Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (File photo)

CIVIC CENTER — The Civic Auditorium is open for business. Well, some business.

City Hall is finalizing an agreement that would bring a BMW media launch to the auditorium for five weeks next year. The proposed rental could bring in $300,000 — cash that would be put toward financing the building’s laundry list of needed repairs, said Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick.

Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (File photo)

The auditorium was shuttered in July, a result of Santa Monica losing its redevelopment agency, which was going to fund a $51 million seismic retrofitting and modernization of the aging venue that once was home to the Oscars.

In October, the Civic Auditorium Working Group was appointed by City Hall to find the funds and make a plan to save the building. Many annual events previously held at the Civic, like the Contemporary Crafts Market, were forced to find new homes, sometimes leaving Santa Monica altogether.

But the building has still quietly been bringing bits of business to City Hall over the past five months, Cusick said.

Public assembly is banned inside the 3,000-seat Civic but several commercials have been shot in the building as have scenes for the CBS drama “NCIS.”

BMW, which is introducing an international hybrid vehicle, would rent the space in April and May. It would store its cars inside the building and journalists would test drive cars parked underneath the building’s canopy. A “1,400 square foot cube display ‘pavilion'” would be built on the front lawn, city officials said.

Representatives with BMW did not return phone calls by presstime Friday.

BMW’s potential $300,000 is a drop in the bucket when it comes to financing repairs for the space, but these events help cover insurance and other costs, which total an estimated $185,000 annually.

“Even a closed building of that size is pretty expensive to maintain,” Cusick said.

Further, the proposed car launch would fill 1,500 hotel rooms and bring all of the local business revenue associated with a big event, city officials said.

Council will vote on interim use guidelines and fees associated with these mid-sized events at their meeting next week. The resolutions merely add specificity to the guidelines set forth by council in June of this year, Cusick said.

They will officially replace guidelines established for the auditorium in 1967.

City Hall hopes filming will be the Civic’s bread and butter while its future is in flux.

The main hall, stage, and lobby can be used for filming, commercial photography, or closed rehearsals under the new resolutions.

These areas would be available at $10,000 for a 14-hour day and $5,000 for six hours.

All the other parts of the Civic, like the east wing meeting room and surface parking lot, are available for a variety of public uses.

While the main stage is in need of seismic upgrades, Cusick said that the current and proposed uses do not present any danger.

“It’s the reason we don’t want 3,000 people in the building,” she said. “We have to walk the fine line between keeping the building shuttered, which is never good for a building like this, and making sure its being used appropriately by those interested.”

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