Seeing Stars: The Movie Studios

(now named MBS Media Campus)
1600 Rosecrans Avenue,
Manhattan Beach, CA / (310) 727-2700.

It's been more than 50 years since the a new motion picture studio was built in Los Angeles County... more than half a century since the legendary studios such as MGM and Paramount opened their doors. But now there's a new kid on the block, and he's coming on strong.

With Hollywood suffering from a shortage in studio/sound stage space, Roy E. Disney (Walt's nephew) decided to take a chance and build the spanking new Manhattan Beach Studios, near the Pacific in the sunny South Bay region of the Los Angeles basin - a good 20 miles away from downtown Hollywood. Located just a few blocks west of the 405 freeway, and only a few miles inland from the beach, it would seem an ideal California location.

Within weeks after opening, the new 22-acre, $90 million studio already had more business than it could handle. With only five of its planned 15 sound stages finished, Manhattan Beach Studios had already snatched a key client away from in Hollywood.

David E. Kelley Productions, the Emmy Award-winning creator of "Chicago Hope," "Picket Fences," "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal," used to tape their shows at Ren-Mar Studios. But in June 1998, Ally packed up her miniskirts and moved to the beach. From '98 on, "Ally McBeal" (starring Callista Flockhart) was filmed at Manhattan Beach Studios, as was "The Practice" and "Boston Public."

For years, they filmed the smash hit "The O.C." there (and at the local South Bay beaches - not in Orange County), as well as the clever "Boston Legal" (with James Spader and William Shatner).

Currently, they film "Jane the Virgin", "Scorpion",  "CSI: Miami", "Medium", "90210" and "America’s Funniest Home Videos" at the studio, plus the ABC series "Revenge".

The studio is also home to Marvel Studios (which was recently acquired by Disney).  As Marvel, it was the base for the filming of the 2010 hit "Iron Man 2", much of 2011's "Thor", and 2012's "Captain America" and "The Avengers".

In late 1998, another big name moved in - at least temporarily.

Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks took over five more of the sound stages - to film their theatrical ghost story, "The Haunting," directed by the man who gave us the action hits "Speed" and "Twister" (Jan de Bont), and starring Liam Neeson ("Schindler's List," "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace") and Catherine Zeta-Jones ("The Mask of Zorro").

In 2011, it was announced that the two sequels to "Avatar" (the highest-grossing film of all time) will be filmed at Manhattan Studios, as James Cameron's company, Lightstorm Entertainment, moves its production operations to Manhattan Beach.  They signed a 5-year lease to take over two big soundstages, totaling 115,000 square feet.

They also filmed scenes from the movies "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Daredevil," "Starship Troopers", "Almost Famous", "The Hot Chick" and "The Panic Room" at Manhattan Beach Studios.

They have recently added a small "urban backlot", a mock city street filled with various two-story storefronts, brownstones & fire escapes, complete with sidewalks & street lamps.

And they are now referring to the studio as "MBS Media Campus" (the "MBS" short for, of course, Manhattan Beach Studios).

An interesting side note: Bastien and Associates, Inc., the architectural firm which built Manhattan Beach Studios, took home some of the sets from "The Haunting". The 'Grand Hallway' and 'Cleo's Bedroom' are now part of Bastien's architectural office, in Tustin, CA. You can see photos the former sets, now in use in Tustin, at

Another major tenant of the South Bay new studio was none other than 20th Century Fox, which contracted early to lease at least five of the 14 new sound stages for five years. (Rumors were floating that "The X-Files" series would be shot there, but it stayed at Fox until it's demise.)

And short-term tenants have been busy filming TV commercials there, for companies like Jack In The Box and Honda.

In July of 1998, Raleigh Studios (Hollywood's longest continually-operated studio) inked a five-year deal to manage and operate the studio (those sound stages and space not leased by Fox), making Raleigh "the area's largest independent studio group in terms of stages."  There was a new sign up calling the studio "Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios"...

But the Raleigh period appears to have ended, as Raleigh now has new digs in Playa Vista, which includes the hugesound stage where Howard Hughes once built the Spruce Goose.

The Manhattan Beach Studio is now referred to as the "MBS Media Campus"

The 22-acre studio boasts cutting edge technology and amenities, including five 25,000-square-foot stages and nine 18,000-square-foot stages, a commissary and related office and production support space. The lot is fiber-optically equipped and all stages have been audience rated for television production. The new stages were designed and built to optimize production convenience and efficiency. Most have contiguous access to their corresponding producer's offices and stars' dressing rooms.

So don't be surprised to see some of the shows' stars hanging around the local "Houston's" and other Manhattan Beach restaurants near the studio.

(The Comedy & Magic Club - where Jay Leno is a regular, is located only a few miles southwest of the studio.)

 Getting there: The new studio is located in the South Bay region of the Los Angeles basin, in the city of Manhattan Beach, just a few blocks east of the Manhattan Village Mall. From West L.A., just take the San Diego (405) Freeway south (about 14 miles) to Rosecrans Avenue exit. Head west on Rosecrans (less than a mile) to Redondo Avenue, and turn left (south) on Redondo.

[You can access the studios' official website at:]

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