The Holiday season started earlier than usual in sunny Southern California thanks to the announcement that DreamWorks SKG, local developer Maguire Thomas Partners and The Howard Hughes Corp. would build a new home for the fledgling studio as part of a new master-planned community called Playa Vista, fronting the Pacific Ocean just north of the Los Angeles International Airport. Turns out this will create the first new major studio in Los Angeles in nearly 60 years. But Playa Vista is more. Much more.

In fact, the DreamWorks studio campus, at about 100 acres, will account for only about 10% of the project's massive total land area of 1,087 acres when completed.

Stop a minute and consider the scope of this deal. Playa Vista sits in one of the largest undeveloped areas in any major urban center, and it's 30% larger than New York's Central Park. Its master plan calls for 13,085 residential units, 5 million sq. ft. of office and studio space, 600,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 750 hotel rooms, more than 500,000 sq. ft. of educational, civic, cultural and public uses, and a new boat basin adjacent to Marina del Rey.

Of course, DreamWorks will locate its motion picture, television, interactive and music businesses in 350,000 sq. ft. and manage another 725,000 sq. ft. of studio and production facilities. No small potatoes.

The DreamWorks Studios at Playa Vista are expected to cost some $200 million. The entire studio campus should reach a total buildout level of $750 million. It features two- to four-story buildings clustered around an eight-acre central lake, a back lot with up to 15 sound stages and a fully digitized post production facility.

Reuse space also is a factor. The 11 existing buildings on the property, formerly used by the aerospace/defense industry (and one of which was the original hangar in which Howard Hughes built the "Spruce Goose"), will be converted to sound stages. Construction is set to begin this fall, with initial occupancies expected in 1998.

Seven distinct residential neighborhoods will provide 13,000 new homes, including more than 20 different concepts ranging from rental apartments to condominiums and luxury homes. Neighborhoods will feature shops, restaurants, libraries, offices, schools and recreational facilities.

Technology is the real buzzword theme running through Playa Vista. GTE, IBM and Silicon Graphics have signed on to the project to provide a sophisticated telecommunications system that will link every home, office, store and cultural and educational institution in the community.

Also, both UCLA and the University of Southern California will take part. UCLA has committed to a research effort involving health services and educational technologies, and has agreed to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District to plan and design an elementary school "incubator" concept that will be used for educational innovation. UCLA will also develop a child care program for the community.

USC will work with DreamWorks and the three-way technology alliance on the development of the most advanced studio in the world.

Playa Vista may be best known as the base for Hughes aviation empire where new aircraft were designed, built and tested. During the past 18 months, more than 20 motion pictures, television shows and commercials were made at Playa Vista, including Batman Forever, Apollo 13, Nixon and The American President.

What does Playa Vista really mean to the Southern California commercial real estate market? "We expect that DreamWorks Studios will stimulate demand for Class-A office space in the Westside market, which already is one of the more prosperous real estate markets in Southern California," says John L. Goolsby, president and CEO of The Howard Hughes Corp. "We also expect that start-up companies will use office space at Howard Hughes Center as a `staging' location as they make plans to join the emerging entertainment, technology and communications community at Playa Vista."

Douglas J. McEachern, partner in charge of real estate services at Deloitte & Touche LLP, Los Angeles, agrees. "The decision to locate DreamWorks'headquarters at Playa Vista is going to have a significant, positive impact on West Los Angeles and its surrounding communities."