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Poverty Row and Gower Gulch History and Photos

Early Movie Studios

Poverty Row was a slang term used in Hollywood from the late 1920s and  referred to a variety of small (and mostly short-lived movie studios. While many of them were on  Sunset Blvd., near Gower St. in Hollywood, the term did not necessarily refer to any specific physical location, but was rather a figurative catch-all for low-budget films produced by these lesser-tier studios.

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By the mid-twenties, scores of small, independent studios were operating in Hollywood, primarily on Sunset Boulevard near Gower Street.  These studios struggled to exist by making one and two reel comedies, westerns, comedies and dramas.  Because of the fierce competition, the uncertainty of having their films distributed and the difficulty of making a profit, these small studios went out of business as quickly as they were conceived.  The high ”mortality” rate of these independent studios caused this area of Hollywood to become know as “Poverty Row.”

Early Studio Photos

One of the largest collections of Poverty Row and Gower Gulch photos are on the hollywoodphotographs.com website. In addition, there are hundreds of images of other movie studios. 

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During the same period, many extras and “movie cowboys” could be seen standing near the corner of Sunset and Gower waiting for casting calls hoping to appear in early western films being produced daily by the many small production companies.  They would congregate at that particular street corner, which is how it acquired its nickname. The Columbia Drug Store, which stood on the southeast corner for several decades, was a hangout for many western film extras in hopes of finding work, knowing the casting agents from the studio could reach them there.[ To the residents of Hollywood, this area was popularly called “Gower Gulch.”

Names of Studios

Some of these “Poverty Row” and “Gower Gulch” production companies, which have long passed in to oblivion, were Loftus Features, Sterling Motion Pictures Company, L-Ko Motion Picture Company, Quality Pictures Corporation, Paulis, Waldorf Productions, Frances Ford Studio, Century Film Company, Wilnat Studios, Wade Productions, California Studios, Bischoff Comedies, Choice Productions, Snub-Pollard Productions, Goodwill Studios and Chadwick Pictures Company.

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By the mid to late 1920’s consolidaation of movie studios and film production companies began to tale place. As the large studios developed, they consumed the land in which the small studios made their movies.  Columbia Studios, at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Gower Street, began to expand and consumed a great deal of the land formerly occupied by th Poverty Row studios.  Columbia Studios eventually became one of the four “major” studios in Hollywood.

Visit hollywoodphotographs.com to see many Poverty Row, Gower Gulch and movie making photos. All are available for purchase. 

 

 

 

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