The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that Warner Bros. Entertainment is seeking to build a $100 million aerial tramway in California’s largest metropolis. The one mile, $100 million project would improve public access to the famed Hollywood sign atop Mt. Lee and include a new visitor center, viewing platform and walking paths. The company already operates a popular studio tour on the site of the proposed lower terminal.
The Hollywood Skyway would be entirely funded by Warner Bros. but occupy some public land in Griffith Park, home to the iconic sign since 1923. Therefore, operating revenue would be shared with the City of Los Angeles. Nearby neighborhoods have struggled to cope with the flood of tourists seeking to get a glimpse from every possible direction with no formal viewing area. A ride on the Skyway would take six minutes from a parking garage to the northwest that Warner Bros. owns in Burbank. “This requires a bold solution,” the firm’s facilities chief Jon Gilbert said to the Times. “If we really want to make a difference … it’s got to be something compelling. Partial solutions are not going to do the trick, and people will continue to inundate the neighborhoods.”
Warner Bros. is owned by WarnerMedia, which became part of AT&T less than a month ago. A similar gondola floated a year ago would load at Comcast-owned Universal Studios Hollywood. More than 90 chairlifts, gondolas and tramways now operate at non-skiing venues such as parks and zoos in North America. Powerhouse competitor Walt Disney Co. is currently building a series of gondolas at its flagship theme park in Florida. A statement from Warner Bros. argues the Skyway is the best option in Hollywood:
Given our close proximity to the north side of the Hollywood sign, we believe we offer a solution that has the least impact on the environment — protecting and preserving Griffith Park — and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. We understand there are a number of possible solutions being considered, but we are confident the City’s feasibility study will show our proposal to be the best option — an option that can be built and operated at no cost to the taxpayer and that will provide public benefit to the City of Los Angeles and its residents.
The Hollywood Skyway project could take around five years to complete. The chosen technology appears to be a reversible aerial tramway rather than a continuous movement gondola system. This surprises me given the large volume of potential visitors. The need for air conditioning could be a factor as well as a desire to build as few towers as possible in an urban park. In my view, a 3S gondola would be the best of both worlds and one Warner Bros. could likely afford.