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Sony buys Culver Studios for $80 million

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Gannett Co. said Wednesday it had sold The Culver Studios, the site where much of 'Gone With the Wind' was filmed, to Sony Corp. for about $80 million.

The 17-acre lot, which includes 14 sound stages, is located near the main production complex of Columbia Pictures Entertainment, the American studio that Japanese electronics giant Sony bought in 1989 for about $5 billion.

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Rumors had emerged during the past months that Sony would be buying the film and television production studios from Gannett, which originally acquired the property for $24 million in December 1986 when it was known as Laird International Studios.

Gannett, the Arlington, Va.-based newspaper chain that publishes USA Today, has been using the property for its entertainment division. When that unit, a joint venture with producer Grant Tinker, folded last year, Gannett reportedly put the Culver Studios lot up for sale.

The Gannett chain has 82 papers, the largest newspaper group in the country, and includes the Des Moines Register, the Detroit News and the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Columbia, which has been expanding film production since the Sony acquisition, has been reported as being pressed for space at its main complex. It has rented space at the Culver Studios lot to shoot parts of two upcoming films, 'Hook' and 'Bugsy.'

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Production activity at Sony's Columbia and Tri-Star divisions, which are producing about 15 films this year, is expected to double next year. However, the main occupant of the Culver Studios lot is expected to be Columbia Pictures Television, which produces 'Designing Women' and 'Married...With Children.'

Columbia Pictures Television currently tapes most of its programs at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood.

The Culver Studios, which features a colonial-style administration building, has been through a variety of owners since it was built by producer Thomas Ince in 1919, including legendary producer Cecil B. DeMille, RKO Studios, Joseph P. Kennedy, Desilu Productions and producer David O. Selznick.

Selznick, the producer of 'Gone With the Wind,' used the administration building as his trademark and re-named the property Selznick International Studios. The spectacular scenes in 'Gone With the Wind' of Atlanta burning down were filmed at the studio.

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