After more than a half-century, NBC Universal is dropping the curtain on "beautiful downtown Burbank."
The media company plans to announce Thursday that it is selling much of the 30 acres it owns in Burbank, including its legendary NBC Studios at 3000 W. Alameda Ave., home to such iconic programs as "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and before that, "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."
NBC Universal intends to relocate the network and local news operations that are in Burbank to a new headquarters in a massive complex planned on Lankershim Boulevard, across the street from its Universal Studios entertainment complex. An MTA Red Line subway station and a sprawling surface parking lot now occupy the proposed site, which is next to the 101 Freeway. NBC Universal expects to move into the new center in 2011.
Separately, NBC Universal confirmed that "The Tonight Show" is remaining in Los Angeles when Conan O'Brien takes over the show from Leno in 2009. With the Burbank facility on the block, the network is expanding and upgrading Studio One, a sound stage on the Universal Studios lot that was built in 1961 for the "Jack Benny Show," to be the new home of the late-night program. Other memorable productions, including "Jurrasic Park" and "The Incredible Hulk," as well as the 1980s television show "Knight Rider" were also shot there.
NBC Universal three years ago made the controversial decision to give O'Brien the legendary 11:35 p.m. time slot. That move effectively set a retirement date for Leno, who continues to be one of the network's most popular and bankable stars.
"This is very disappointing," said Mary Alvord, Burbank's city manager. "Everybody likes to have visible shows like 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.' They are a big part of who we are. And Jay has been more than a host -- he's been an accessible member of our community. It's a sad day for Burbank."
NBC has ambitious plans for its new digs, which it has dubbed the West Coast News Headquarters and Content Center. The company intends to be the anchor tenant of a massive project, more than 1 million square feet, being proposed to the city of Los Angeles by Thomas Properties, NBC Universal's developer for the project.
The new building is expected to have a street-side studio modeled after the "Today" show set in New York, as well as state-of-the-art production facilities that will allow the company's news organizations to more easily share content, executives said.