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Vintage Movie Studio Photographs

Vintage Hollywood Movie Studio Photographs

For more than 100 years Hollywood has been known as the entertainment capital of the world. Movies, radio, television and legitimate theater make up the various entertainment entities that makes Hollywood so famous. The largest collection of movie studio photos is on the website. 


First Movie Studio

The first film production company to make movies in the Los Angeles area was the Selig Polyscope Company.  In 1909, William Selig opened Los Angeles’ first official movie studio in downtown Los Angeles.  Here he made several films, the first being called, Heart of a Race Tout. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Edendale where he opened a more permanent studio.

The New York Motion Picture Company also established a studio in Edendale and later set up shop in the Santa Monica Mountains. Biograph established a studio in Los Angeles; Essanay company moved to Niles California; and the Kalem film company settled near Glendale. Vintage photographs of these early motion picture studios can be found on the Hollywood website.


First Hollywood Studio

The distinction of having established the first studio in Hollywood goes to the Nestor Film Company of Bayonne New Jersey. 40 members of this Company, headed by David Horsley, arrived by train on October 27, 1911. On the train, Horsley met Murray Steele, who advised him to call upon Frank Hoover, a professional photographer, for information on light conditions in Hollywood. Horsley did just that and the next day he was shown the former Blondeau Tavern on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Avenue. The small roadhouse, suffering from Hollywood's recent liquor prohibition, had a barn, corral, 12 small single room structures and a five room bungalow.

Horsley least the tavern for $30 a month and use the corral for horses used in Westerns, the barn for props, the small rooms for dressing areas, and the bungalow for his executive offices. A baggage car carrying three cameras, chemicals, and some props arrived in Hollywood the following Monday, and was unloaded overnight, and the company was ready to make movies.

Horsley's budget, allocated by the New York office, was $1200 a week, and three complete movies 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. Action was rehearsed carefully by stopwatch and when the scene had been timed to the number of feet of film available, the camera was loaded and filming began.

Until 1911, almost all of the motion picture company and studios were located back east. Because movies were made out of doors, it became difficult to make movies in the wintertime, because of inclement weather. It was for this reason that the Nestor film company, Selig Polyscope, and other film companies searched for places where they could make movies all year long and not be hampered by bad weather.

It wasn't long before the word got back to other East Coast film companies that Southern California offered the perfect weather for making movies. In addition to the great weather, Southern California ought offered a large variety of scenery for the making of movies. Film companies could be at the ocean within an hour or in the mountains or desert within just a few minutes. As the word filtered back to the East Coast, more and more film companies sent film troupes West to make movies.


Gower Gulch and Poverty Row

The most common and popular films made by the early Hollywood studios were Westerns. Most of the film companies that settled in Hollywood between 1911 in 1920 were located on Sunset Boulevard, just east of Gower Street. During the early morning movie extras would stand out in front of these small studios waiting to be called in for the day's filming. These extras were dressed in cowboy outfits hoping to be used in the days filming. Because of the many cowboy extras standing on the sidewalk, in front of the studios, this area became known as Gower Gulch. It was also known as poverty row because of the high mortality rate of the small independent, take over the space vacated by a previous film company, and begin making movies. Unless they had a source to distribute their films, these companies went out of business fairly rapidly. Because of this, this area of Sunset Boulevard was also known as poverty row.


Studios Outside of Hollywood

Not all movie studios were located in Hollywood. Some of the early studios were located in Edendale, which is now Glendale California. The Balboa Film Company was located in Long Beach California, Goldwyn Studios, which later became MGM, was located in Culver City California. Thomas Ince, who was employed by the New York motion picture company, established a studio for filming Westerns, in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Independent Studios And “The Majors”

When the small studios settled in Southern California they were known as independents. Like many businesses, consolidation began to take its toll on the scores of small independent film companies. As time went on, many of the smaller studios were acquired by other companies, making the surviving company much larger. By the early 1920s this consolidation created a handful of “major” studios.  These included, MGM, Columbia pictures, Fox, Universal, and Warner brothers. These large studios not only produced films, they also had a distribution system that made it difficult for other small studios to distribute their films.

Movie Studio Photos

Thousands of photographs of old Hollywood studios can be seen on the website.  Photos of more than 60 movie studios can be seen on the website. All of the photographs in the collection are available for purchase.


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