New performing arts center gives city new role in entertainment industry

The 500-seat auditorium features a 60-foot-by-30-foot performing and recording stage, with what is called "intelligent lighting." Computer-controlled, it can be programmed to light many different types of shows with few operating personnel. Photos by Cathryn Sacks / TMT

The 40,000-square foot-facility is largely unknown to many, as its location behind City Hall has kept it out of sight.

By Ward Lauren / Special to The Malibu Times

Long known as the residential home of scores of prominent figures in the movie and television industry, Malibu is heading toward additional status as a functional learning, performing, and production venue for many phases of the entertainment industry with a new performing arts center nearing final stages of completion in the heart of the city.

Called the Malibu Performing Arts Center, the showpiece of the 40,000-square-foot multipurpose building is a 500-seat auditorium featuring a 60-foot-by-30-foot performing and recording stage, and state-of-the-art sound and lighting facilities. Surrounding the auditorium on two floors are three dance studios, two fully equipped studios for video post-production, a professional mastering studio for sound recording, a banquet room seating 150, green rooms and dressing rooms for performers and a day care center and performance-oriented learning facility for children from infants through middle school. A refreshment center and dance equipment retail area in the lobby are soon to be furnished and in operation, said Bob Scott, member of the center’s board of directors.

Located on Stuart Ranch Road behind the Malibu City Hall and Senior Center, the building is owned by the Malibu Vineyard Church. The church holds Sunday services at the center, but the primary intended purpose of the building since it opened in 2001 has been to provide facilities that will attract businesses involved in the advancement and production of the entertainment arts, Scott said, and to provide the city of Malibu with a central cultural community center.

“Our sound and lighting technology, facilities, and equipment are as advanced as anything currently in use in Southern California,” Scott said.

The lighting system in the auditorium is called “intelligent lighting,” he said. “Computer-controlled, it can be programmed to light many different types of shows.”

The main auditorium also has some unique acoustic features, said Gene Shiveley, also a member of the center’s board.

“The room itself is built to act like a speaker,” Shiveley said. “To negate any sound reflection or ‘bounce,’ walls are tilted vertically; not one wall is parallel to another. The stage floor itself is a sound-neutral platform, exactingly constructed to provide just the right amount of timbre-harmonic overtones-to enhance its use in live performance and recording.”

An indication of the quality of these facilities is given by the fact that negotiations are currently underway with a Malibu symphony orchestra now in formation to make the center its new permanent home, he said.

Sound, and silence as well, is a major consideration throughout the building as well as in the auditorium. Double walls and doors between the dance studios are 20 inches thick and filled with sound-absorbing sand. Heavy metal rock music for a jazz class in one studio wouldn’t be heard over the symphony being played for the ballet class next door, Shiveley said.

The east end of the building’s first floor is known as the children’s wing. A secured area, it contains a half-dozen soundproof rooms to accommodate children of various ages whose parents are attending classes or performances. The rooms’ facilities for performance activities by the children increase in capability with their ages. A miniature raised and curtained stage in the grammar school room allows children to perform their own plays.

The middle school room is fundamentally a fully equipped television studio, providing students with lighting, sound, music, stage, directing, producing, and acting experience. It is wired to the entire building, so student productions can been seen and heard in other studios and the auditorium. And like the entire building, it is connected by satellite to the rest of the world, allowing global live performances.

Although the building is still a few weeks away from total completion, business is on a full-scale daily operation and has been growing since 2001, manager Scott said. The auditorium has already been employed for dance and music programs such as the recent fund-raiser for the nonprofit Passion for Dance organization, and a variety of other programs are being planned.

Post-production work is conducted the video facilities on the second floor, where tenants rent space as needed and are also available for in-house productions.

Currently occupying offices in the building are St. Andrews West Productions, Lunchbox Productions and Sha Studios.

The building’s newest tenant, The Studio for Performing Arts Malibu, managed by owner Mary Scott, conducts a full weekly schedule of classes for both children and adults in ballet, jazz, jazz/hip-hop, and ballroom/Latin dance. It is also the home facility of the Malibu Fencing Club.

Landscaping is soon to start on the center’s final construction project: a scenic garden park on a level site above the building and main parking lot.