Studios Fare Better After Quake Than First Thought

MUTTERING ``the show must go on,'' producers in America's dream factory have been scrambling for five weeks to clear rubble from sound stages, repair and replace lighting, soundtrack, and computer equipment, and shore up ceilings and walls.

The goal has been to keep movies and television shows on schedule despite damage from the 6.8 earthquake that flattened freeways and left thousands homeless beginning Jan. 17. By most accounts, the efforts are getting high marks.

``All the major studios have handled things very well,'' says Dan Slusser, senior vice president and general manager at Universal Studios.

Characterizing most damage as cosmetic, Mr. Slusser says the typical loss for film and television shows was only two-to-eight days of production. The greatest inconveniences were caused by broken water lines and sprinkler systems, which caused flooding at Warner Bros., Universal, and Walt Disney Studios.

Carl Samrock, a spokesman for Warner Bros. Television says most shows are now caught up, and a few will finish repairs during an upcoming five-to-eight-week hiatus. The temblor delayed filming for such shows as ``Seinfeld,'' ``Home Improvement,'' ``L.A. Law,'' and ``Nurses,'' but did not cause programming changes.

ALONG with listing celebrity homes that were damaged, local news stories recounted rumors that studios were considering leaving the area. But those in the entertainment industry say such talk was the result of shaken emotions and anxiety, which have since been allayed.

``For days after the quake, executives would sit around and remark how they were going to move to New York,'' Mr. Samrock says, adding: ``But it was just talk.''

John Dreyer, head of corporate communications for Walt Disney Productions, would concur.

``California is our home, the center of motion picture and TV industry,'' he says. The company is mostly concerned about employees whose homes were damaged, Mr. Dreyer says. By some estimates, 20 percent of those working in television and film had significant earthquake damage. Disney has responded with low-interest loan programs and housing grants.

``We have every intention of continuing production here,'' says Dreyer, mentioning that an animation building under construction was not damaged in the quake.

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