Untitled Document
Untitled Document

The Billion-Dollar Story of Hollywood's Hottest Real Estate

The Fascinating History of Century City

The Story of Century City:
A Century of Transformation

Visit Century City California
Visit Century City California
Visit Century City California

Nestled just east of the 405 freeway, Century City is a 260-acre area that is now home to the headquarters of top entertainment companies, as well as some of the most prestigious law firms in the world.

The story of Century City is a quintessential Los Angeles tale, complete with cowboys, film studios, modernist architects, big-budget flops, and a very bad land deal. In the 1920s, the land that would become Century City belonged to cowboy actor Tom Mix. Mix sold the land to his bosses at the Fox Studio Corporation in 1925 for $1.5 million, and by the 1950s, the land had become an enormous studio and backlot.

As television began to rise in popularity, other studios like Warner Brothers, Paramount, and Universal began to sell off their land. Fox head Spyros Skouras decided to do the same but wanted to sweeten the deal by developing the backlot first. He brought in Edmond Herrscher, the former head of the Mayfair Market chain, to spearhead the project. Herrscher, in turn, hired prolific LA civic architect Welton Becket to create a model of his vision for Century City. Becket's model included office towers, hotel rooms, skyscraping apartments, and elevated public plazas, and it cost $35,000 to create.

Skouras was preoccupied with finding money to cover the ever-increasing budget of the Elizabeth Taylor film Cleopatra, and he eventually made a deal to sell the Century City land to a developer. Manhattan real estate developer William Zeckendorf partnered with the aluminum peddlers at Alcoa to purchase the land for $43 million. Fox retained an 80-acre footprint, leasing its reduced geography for $1.5 million per year in rent.

When the Gateway West building was dedicated on September 25, 1963, the aluminum giant had taken full control of the land. Becket's master plan eventually evolved into its current configuration, with noted modernist architects I.M. Pei, Charles Luckman, and Minoru Yamasaki each designing towers. The Arabian Nights hotel apparition, which was Zeckendorf's idea, became the sleek Century Plaza hotel, and the film icons' statues along Avenue of the Stars were discarded by Alcoa execs in favor of a space-age scheme.

In 2010, a 2.4-acre plot of prime undeveloped Century City land sold for $59 million, just as the real estate market was rebounding. Today, the valuation of the 260 acres is estimated to be at least $6.4 billion. Skouras' $43 million payday in 1961 would translate to $336 million today. Century City has come a long way since its days as a cowboy's grassy land, but its history and legacy continue to be an integral part of Hollywood lore.

What a Way to Go" (1963): Century City's Cinematic Debut

The inaugural film shot on location in Century City dates back to September 2, 1963. The 20th Century-Fox production, "What a Way to Go," featuring Shirley MacLaine, utilized the Gateway West Building as the fictional Bureau of Internal Affairs for a day. The film's realistic signage led to confusion among new tenants.

Elvis Presley's Encounter with Century City in "Live a Little, Love a Little" (1968)

In 1968, Century City made one of its earliest appearances in cinema through Elvis Presley's film, "Live a Little, Love a Little." The King of Rock and Roll engaged in beach frolics in Malibu before embarking on a daring dune-buggy commute to Century City. Within the iconic locale, Presley portrayed a fashion photographer entangled in the rivalry between two publications housed within the same office building.

Century City Visitor Guide
Untitled Document
Untitled Document