Amazon Reboots the Studio Where ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘E.T.’ Were Made


As a string of owners struggled to adapt to changing audience tastes, new technology and rising costs, vast sections of the campus were sold. (Condominiums now occupy part of the area where Selznick ignited monumental outdoor sets to simulate the burning of Atlanta.) As waves of consolidation buffeted the movie business and fewer films were made, idling some of Culver Studios’ stages, the facility turned to television production to pay its bills, much like Hollywood as a whole.

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Jennifer Salke, chairwoman of Amazon Studios, took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the $12 million restoration of four studio buildings.

Credit
Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

By 2004, when a struggling Sony sold the property, years of underinvestment had taken a toll. The old star bungalows were in poor repair. Soundstages were outdated. The mansion smelled like Grandma’s house. “It needed a lot of work, to say the least,” Mr. Hackman said. (Contrary to popular belief, the mansion was not Tara in “Gone With the Wind.”)

Amazon, which has roughly 700 entertainment employees, began moving staff here late last year. More will follow as buildings are completed.

“It’s about recognizing the traditions and legacy of Hollywood, while also recognizing that we have the ability to reshape it,” Mr. Cheng, chief operating officer of Amazon Studios, said of the decision to make Culver Studios the unit’s headquarters.

Last month, Amazon said it would also lease a four-story building that is going up across the street, giving its Hollywood division a total of 355,000 square feet of office space in Culver City. (Apple recently leased a building three blocks away for its own original content group.)

Amazon revealed Wednesday that more than 100 million people globally had a Prime membership, which includes access to its streaming service, and the company is expected to spend $5 billion on movies and television programming this year, according to the J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth. Its 44 original series include “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Man in the High Castle.” Amazon has at least 10 movies in various stages of production, including “Life Itself,” a highly anticipated romance set for release on Sept. 21.

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