Friday, October 19, 2012

The Hollywood Studios


The seven major motion picture studios in Hollywood today.  Their logos change
 slightly from time to time and reflect their current business affiliations as seen above.
*  All art for this article courtesy of "Google Images".  Special thanks to
Wikipedia, AFI (American Film Institute), and The Academy of Motion
Picture. Arts and Sciences for the information contained in
this article.

by Felicity Blaze Noodleman


Last week we explored the birth of Hollywood and some of the greatest movies of all time.  This week let’s look at the studios in the Motion Picture Industry and learn a little of their history.  We are taking the “Google Tour Bus” and I’ll be your guide as we explore the Hollywood film studios.


The movie business is not at all what you would think.  After decades of evolution the studios have become little more than leasing agencies for studio space to production companies to produce motion picture, television programs and even commercials or anything which requires a small production of pictorials merged with sound to make a mini production which we call a PSA (public service announcement), short subjects, cartoons, ect. and so forth.  It’s a strange game of monopoly to say the least these days. 


The studios of today are a far cry from the days of the big studio bosses during the golden days of Hollywood and the studio contract actors under Louis B Mayer at MGM, the Cohen Bros. at Columbia or the Warner Bros.  This era was commonly referred to as the “studio system” and was a very tightly run machine.  I’ve looked up an organizational chart for the 1940’s 20th. Century Fox Corporation and it was quite lengthy to say the least.  During that era the Hollywood studios all seemed to merge together one into the other moving down through Sunset Blvd. to Gower St.. and then down to Melrose Ave. and back around to the Paramount studios location.


The successful studios of today have tried to divest themselves of all non essential parts ether spinning of business concerns into separate companies or contracting to vendors.  Their primary concern is obtaining a product (movie) for their theaters or for video release and collecting these profits with the minimum investment or exposure to those productions.  Studios are also seeking to invest or become involved in new forms of entertainment such as Television, the Video Games market, Resorts and Theme Parks, Hotels and Casinos for example.  This business model has been called horizontal diversification.


So the “Google” tour bus is now departing and here we go exploring the Hollywood of yesterday and today!

Three small studios who have left a lasting imprint on American movies
and Hollywood.



Paramount Studios Melrose Ave. main gate.  Of all the studios in Hollywood
Paramount is the classiest.  Paramount has a lot going for itself and I feel it is
the most beautiful in more ways than one! 


The studio was founded in 1912 and is now the only studio operating in the old Hollywood area.  Paramount was founded by Hungarian born Adolph Zukor and partners.  The first director hired by the studio was the famous Cecil B. De Mille.  Paramount is one of the most consistent entertainment companies in the business and is always at the top of the box office earnings with its films.

For all intents and purposes Paramount has absorbed the once highly successful RKO studios which was established in 1928 and operated until 1957.  The old RKO studio is just a short distance from Paramount’s Studios on Melrose Ave.. in Hollywood.  Three interesting points about RKO’s history.  First of all, one of its founders; Joseph Kennedy was the father of three sons who were famous in US politics.  President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General and Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy.  Secondly, RKO opted to use the RCA (Radio Corporation of America) sound system (RCA Photo Phone) instead of the Western Electric system used by the other studios.  Third and finally; the company was bought by the industrialist and aviator Howard Hughes.

The RKO studio was also the innovator of the dance musicals so famous in the 1930's with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.  These were so popular in the depression era US that MGM also produced their own musicals and hired the dancing star Fred Astaire. 

RKO studios as pictured in it's hay day of the 1940's.

For all intents and purposes Paramount has absorbed the once highly successful RKO studios which was established in 1928 and operated until 1957.  The old RKO studio is just a short distance from Paramount’s Studios on Melrose Ave.. in Hollywood.


The Culver City, CA main gates of MGM.  It was hard to chose one exterior of
the studio.  Shown here from top left to bottom right are the working gate entrance,
Administration Bldg., studio areal view and original main gate to the studio.


Founded in 1924 in Culver City, CA it is just outside of the Hollywood Area of Los Angeles, CA
and is now headquarter in Beverly Hills, CA.  The studio was the result of a buyout by theater chain owner Marcus Lowe who merged Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Mayer Pictures.  This studio has been known for many of the great pictures during the “Golden Age” of movies.  MGM burned down it's old back lot just to film a scene in the film "Gone With The Wind". 

Although the studio no longer is operating a studio lot and has just emerged from Chapter 11 as of 2011, MGM is primarily a distributor and promoter for films released under the MGM brand.  The company seems to be reinventing itself has diversified  over the years with disastrous results into Airlines and Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos.  The Culver City studio is now part of Sony Pictures Group.

The original United Artist studios in Hollywood

MGM is the releasing company for “United Artist”, a small studio and production company.   This studio was founded by four of the silent ear’s great stars – Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Director D.W. Griffith.  You may know it best for its series off “James Bond Films”.


The sprawling Warner Bros. Studio Complex in Burbank, CA.  Warner's
has always favored the areal view of the studio over a "main gate" shot.


The four Warner brothers opened their Hollywood studio on Sunset Blvd. in 1918.  The brothers had been in the theater business since 1903 and needed a studio to produce films to supply their growing business.  Since their beginning Warner’s has been one of the most successful studios in Hollywood continually growing and expanding.  By Warner Bros. merged with First National in Burbank, CA and moved its operations to Burbank.  Warner’s significant contribution to film was the innovation of sound and talking pictures with the release of “The Jazz Singer” in 1927.  The company has steadily grown and remains one of Hollywood’s most successful studios today.


The Burbank NBC studio and home of "The Tonight Show" is nestled between
Warner Bros. and Disney studios with Universal studios to the rear.
NBC now owns Universal studios.  NBC has been a presents in Hollywood
going back to the days of radio with their huge studios on the corner of
Sunset and Vine.
Today the studios of North Hollywood, as it is called,  consists of Burbank and Universal City.  It reminds me of the old Hollywood area.  Universal studios, Warner Bros. studios and the Disney studios all seem to run into each other and there is also an NBC studio there amongst them.


20th. Century Fox studios today at their home where WLA and Century City
merge on the border of Beverly Hills.

20th Century Fox

Fox as I wrote last week in the oldest studio in Hollywood operating since 1915 and officially merged with Fox and 20th Century pictures in 1935.  This studio has remained consistently strong since its beginning producing films which have been an American staple at the box office, how ever two films cost the studio some set backs - "Cleopatra" and "Titanic", but despite the problems the studio goes on.  Today the FOX studio is heavily involved with television productions for its Fox network owned by the Murdoch News Corp.


Looking into the Disney studios - Burbank, CA.


Disney’s’ founding date is somewhat illusive as Walt Disney himself was working in different locations prior to the purchase of his first studio lot in 1928 on Hyperion St. in Los Angeles, CA. not far from the Edendale district where the movies first began in Los Angeles.  Disney’s first full length animated feature “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” won Academy awards and Disney’s company has steadily grown.  Studios soon moved to their new Burbank, CA location and the company has diversified into worldwide theme parks and Television broadcasting.  Another interesting observation about Disney is Mickey Mouse – you could say he is the oldest working star in Hollywood and loved the world over.

Inside Columbia studios - Hollywood, CA.


Founded in 1919 it is now Columbia Tri Star and is now owned by Sony Pictures Group.  The studio has produced many American classic films and their studios today also known as the Gower St. Studios are used by many independent producers.   Columbia has been known for many of its short subject films over the years and especially for the "Three Stooges" shorts and were presented for television in 1958 under their Screen Gems production company.  The Stooges have been loved for generations up through the present.  The reincarnated "Stooges" were recently featured in a new film this year.

Universal studios - Universal City, CA.


Founded in 1912 it is the oldest motion picture studio in the United States.  Universal has made some of the most epic films in the history of movies and has diversified into the theme park businesses.  I remember Universal the most for their horror films of the 1930's, with Lon Chaney Jr. - monsters such as The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and Count Alucard.  Today universal is owned by NBC Broadcasting and is now NBC Universal.  For many years Universal was affiliated with MCA entertainment and managed by Lew Wasserman.  Universal has also been highly successful in television productions over the years.



Republic studios - Studio City, CA.


Republic Pictures

Founded in 1935 the studio has been known for their “B” pictures or the "killer B's" sci-fi films as they have been called.   It's history has been passed on to television with the studios now owned by CBS television productions and was home to the "Gilligan's Island" program.  Republic was one of the first studios to offer it's library of titles for broadcast in the early years of television.

I have a list of the most popular Motion Picture Franchises of all time which should be fun for your consideration.  Also; I am posting the list of 15 remaining most popular stars of all time as voted by AFI which will follow.

Highest-grossing franchises and film series
Total worldwide
box office
No. of films
Average of films
Highest-grossing film
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($1,328,111,219)
Casino Royale ($596,365,000)
Casino Royale ($596,365,000)
Die Another Day ($431,942,139)
Moonraker ($210,300,000)
Casino Royale ($596,365,000)
Thunderball ($141,200,000)
The Living Daylights ($191,200,000)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service ($82,000,000)
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace ($1,027,044,427)
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace ($1,027,044,677)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope ($775,398,007)
The Avengers ($1,511,757,910)
Iron Man 2 ($623,933,331)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($1,066,179,725)
The Dark Knight Rises ($1,076,169,641)
The Dark Knight Rises ($1,076,169,641)
Batman ($411,348,924)
Shrek 2 ($919,838,758)
Shrek 2 ($919,838,758)
Spider-Man 3 ($890,871,626)
Spider-Man 3 ($890,871,626)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1,119,929,521)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1,119,929,521)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($886,686,817)

Those actors of today who participated in the voting to compile this list below include the following:

 Kevin Bacon, Alec Baldwin, Jacqueline Bisset , Ernest Borgnine, James Caan, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chase, Cher, Kevin Costner, Billy Crystal, Claire Danes, Geena Davis, Laura Dern, Matt Dillon, Richard Dreyfuss, Clint Eastwood, Mia Farrow, Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Teri Garr, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Woody Harrelson, Richard Harris, Goldie Hawn, Gregory Hines, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Michael Keaton, Martin Landau, Jessica Lange, Shirley MacLaine, Marsha Mason, Marlee Matlin, Mike Myers, Edward Norton, Edward James Olmos, Miss Piggy, Lynn Redgrave, Julia Roberts, Gena Rowlands, Kevin Spacey, Sylvester Stallone, Rod Steiger, Sharon Stone, Billy Bob Thornton, Lily Tomlin, Emily Watson and James Woods.

Gary Cooper
Barbara Stanwyck
Gregory Peck
Claudette Colbert
John Wayne
Grace Kelly
Laurence Olivier
Ginger Rogers
Gene Kelly
Mae West
Orson Welles
Vivien Leigh
Kirk Douglas
Lillian Gish
James Dean
Shirley Temple
Burt Lancaster
Rita Hayworth
The Marx Brothers
Chico Marx
Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Lauren Bacall
Buster Keaton
Sophia Loren
Sidney Poitier
Jean Harlow
Robert Mitchum
Carole Lombard
Edward G. Robinson
Mary Pickford
William Holden
Ava Gardner


I hope this article has been fun and informative for you.  I always enjoy studying up on Hollywood history.  If you ever have a chance to take your vacation here in Hollywood and you can see these sights for your self and more! 
While researching this article I ran across this web site and found it to be very interesting so I’ll pass it on to you for further study.

I'm Felicity for the "Noodleman Hollywood Google Tour Line" and you are now free is disembark!


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