Hollywood Center Studios has a rich and colorful history that mirrors the development of Hollywood and the growth of the entertainment industry. The studio has played host to some of the most notable productions of the past century, including such iconic television shows as "I Love Lucy," "The Addams Family," "Jeopardy!" and "A Different World," as well as scores of groundbreaking films including "The Karate Kid," "When Harry Met Sally," and "The Player."
In 1919, Jasper Johns, 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 best 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 ‘30s and ‘40s. 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.
"...three years later, the lot made history when Stage 2 became home to "I Love Lucy", the first primetime comedy produced before a live audience on the West Coast."
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 1948, George Burns and Gracie Allen brought their popular television show to the lot, then known as General Services Studios. Three years later, the lot made history when Stage 2 became home to "I Love Lucy," the first primetime comedy produced before a live audience on the West Coast.
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," "The Man Show" (which helped make Jimmy Kimmel a star) 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.
The past 90 years have clearly demonstrated the incredible resilience of Hollywood Center Studios. The lot has consistently evolved, adapted and grown to meet the needs of the Hollywood production community and to help fuel its dreams. Today, Hollywood Center Studios remains a vital part of the Hollywood community and a place where history continues to be made every day.