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Hollywood's earliest Rental Movie Studio

HOLLYWOOD’S EARLIEST RENTAL MOVIE STUDIO

One of the lesser known, but oldest facilities in Hollywood was located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Fleming Street (now Hoover Street). During its almost one hundred year history, the studio was occupied by several small motion picture companies, many of whom were the real pioneers of the film industry.

Lubin Manufacturing Co.

The studio’s history began in 1912 when, just a few months after the Nestor Film Company settled in Hollywood, a group with the Lubin Manufacturing Company established a studio at 1425 North Fleming Street.  Aa member in good standing with the powerful Motion Picture and Patents Company, Lubin began producing films in hopes that the Trust would buy them.  However, Lubin’s days were few.  By June, the plant closed and was in the charge of a caretaker.

Photo of Lubin Manufacturing Film Company

Essanay Company

About this time, The Essanay Company, co-founded by George K. Spoor and G.M. "Bronco Billy” Anderson (S and A), was making two and three reel westerns a week.  Anderson, who made his film debut in Edison’s primordial western, “The Great Train Robbery”, realized that if his western were to be a success, he must have the same central character in each movie -- a character with whom the audience could sympathize.  It did not matter if “Broncho Billy” was a sheriff or villain, the picture would be a success as long as it featured Anderson.  His “central character” theme was a touch of genius, for Anderson became the first internationally famous cowboy hero.  His “Bronco Billy” pictures were shown on nearly all the screens in the world, before Tom Mix or William S. Hart won their position in this genre.

They seemingly couldn’t grind out westerns rapidly enough to keep their customers satisfied.  To help meet the need, a troupe was sent, in November 1912, from the Essanay’s Niles, California studio to open a Hollywood facility.  They leased the former Lubin studio, on Fleming Street, and during their five month tenancy, Essanay produced twenty one-reel westerns with such titles as “The Sheriff’s Honeymoon”, “Two Western Paths”, and “The Western Law That Failed.”  In April, 1913, the Essanay troupe abandoned the Fleming Street facility and returned to Niles, California. 

Kalem Movie Studio

Kalem Studios

The studio remained vacant until October 1913 when the Kalem Company moved onto the lot.  Kalem was named for owners George Kleine, Samuel Long and Frank Marion K-L-M).   Kalem Studios had been operating in several other Southern California locations, including Santa Monica, before using the Fleming lot.  Carlyle Blackwell, already an established star and director, was credited for being the first “Kalemite” to work at the new location.  Also installed at the studio was director J.P. McGowan, a specialist in adventure films. 

In April 1914, Marshall Nielan brought his troupe from the Kalem Santa Monica studio to work at Fleming Street.  The studio was typical of the primitive style of film making of that period.  The stage was a wooden platform on which sets were erected, illuminated by the sun through muslin cloth diffusers.  Late in April 1914, the Kalem “Ham and Bud” comedy series was housed for a while on the lot.  By February, 1917, Kalem moved the “Ham and Bud” to its Edendale location and abandoned the Fleming Street lot. After making almost one thousand films, Kalem was sold to Vitagraph at the end of the year.

To view old hollywood movie studios, please visit the hollywoodphotographs.com website. There are more than 1500 vintage movie studio photos on the website.

Charles Ray Movie Studio

Charles Ray Studio

The next tenants were Willis and Ingles, followed by J.D. Hampton Productions. In 1920, Charles Ray formed his own production company and shortly thereafter purchased the Fleming Street studio.  He began an expansion program of constructing stages, offices and other buildings -- many of which are standing today.  During his years at the studio, Ray produced many fine films including “Alias Julius Caesar” and “Peaceful Valley.”  However, when producing and starring in “The Courtship Of Miles Standish”, he misjudged one small detail -- it took too long to make and cost too much of his personal and corporate fortune to complete the film.  Although the picture garnered favorable reviews, the public was not eager to plunk down its nickels to see Ray in a long wig and in an even longer film.  With the failure of “Standish”, and his wealth depleted, Ray filed bankruptcy. Eventually he abandoned the studio and it was taken over by the Bank of Italy.

The film and television production companies who occupied the studio after Charles Ray included  retired actress Jean Navelle (who purchased the studio from the Bank of Italy in 1927), The Tiffany Company, Ralph Like, Monogram Pictures and Colorvision.  However, it was Monogram who occupied it the longest and made the greatest amount of improvements to the plant. 

Vintage photo of old Hollywood movie studio

Monogram Pictures

Monogram Pictures  was created in 1931 from the merger of Trem Carr’s Sono Art-World Wide Pictures and Ray Johnston’s Rayart Productions.  Jonhston was elected president while Carr was in charge of production.  Paul Malvern formed his own production company called Lone Star and released his films through Monogram.  The backbone of the studio in the early days was a father-and-son combination; Robert N. Bradbury and his son, Bob Steele.  Bradbury scripted almost all of Monogram’s and Lone Star’s early western movies and his son starred in them.

The studio churned out dozens of western serials featuring some of the most popular cowboy stars of the time.  Johnny Mack Brown, Bill Cody, Wild Bill Elliott, Hoot Gibson, Monte Hale, George “Gabby” Hayes, Ken Maynard, Buck Jones, Tex Ritter, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, John Wayne and many others.  Between 1933 and 1935, Wayne made sixteen films for Monogram’s Lone Star Productions, including “The Lawless Frontier”, “The Sage Brush Trail” and “Riders Of Destiny.” The “Cisco Kid” films, starring Duncan Renaldo and later, Gilbert Roland, were also great hits with both movie and television audiences.

The company produced and/or released more westerns than any other studio in cinema history.  During its lifetime, Monogram produced and/or released around one thousand westerns, under various banners.  The company was also known as the “king of the series films”, with examples such as “The East Side Kids”, “The Shadow”, “Bomba and Jungle Boy” and “Charlie Chan.” 

Monogram is also remembered as having produced some of the best horror films of the day.  Bela Lugosi starred in ten Monogram movies, including “Mysterious Mr. Wong” and “Black Dragons.”  Boris Karloff, who gained fame by starring in such films as “Frankenstein” and “The Bride Of Frankenstein” also worked for Monogram.  However, at Monogram, he was able to escape type casting and play the hero rather than the villain.  From 1938 to 1940, he starred in a series of six motion pictures as the genius Chinese detective “Mr. Wong.”

In 1935, Monogram merged with several other film companies to form Republic Pictures Corporation.  But after a short time in this new venture, conflicts arose causing Johnston and Carr to leave Republic.  Carr went to Universal Pictures while Johnston restarted Monogram in 1937.  It wasn’t long before the studio was turning out an average of fifty films a year.  One of the highlights of that period was the film “Dillinger” starring Lawrence Tierney. 

vintage photo of Monogram Studios

In 1945 Steve Broidy, formerly the general sales manager, was elected president of Monogram with Johnston becoming Chairman Of The Board.  In November 1946,  Allied Artist Productions, Inc. was formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Monogram to handle the production of higher-budgeted films. The company intended to produce and distribute those films under the Allied Artist banner, while the low-budget output would carry the Monogram label. Although Allied Artist was treated as a separate entity at first, the quality and content of its output soon became so similar to the Monogram product that eventually there was no real difference between the two, and Monogram adopted the Allied Artist name.

Allied then concentrated on releasing more “quality” films, including “Friendly Persuasion” and “Love In The Afternoon.”  Despite producing more A-list material, the studio was still turning out memorable B-pictures, including “Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman”, “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and “The Tingler.”

Allied Artist ceased producing films in 1964, but continued to operate as a distributor.  Shortly before its demise, the company briefly resumed production.  Among the studio’s last films were “Cabaret”, “The Man Who Would Be King” and “Papillion.” 

Monogram/Allied Artist survived by finding a niche and serving it well.  The company lasted until 1979, when runaway inflation and high production costs pushed it into bankruptcy.

Today it is the home of KCET-TV, who purchased it in 1970.

The largest collection of Hollywood movie studios is on the hollywoodphotographs.com website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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