Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood Center Studios, located at 1040 N. Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood, California, is an independent production lot providing stages and related services to television, movie and commercial production companies. Founded in 1919, the lot is one of the oldest production facilities in Hollywood and has played host to many notable productions, including such television shows as I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, The Rockford Files and MADtv, and such movie productions as When Harry Met Sally... and The Player.
Hollywood Center Studios continues to provide stage facilities for many television productions, including shows produced by Disney, NBC, Comedy Central and MTV. The lot features 12 sound stages, ranging in size from 4,400 square feet to 19,000 square feet, several of which are able to accommodate live audiences, as well as a virtual set stage for webcasts. Lot features also include television control rooms; grip and lighting facilities; hair, make-up and dressing rooms; and production offices. A number of independent production companies have offices on the lot.
In 1919, John Jasper, a former associate of Charlie Chaplin, built three production stages and several bungalows on a 16.5 acre site in Hollywood and named it Hollywood Studios Inc. The first stages resembled hot houses with steel frames, cloth walls, glass roofs and clerestory windows. Among the first tenants was comedian Harold Lloyd who produced some of his most successful films on the lot.
The lot changed ownership and name several times during its early years while continuing to evolve and grow. In 1926, the then Metropolitan Studios began construction of one of the industry’s first sound stages. A few years later, Howard Hughes took up residence on the lot and used it to shoot his World War I epic Hell’s Angels, known for its innovative use of sound and for the screen debut of Jean Harlow.
Scores of films were produced on the lot during the 1930s and 1940s. They included the Mae West vehicles Klondike Annie and Go West, Young Man, the 21-picture Hopalong Cassidy series, the Bing Crosby classic Pennies from Heaven and the Marx Brothers’ A Night in Casablanca. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Fred Astaire, Carey Grant, Glenn Ford, Frederic March and Erich von Stroheim were among the stars who worked on the lot in the pre-World War II years. James Cagney made several films on the lot at a time when his brother William was a part owner.
With the advent of television, production on the lot changed dramatically. Fearful of a monopoly, the FCC barred the majors from producing television on their lots creating an opportunity for independents. In 1952, the lot made history when Stage 2 became home to I Love Lucy, the first prime-time comedy shot on film and produced before a live audience originating from the West Coast.
From 1951 to 1953, it was the home of Desilu studios, owned by Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz. The television version of actress Eve Arden's radio series Our Miss Brooks produced its first season on the stage adjacent to I Love Lucy. Both stages were known as the Desilu Playhouse seeing that a common entrance had been created at the rear of each sound stage. After the 2nd season of I Love Lucy, Desilu moved to what is currently Red Studios Hollywood. Our Miss Brooks and other Desilu produced/filmed series moved with them.
The floodgates soon opened and the lot became ground zero for television’s Golden Age. It hosted a number of classic CBS comedies including Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. The Lone Ranger, Perry Mason, Mr. Ed, The Addams Family and Get Smart were also produced on the lot.
In 1980, director Francis Ford Coppola purchased the lot, intending to use it to produce a slate of films. Among them was the ambitious movie musical One from the Heart. For that film, Coppola transformed the entire lot into a giant set that included a replica of part of Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport. Cost overruns on the film combined with its poor box office performance caused Coppola to fall into financial difficulties and the lot was sold again, this time to Canadian real estate developers, the Singer Family.
The Singer Family initiated a comprehensive modernization and refurbishing effort that sparked a revival of the lot’s fortunes and attracted a new generation of feature film and commercial filmmakers. The Singers also returned television production to the lot by adding control rooms and the infrastructure required for multi-camera video production. The lot again became home to some of the country’s most popular shows, including Jeopardy!, Star Search, Soul Train, The Man Show, and the Emmy Award-winning children’s series Pee-wee's Playhouse.
In recent years, Hollywood Center Studios has continued to grow and modernize. In a multi-million dollar investment, the lot’s control rooms, camera packages and infrastructure were upgraded to HDTV. This was done, to support television clients such as Disney, which produced numerous kid- and teen-oriented series on the lot. Three cyc stages were added, one dedicated to green screen production. A virtual set stage was also built to provide a cost-effective way to produce high-quality content for broadcast and the web. Additionally, production office space more than doubled, providing homes for dozens of independent companies, representing every niche in the industry.
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