Jim Henson Company Plans Sale of Historic Chaplin Studios Lot in Hollywood | Exclusive

The Jim Henson Company is losing one of its most iconic assets, as the Henson family is currently in the process of selling its iconic Jim Henson Company Lot, previously A&M Studios and before that Charlie Chaplin Studios.

According to the company, the sale is “part of a much longer-term strategy to have The Jim Henson Company and our renowned Burbank-based Jim Henson’s Creature Shop under one roof, which is not feasible in Hollywood due to the space the Shop requires.” For the near future, the company intends to continue as a tenant at the La Brea location.

The lot was originally completed in 1919 and has one of the most storied histories of any studio in Hollywood. It has been the headquarters of the Jim Henson Company since 2000.

The compound, off La Brea Avenue in the heart of Hollywood, was purchased by the family in 1999. At the time, Brian Henson, chairman of the Jim Henson Company, said, “When we heard the Chaplin lot was for sale, we had to have it. It’s the perfect home for the Muppets and our particular brand of classy but eccentric entertainment.”

Just for historical context, the Henson family would sell the Company later that year to German conglomerate EM.TV Merchandising for $680 million. After some truly disastrous mismanagement, the Henson family would then repurchase the company in 2003, and then sell the rights to the Muppet characters to Disney in 2004 for $89 million, fulfilling a dream of then-CEO Michael Eisner that he had been harboring since before Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

At the time that the family acquired the lot, Lisa Henson, CEO of the Jim Henson Company, described the space as a “lovable hodge-podge of quirky, unusual spaces. There are unexpected elements in some of the offices, like original vaults and fish-tank-like bathrooms. It’s not your typical corporate space, but it’s ideal for the Muppets.”

When the family took over the 80,000-square-foot facility, which included recording studios and Chaplin’s 10,000-square-foot sound stage and original woodworking shop, they implemented plans that included new landscaping, brickwork and paint palettes. In June 2000, when the lot was finally reopened as the Jim Henson Company Lot, the family unveiled a 12-foot statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Chapin character The Tramp, complete with top hat and cane.

Chaplin shot many of his most beloved films at the studio, including “The Kid,” “The Gold Rush,” “Modern Times” and “The Great Dictator.” Incredibly, the lot was even more sprawling in Chaplin’s time, and included residences, tennis courts and a backlot, which Chaplin sold in 1942 to Safeway Stores (a shopping complex was built in the northern portion of the lot). By 1944, Chaplin had opened up the lot to outside productions. By 1952, he had sold the lot to Webb and Knapp, a real estate development firm, who initially intended to tear down the lot but subsequently rented it out to film productions, including George Reeves’ “Adventures of Superman.” Red Skelton bought the studio in 1960 and dubbed it Skelton Studios. A popular anecdote on the Henson Company Lot tour involves Skelton taking a block of sidewalk where Chaplin had put his footprints to his Palm Springs home (this is apparently true.) Skelton sold the studio in 1962 to CBS, which shot “Perry Mason” there from 1962 to 1966.

In 1966, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss purchased the studio from CBS, where they would headquarter A&M records. This was when one of the soundstages and Chaplin’s swimming pool were converted into recording studios (noticing the old swimming pool elements is another fun part of the tour.) By 1969, the site had been deemed a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

The recording studios were, perhaps most timelessly, the site of the “We Are the World” recording, an event chronicled in the recent Netflix documentary “The Greatest Night in Pop.” Among the albums either partially or wholly recorded at Henson Recording Studios are Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral,” Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica,” The Weeknd’s “Dawn FM,” Frank Ocean’s “Blonde,” John Mayer’s “Sob Rock” and Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories.” (During production of “Tron: Legacy,” Disney purchased a recording studio for Daft Punk on the Henson lot; they would record “RAM” there and turn it into their Daft Arts headquarters.)

In the years since the family sold the Muppet characters to Disney, they have continued to maintain the company and develop new projects out of the lot, including projects like “Earth to Ned,” “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” and “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.” The lot has also become a key part of the company’s celebrated Puppet Up! live show, which takes place in the soundstage and, for an additional fee, includes a tour of the lot, including Lisa and Brian’s offices. There will be additional Puppet Up! performances in July and August.

It’s unclear what office space the company will move to next.

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