David Geffen may or may not succeed in buying the Los Angeles Times. But his people have already tried the executive suite on for size.
Geffen's Dreamgirls is one of several film and television productions recently shot in the lush corporate offices atop the paper's downtown quarters here. Those upstairs offices once housed executives of the Times Mirror Co, but have largely served as conference rooms for the Times staff since the Chicago-based Tribune Co bought Times Mirror in 2000.
Even before June, when the Chandler family, the second-largest investor in Tribune, called for a breakup of the company, Geffen, the music and film mogul, had expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Times. While Tribune assesses whether to sell the Times and other properties in a possible restructuring, Geffen has remained a potential buyer, as have two other wealthy individuals, Eli Broad, the financier and philanthropist, and Ronald Burkle, the supermarket tycoon.
Meanwhile, the newspaper has been quietly making money for the last year by renting out the sixth-floor executive suite, as well as the facade for exterior shoots.
"I'm getting 10 calls a day to film here," said Cletus Page, manager of administrative services for the building. "We're having a very good year."
Built in 1973 as an add-on to the 1935 building, the former Times Mirror offices have a decidedly modern look, with wood paneling, unusually spacious executive offices and large glass windows with expansive city views. Along with Dreamgirls, the building has been a location for Brian De Palma's recent film, The Black Dahlia, as well as the television shows Nip/Tuck, Studio 60 and Bones.
Filming fees at the downtown location average around US$8,000 a day, a price that can vary with a production company's specific needs. Unlike other buildings that showcase their availability on Web sites and in directories, the Times building has proved so popular that it does not advertise, Cletus said.
Geffen's crew -- he is one of a number of producers on Dreamgirls, which is set for release on Dec. 21 by DreamWorks and Paramount -- had almost a month to set up the executive suite, including preproduction and other preparation. The movie, directed by Bill Condon, actually filmed at the location for a little less than a week. Scenes were shot in the executive offices, the Norman Chandler Atrium and an apartment formerly reserved for the Chandler family.
Dreamgirls follows the careers of a fictional all-girl 1960s singing trio, the Dreamettes, from their rise to fame to the group's breakup when Deena Jones, played by Beyonce, leaves to pursue her own career.
The executive suite was used as the location for Rainbow Records, the office of the fictional group's music manager, Curtis Taylor Jr, played by Jamie Foxx.
"We shot Jamie Foxx, the music manager in the movie, in the office, as well as Beyonce," said Laurence Mark, one of the film's producers. "Jamie and Beyonce have a major scene in there when she first begins to sing the song When I First Saw You."
Eric Hedayat, the movie's location manager, said the building was selected because, he said, its "iconic architecture" matched the film's setting in the early 1970s.
"The garden atrium was really reflective of that era, as were the floor-to-ceiling glass windows," he said. "You don't see that very often anymore in that kind of an executive suite. We really only had to bring in modern furniture, change the paintings and make sure that the shots of the city didn't include any post-`70's buildings."