The Citadel Motion Picture and Video Center, the huge film sound stage that opened two years ago with the hopes of bringing major film production to Washington and sparking a revitalization in Adams-Morgan, is on the market for $11.5 million. The center, which did not bring in as much business as anticipated, is still open but booking events only through the end of October, according to its production director, Doug Donaldson.
Since it opened in 1988, the studio has been used to film scenes for "Chances Are" and the latest "Exorcist" film, to stage fund-raising events and parties and, most recently, to shoot advance promotional sequences for the musical "Starlight Express."
"The problem is that features come to town to do 10 days of cover shooting -- people coming out of the Library of Congress and things like that -- and then go back to L.A. to finish shooting," said Donaldson."To make Washington valid with Chicago and L.A., we need a sound studio."
Although the studio was meeting economic projections for March, April and May, Donaldson said, the financial backing was withdrawn in June. The staff was cut from 25 to five.
The studio, located at 1649 Kalorama Rd. NW, was the first installment of the Adams-Morgan Town Center, a two-block urban development project designed by Benjamin Thompson & Associates of Cambridge, Mass., who also did the Union Station redevelopment. The Town Center was to include luxury residential units, two levels of retail space, a theater and commercial offices.
"That area used to be crummy and run down and full of warehouses when they opened," said Dwayne Shipley, the Long & Foster real estate broker handling the sale. "It has revitalized the area, bringing in more restaurants and businesses. But the citizens tried to slow down the pace -- or stop it -- with down-zoning or rezoning."
The Citadel was originally built in 1947 as a state-of-the-art, bomb-resistant roller rink and bowling alley, but later became a storage space and warehouse. In 1986, Francis Ford Coppola rented the space to shoot his film "Gardens of Stone" and the final scene in "Peggy Sue Got Married."
That's how the idea for a sound stage originated. Edward Morgan, who had once leased the property for his cab company, formed a limited partnership with Washington businessmen Charles Lamb, Marc Chinoy and Frans Hendriks, purchased the space and spent $12 million to have the rink, redesigned to include a screening room, dressing rooms and a diner.
"Their occupancy was up," says Shipley. "But to run a movie studio, it takes a lot of capital and the money was not forthcoming."
Morgan declined to comment.