By RICHARD VERRIER
Los Angeles Times
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - Over the din of buzz saws and beeping forklifts, producer Jon Landau can barely contain his excitement as he strides into a 45-foot-tall soundstage that is barren except for workers building sets for a commercial shoot.
"We're taking over these two buildings here. We'll have 200-plus people working down here. This is going to be the heart of the next two 'Avatars,'" he says, referring to the planned sequels to the highest-grossing film of all time.
MBS Media Campus, formerly known as Manhattan Beach Studios, has just landed A-list tenant Lightstorm Entertainment, the production company led by "Avatar" director James Cameron and his longtime business partner Landau.
The duo had considered building their own facility or even moving to Vancouver, Canada, or New Zealand to take advantage of lucrative tax breaks. Instead, they opted to remain in Los Angeles - a boost for a region that has lost many major film productions to other locales - because of the range of services at the sprawling Manhattan Beach complex near Los Angeles International Airport.
"We had a choice," Landau said. "We could have been anywhere. When it came down to it, we looked at what they had to offer and it was almost the perfect production paradigm, with big soundstages, adjacent office space and dressing rooms and state-of-the-art infrastructure."