By FRANK SWERTLOW
Standing inside a cavernous sound stage at Ray-Art Studios, it's not hard to imagine being in a big-city Roman Catholic cathedral. The reverie is quickly broken, however, when the director yells, "Action!" and the cast members of ABC's controversial "Nothing Sacred" TV show take up their respective roles.
Such scenes are commonplace in Hollywood, Burbank and Culver City, but this is a former aerospace warehouse in Woodland Hills, a neighborhood known more for health care companies and insurance firms than production houses.
Veteran producers James Hirsch and Robert Papazian, who run Papazian/Hirsch Entertainment, hope to change that. Last summer, they bought a converted warehouse on 11.5 acres in the Warner Center area of Woodland Hills.
Selling the property was investor Robert Selan, who had purchased the building from a cosmetics company that had been using it as a warehouse.
Selan then converted the 189,000-square-foot facility which was originally built in 1964 by Lockheed Corp. by building four sound stages in its interior, each with more than 23,000 square feet of space.
Selan cut a two-year deal with Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.'s TV division to use the entire studio. Two Fox series, "Nothing Sacred," which is produced for ABC, and "413 Hope Street" for the Fox network, have occupied all four stages.
Last summer, Selan decided he was more comfortable in real estate and sold the property to Papazian/Hirsch.
Hirsch declined to divulge the purchase price or whether the facility is turning a profit.
"We are doing OK," said Hirsch, "considering we have only been open six months."
Fox canceled "413 Hope Street" in December, leaving "Nothing Sacred" as the studio's sole tenant. Although "Hope Street" has been dropped, Fox is expected to put another show into production at the facility, said Hirsch.
In the meantime, Papazian/Hirsh is planning to develop at least two and as many as four more sound stages on the Woodland Hills site, as well as a replica of a New York City street.
"There has been a move to convert large warehouses and make them into sound stages. It's a good use of industrial space and people are making pretty good money," said Cody Cluff, president of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., an L.A. city-county agency devoted to promoting entertainment production and issuing film permits.
The two producers had worked independently for many years, "and we knew there is a lot of production out there cable, syndication, network television, CD-ROMs, music videos and there is a need for more and more space," said Hirsch, who is currently in San Francisco producing the CBS show "Nash Bridges." "We thought this would be an interesting business."
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