielding a total of 56 soundstages to “support WarnerMedia’s Los Angeles-based production activity” per the company, which notes that it hopes to “take advantage of” the aforementioned California infrastructure program that promotes new soundstage development.