LEGENDARY STUDIO CLOSES: Our passion for movies, entertainment, and legacy are saddened as we mark the end of movie making history here in Marin with the closure of 32TEN STUDIOS, longtime home of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), and the countless “practical” and revolutionary cinema-changing processes and effects that came out of this shop, tucked away at 3210 Kerner in San Rafael. This location; ILM, Kerner Optics, 32TEN… is (was) also home to the very first THX Sound System theater. Star Wars is certainly the most iconic work done here when George Lucas opened the stand-alone special effect shop, creating scale models, new camera techniques, and pushing practical, film, and eventually digital effects beyond anyone’s imagination (other than George’s). They broke the barriers of film and sound production, forever impacting movies and media.
So, like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park (which was also shot at 32TEN), “Practical Effects” (making real scale models and actually blowing stuff up, like The Death Star) have all but become extinct with the evolution of digital effects. Making models for wireframes and reference to create digital is also now a relic. The shop, spanning 5 decades, aging out, was still doing practical effects even this year (because really blowing stuff up is much cooler than digital). The online classroom “MasterClass” also filmed Metalica’s class here in front of northern California’s largest cove wall and green screen. Transformers, Terminators, Die Hard 2 scale model planes being crashed in the field, Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Willow, and of course…. all things Star Wars (including the obscure “Caravan of Courage” Ewok adventure). A few years back, we were on set and stunt drivers for a test film trailer for Cannibal Reign with the Townsley RV (image below). So, all this history in an aging niche, physically distanced from the hustle and networking of Burbank, Hollywood and LA, then COVID, then the 2023 Union Strike… it was, the perfect storm, topped with the landlord’s desire to repurpose the some 60,000 square feet of space, the negotiations ended.
We dropped in yesterday to talk with one of the heartbroken owners, our friend, Sean House. Sean has blown up more stuff than anyone we know, recently working on the last Fast & Furious film. Of the memorabilia we collected for our Creekside “Barrel Room” (formerly The Annex, and we’ll probably come up with a better name when we reopen that VIP dining space at Creekside), we got the Caravan of Courage poster, the Cannibal Reign poster, and Sean gave us a one-of-kind behind the scenes (BTS) image of one of the Jurassic movies to display with our nearly 100 other autographed movie BTS pictures. We’ll keep the memory alive as we bid farewell to the company that changed the world. Thank you to Sean, George, Tim, and the thousands of ILM and THX-ers. We’ll see you at the movies, It’s not about the space, it’s about the legacy; thanks for the memories. We will be there for your return, the sequel, the next generation, the Rise of House.
In memoriam. PT