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'Matrix' producer to turn Venice post office into film center

Venice Post Office
Movie producer Joel Silver's purchase of the former U.S. post office in Venice has created a bit of a cliffhanger for local residents: How often, if ever, will they be able to view the beloved "Story of Venice" mural that has graced the building's interior since 1941?

Silver, producer of such blockbuster movie franchises as “The Matrix,” “Lethal Weapon” and “Sherlock Holmes,” plans to refashion the longtime post office as the new home of his Silver Pictures.

The red-tile-roofed 1939 Works Progress Administration building on Windward Circle has been a fixture in Venice. The interior mural, painted by Edward Biberman, features the coastal community’s visionary developer Abbot Kinney at its center, surrounded by beachgoers, men in overalls and once-ubiquitous oil derricks.

Residents voiced their objections last year when the federal government first hinted that it would close the post office as part of a massive budget-cutting plan. The post office was closed earlier this summer.

“While we are still in the very early stages of the process, I am committed to the rehabilitation of the building and its unique WPA features,” Silver said Wednesday in a statement. “I am also committed to being a good neighbor in the Venice community, whether through providing public access to the space or in developing programs for the community related to film, art and architecture.”

“This is a great example of adaptive reuse at its best,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement. “Silver Pictures’ relocation … will create new jobs, bolster our local economy and demonstrate that Los Angeles continues to be the capital of the entertainment world.”

“We look forward to working closely with him to preserve its unique and authentic character,” said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Skeptics remain among Venetians who want the “Story of Venice” mural to stay in the public realm. “We’re still in the dark about what the public-access provision is,” said Mark Ryavec, part of a coalition seeking to save the building. 

Silver, 60, began scouting for a new corporate location last spring, after Warner Bros. Pictures ended a long-running relationship under which Silver had produced some of the studio’s biggest franchises and had maintained swanky offices on the studio’s Burbank lot. Since that falling out, Silver has been leasing space in Santa Monica.

The entertainment tycoon has acquired credentials in architectural preservation circles. In 1984, he bought the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Storer House in Hollywood and spent $250,000 restoring it under the supervision of Wright’s grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright. (He sold the Storer house in 2002.)

In 1986, Silver bought Frank Lloyd Wright’s once-elegant Auldbrass Plantation in Yemassee, S.C., and again enlisted the grandson to advise on a lavish restoration. They refurbished the buildings and property and added new buildings that the elder Wright had conceived of but was unable to complete. The South Carolina House of Representatives in February passed a resolution honoring Silver for that work.

Although Silver has not publicly disclosed the price he paid for the post office, DataQuick Information Systems records show that AG Media Properties LLC, the owner as of Aug. 2, is was carrying a mortgage of $4.56 million.

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— Martha Groves

 
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