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Issue: Spring 2014

Hollywood's BID for the Future

by Scott Martin

There are those who might say say, “Hollywood is dead.” People point to “runaway production”, the consolidation of the motion picture and television companies, the shrinking infrastructure of supply and service companies, and the proliferation of tourist-related activities on Hollywood Boulevard as the harbingers of tinsel town’s demise.

Well, we say that Hollywood is alive and kicking, and is actually thriving due in part to the efforts of organizations like the Hollywood Media District (www.mediadistrict.org).

A bird’s eye view of the Hollywood Media District shows a four-limbed figure that encompasses main corridors and side streets, movie studios, warehouses, retail, restaurants and Theater Row Hollywood. Three “legs” stretch down the landmark thoroughfares of Highland Avenue, Seward Street and Cahuenga Boulevard, ending at Melrose Avenue. One “arm” reaches up Highland to Fountain Avenue. Some mainstays of the Hollywood business community such as Omega Props, Hollywood Center Studios, RED Studios (formerly Ren-Mar) are spread out within the boundaries of the Media District, and contribute immeasurably to the entertainment community and economy. Other new companies, such as Hollywood Production Center, will continue to grow with the area. By law, residential communities are not allowed to be a part of the Business Improvement District (BID) and so are not assessed; however, they are geographically intertwined into the mapped area.

Out of the 38 separate BIDs in Los Angeles, there are 4 in the Hollywood area including the Hollywood Media District and another that is in the process of being formed called Route 66 Business Improvement District. Information on the L.A. BIDs and their activities and positive effects on the city can be found at www.labidconsortium.org

According to the Consortium’s website, “A Business Improvement District is a geographically defined area within the City of Los Angeles, in which services, activities and programs are paid for through a special assessment which is charged to all members within the district in order to equitably distribute the benefits received and the costs incurred to provide the agreed-upon services, activities and programs. The assessment money is collected by the City or by the County through a special contractual arrangement with the city. Because the assessment funds collected in a given district cannot legally be spent outside of that BID, the City creates a trust fund for each BID, with funds periodically released to support operations.”

Operations Manager Jim Omahen feels that the Hollywood Media District is in tune with the area’s needs and based on our interviews with businesses in the area, that definitely seems to be the case. Any urban area is, by definition, difficult to keep clean and the beautification process is never-ending, but just driving on the streets in the area, you can see what a great job the “Clean Team” is doing and the multiple green trash cans with adjacent benches are well-placed.  Property owners can be part of Graffiti removal services with a special agreement. Twenty-four-hour security is also part of the BID’s service with foot, bicycle and vehicle patrols—just look for the green shirts. The organization can be reached 24 hours a day by dialing 311 for information on city services, events, non-emergency police and fire information, public meeting schedules and much more.

The Media District is up for renewal this year but is expected to face no opposition due to positive results since its inception in 2000. For the record, there are 220 unique property owners representing over 300 businesses. Board meetings and committees such as the Advocacy and Business Development Committee meet at Musicians Union Local 47 on Vine Street.

One company that is located in the heart of the Hollywood Media District and whose President Mike Parker is on its Board of Directors is Mole-Richardson. It is interesting how closely the story of his family’s company reflects the story of Hollywood. Started and powered by the resourcefulness and personality of grandfather Peter, the lighting company grew with the early film industry and provided everything that was needed in a symbiotic relationship. Through an unwavering eye toward quality, service and innovation, the company continued to parallel in growth with the developing Hollywood film community in the 30’s, 40’s and into the television era of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Reflecting the rise and fall and rise again of Hollywood, from the more modern high-flying days of the 90’s to the aftermath of 9/11 and then the triple whammy of the collapse of the banking, stock and real estate markets, the studios and their supporting companies have been profoundly challenged. All of Hollywood was hit hard until the economy has recently found its way back. Although the entertainment sector is now feeling some positive effects, the damage has been done and “runaway production” will continue to be a factor in the industry for a long time to come. Homelessness has also continued to affect this and other communities, but many say that it has been incorporated into the overall environment so that, in some cases, the homeless are actually helping local guards and law enforcement look after local businesses in after-hours.

While everyone feels differently, some think that there is a type of evolutionary change taking place. Just as American Idol and Dancing With The Stars have become International phenomena along with their British counterparts, many of the resource companies that were once limited to supplying the Hollywood studios  locally are now branching out on a National and International scope. Originally forced into expanding to support the runaway situation, those businesses that have been able to provide out-of-state and out-of-country branches are now experiencing new opportunities that are helping them grow exponentially.

The magical “feel” of Hollywood is still in place and the perception from around the world that Hollywood is still the center of the entertainment universe seems to be completely intact. That feeling even spills over onto Los Angeles. When Mayor Eric Garcetti said recently about how many people tuned in to the Oscar telecast around the world, he stated that Los Angeles (although the Academy Awards were broadcast from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood) “…is the creative capital of the world.” While we’re quoting, Mike Parker from Mole-Richardson observed, “The world deserves to have some piece of Hollywood.”

Contrary to some naysayers, while some major studios are in Culver City (Sony formerly MGM), Century City (20th Century/Fox) and Burbank (Warner Bros).  With iconic Paramount Pictures expanding and  Universal Studios definitely, Hollywood-adjacent in Universal City, add to the mix, Hollywood Center Studios, Red Studios in the BID and Sunset & Gower/Sunset Bronson nearby,  Hollywood’s resident industry remains.

Botton line, it’s the spirit of Hollywood that counts, no matter what the zip code. Hollywood is the capital of entertainment and the place where dreams are fulfilled whether in fantasy or reality. There’s no doubt that the spirit of Hollywood is most certainly alive and well, especially in the Hollywood Media District. DH