Why Hollywood?

1893 World's 1st Movie Studio in West Orange New Jersey

1893 World’s 1st Movie Studio in West Orange New Jersey

Did you know that the original home of American motion pictures was New York?  Yessir, it was there that Thomas Edison and his “kinetoscope,” one of the first motion picture cameras, brought about the rise of many a film studio in and around NYC.  I guess that’s not too surprising, especially since New York is still a big part of mass media today, with many TV shows and pretty much all news networks being broadcast from there.

However, there was, and is a problem with New York when it comes to the art of creating films.  New York, by and large, looks like New York, meaning that it is hard to shoot a movie set in the desert anywhere in New York.  Then there is the whole weather thing, meaning that New York has a definite four seasons, which can hamper how many months films can be made.  Oh, and many a film maker took issue with Thomas Edison’s Motion Pictures Patent Company’s strict rules in film making there too.

So, the fast growing film industry started looking for places with fairer, year round, climate, and one place that they looked was Florida.  The spot that was chosen there was Hobe Sound; which was going to be renamed Picture City, and that could’ve very well been the place where all of our celebrities live, and movies are made, if it weren’t for one tiny little thing.  That tiny little thing is once again the weather, and it isn’t Florida’s notorious humidity, it was a hurricane in 1928 that put the kabosh on the creation of Picture City.

Then someone got the bright idea to look west at the still relatively new state of California (CA became a state in 1850).  Particularly southern California, where the weather almost never changes from warm and sunny, to more warm and sunny.  Film makers set their sights on Los Angeles.  Why LA over San Diego?  Well, that is a very good question, however I think geography had an awful lot to do with it.  To put it a better way, I think it was LA’s proximity to various different types of geography that made it the wise, and dare I say perfect, choice for the home of making feature films in America; as the 1927 Paramount Studios location map below illustrates:

1928 Paramount Map

Few places, if any, in this country, or any other country, can offer such a diverse amount of scenery in which to set television shows and films, without having to physically relocate to a whole other state, or country.  Just a few examples:  Little House on the Prairie – was set in Minnesota, and filmed in SoCal.  Dukes of Hazard – was set in Hazard County Georgia, and filmed in SoCal.  Matlock – set in Atlanta Georgia, filmed in SoCal.  Seinfeld – set in NYC, filmed in a studio in SoCal; and those are just a few.  There are countless television shows and movies set elsewhere, but are filmed in LALA land.

2 Responses to Why Hollywood?
  1. Henré Botha

    South Africa (my country) is becoming more and more popular as a filming destination for very similar reasons: you can find virtually any type of “scenery porn” that you could want, from barren deserts to verdant mountains to rolling green hills, all within a few hours’ drive from each other. Michael Bay, for instance, is shooting a new pirate-themed series here.

    • tim

      Hey Henre’, thanks for the comment. Yeah, South Africa does have much of the diverse types of scenery that film makers like, and from what I understand the South African domestic film industry is doing a bit of all right these days too, thanks to the damn good movie District 9.
      I did leave out the fact that shooting costs in California have driven some filming to other countries, like South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, to name but a few other locales, where miraculously it is, at times, cheaper to shoot a movie abroad, than it is to shoot it here in the U.S. The reasons are varied, but they do include labor costs, licensing and regulation costs, you know, fun things like that.
      Thanks Again, and Take Care,