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Hollywood's First Movie Studio Photos

Hollywood’s First Movie Studio Photos

The distinction of having established the first motion picture studio in Hollywood goes to the Nestor Film Company of Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York.  The company was started by David Horsley and Charles Gorman in 1907 and was originally called the Cenatur Film Company.  Their first picture was “The Cowboy’s Escapade”, a one reeler released in September, 1908.  They produced a series of short films during the next two years but were frequently harassed by the Trust’s detectives.  Not wishing to continue the challenge, Gorman sold his interest to his partner’s brother, William.  The Brothers reorganized the company and the Nestor Film Company was born. On October 27, 1911, a troupe of forty members of this film company arrived in Los Angeles to produce the “Nestor” brand of films. Photos of this Hollywood Studio can be found on the hollywoodphotographs.com website.

While on the train to Los Angeles, they met Mr. Murray Steele, theatrical producer and a friend of Mr. Frank Hoover, who was in the photographic business at the southeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Gower Street, in Hollywood.  Mr. Steele advised Mr. Horsley to call on Mr. Hoover for potential studio sites  in Hollywood.  This Mr. Horsley did, and was shown the former Cahuenga House (also known as the Blondeau Tavern) on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.  The small roadhouse, which was then being leased to the Maier Brewing Company, was suffering from the drought induced by Hollywood’s recent liquor ordinance, but the place had immediate appeal as a studio.  It had a barn, corral, twelve small rooms built along the fence and a five room bungalow.  The corral could stable horses used in western pictures; the small rooms could become dressing areas and bedrooms for the staff and the bungalow was perfect for executive quarters.

Horsley leased the tavern from the Maier Brewing Company for $30  per month and on Monday, the baggage car with motion picture equipment, consisting of three cameras, chemicals and minor properties, was transported to Hollywood over the Pacific Electric railway tracks.  By night, everything was unloaded and the company was ready to shoot.

The pioneer company was allowed a budget of $1,200 a week, which came in regularly from New York.  On this bankroll, three complete moving pictures were supposed to be filmed each week - a western, and “eastern” and a comedy.  There wasn’t time nor money to have a print made to run off for the benefit of the members of the company.  The only negative was shipped off to New York. It was two or three months later that troupe saw the benefit of their labors when the finished movie came around to Tally’s Theater in Los Angeles.

The first picture made at Hollywood’s first studio was “The Law Of The Range”, written by Alexandria Fahrney, and directed by her husband Milton.  Other early films produced by Nestor included “Her Indian Hero”, the “Mutt and Jeff” and “Desperate Desmond” series.

Shortly after their arrival in Hollywood, the Nestor Film Company discovered that they could churn out picture after picture, with few delays from bad weather.  Many companies, enduring the erratic climate of the East, marveled at Nestor’s steady output and improved photographic quality and came out to California to learn the secret.  Within three years, there were fifteen companies shooting in, and around, Hollywood. 

In 1912, Carl Laemmle’s Universal Film Manufacturing Company acquired the Nestor Film Company’s studio, on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street. 

 

Photos of the first Hollywood movie studio, and others, are on the hollywoodphotographs.com website.

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