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Hollywood Movie Studios

Hollywood Movie Studios

Prior to the movie studios settled in Hollywood, movies were made primarily on the East Coast and in Chicago. Many of the East Coast movie studios were located in and around Fort Lee New Jersey. One of the pioneer film companies was the Selig Polyscope Company which had its headquarters in Chicago. Col. William Selig sent a film company to the southwest to film scenes for one of his movies. Director Francis Boggs, a cameraman, and six actors and actresses filmed in Los Angeles and on the beach at Santa Monica, then moved to Colorado. But the weather there proved no more stable than Chicago's, and, in 1909, the Selig Company moved back to Los Angeles.

First Movie Made

Boggs rented a vacant Chinese laundry at the corner of Eighth and Olive and converted the buildings into dressing rooms and office and built a 40 ft. stage on the lot next door. There he found the Heart Of A Race Tout, the first movie to be made completely in California. It was released on July 27, 1909.

Selig realized that the predictable weather and variety of landscape immediately available made the Los Angeles area ideal for the making of moving pictures. Unlike Chicago and the East Coast, Southern California had wonderful weather, which meant that the film companies could make movies all year round, without being stalled by inclement weather. Shortly after moving back to Los Angeles the Selig Film Company built a permanent studio in Edendale and began to make movies.

Shortly after Selig's troop arrived in Los Angeles, other motion picture companies began to migrate west. The New York Motion Picture company settled in Edendale in late 1909, and later set up shop in the Santa Monica Mountains. Other film companies including Biograph and Essanay also established movie studios in Southern California.

First Hollywood Studio

The first motion picture film company to establish a movie studio in Hollywood was the Nestor Film Company of Bayonne, New Jersey. 40 members of this Company headed by David Horsley, arrived by train on October 27, 1911. Upon arriving in Hollywood Horsley was shown the former Blondeau Tavern on the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower. The small roadhouse, suffering from Hollywood's recent liquor prohibition ordinance, had a barn, a corral, 12 small single room structures and a five room bungalow.

Horsley least the tavern for $30 a month and converted the tavern to a movie studios with a corral for horses used in Western movies, the barn for props, the small rooms for dressing area, and the bungalow for executive offices.

A baggage car carrying three cameras, chemicals, and some props arrived in Hollywood the following Monday, was unloaded overnight, and the company was ready to make movies. Horsley's budget, allocated by New York, was $1200 a week, and three complete pictures were supposed to be filmed each week: a Western, and Eastern, and a comedy. Stories were written at home each evening and scenes were allocated a specific film footage. The negatives were sent by train back to New York so they could be developed and distributed for viewing at the burgeoning number of theaters throughout the country.

More Movie Studios in Hollywood

It wasn't long before other motion picture companies learned of the success that Nestor was having in Southern California. Within a few months, other film companies began to migrate West seeking to establish movie studios and make movies all year long and not be hampered by poor weather. Within three years of Nestor settling in Hollywood, there were numerous, small independent motion picture companies in Hollywood. Most of these companies set up shop in numerous buildings on Sunset Boulevard, close to the Gower Street intersection. Because many of these companies did not have much financial support, they went out of business within a few weeks or months of setting up shop. One of the reasons for their failure was the inability to have their films distributed to theaters. Because of the frequent failure of the small film companies, this area of Hollywood became known as poverty row. It also drew the nickname of Gower Gulch because most of the movies made by these small companies were Westerns. It was not uncommon to see several men, dressed up as cowboys, and standing out in front of the studios waiting to be called in for that days filming.

Thousands of vintage movie studio photographs are on the Hollywood website. The collection contains photos of almost every movie studio that existed in Southern California, and all are available for purchase.

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