In 1911, New York City based Nestor Film Company relocates to Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, making it the first studio established in Hollywood. The area around Sunset & Gower is dubbed “Poverty Row” for the numerous low budget films shot there.
Following their own recent move to Los Angeles, Jack and Sam Warner find a lot to lease on Sunset Boulevard between Van Ness and Bronson Avenues. They get the 10 acres of land for $25,000 and $1500 per month.
William Horsley builds a film processing laboratory and studio at 6050 and 6040 Sunset Boulevard on the south east corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.
CBC Productions, a New York company run by Hollywood’s original Cohn Brothers, lease 6070 Sunset Boulevard. The low–budget features produced by CBC between 1922 and 1923 earned them the sobriquet “Corned Beef and Cabbage” films.
Anxious to get shooting, Warner Brothers West Studios is building at a rapid pace. Construction is completed on what is still a Hollywood landmark, the “Tara” Mansion on Sunset Boulevard.
The first in a series of Rin Tin Tin films is released a year after the Warner Brothers were approached by writer Darryl Zanuck. Zanuck joining the studio begins a period of intense creative and economic success for the Warners.
The Cohn’s are enjoying success of their own after incorporating as Columbia Studios and adopting a new formula of finding and developing un–tapped Hollywood talent. They are able to purchase facilities at 1432 and 1438 Gower Street and an office building at 6070 Sunset Boulevard.
The Warner Brothers are having moderate success in Hollywood. Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer change their fortunes. The Warners start Vitaphone and make talkies a cornerstone of their business.
In mid–1928 a major fire spread from the transportation department on the North East corner. All of the back lot sets on the eastern edge of the studio burned. Vitaphone was a major success however, and Warner Brothers was able to rapidly rebuild, even as they opened a new lot in Burbank.
All major productions had moved to Burbank. The Sunset Bronson Warner Brothers lot focused on cartoons, shorts, and star based projects. James Cagney made the then–controversial “Public Enemy” at the Sunset lot.
In 1934, Columbia Pictures’ “It Happened One Night” is the first film to win the Academy Awards’ “Big 5”: Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), and Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin), establishing Columbia as a serious independent studio.
As Warner Brothers focused more of their production efforts on the Burbank lot, they looked for other ways to monetize the Sunset Bronson Lot. Because they owned the Brunswick Company, turning a stage into a bowling alley was a simple decision. Stage 2 would later become a roller rink.
“The Jolson Story” (1946) catapults Columbia into stardom, becoming their highest grossing film of all time. From 1941 — 1947, stars such as Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Jean Arthur, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Rosalind Russell, and Cary Grant are boxoffice draws, building upon Columbia’s success in the 1930s.
In 1948, Columbia establishes a television arm, housed under the revived Screen Gems banner, which makes it one of the first studios to invest in television.
Paramount Studios, long a neighbor to the south, decides to take Warner Brother’s “annex” lot as an annex of their own. A two million dollar re–building and modernization project is promptly begun.
February 27, 1958, Harry Cohn dies while vacationing in Arizona. The memorial service, filling both Stages 12 and 14 at Sunset Gower Studios, is considered the largest memorial service ever attended in Hollywood history.
In 1972, Columbia Pictures Corporation merges with Warner Brothers and ceases operations at the Sunset and Gower lot. S.I.R. leases Sunset and Gower buildings and subleases property to production tenants.
Saul Pick, real estate investor, and Nick Vanoff, independent producer, purchase the Columbia Pictures lot and rename the property, Sunset Gower Studios, Ltd. Sunset Gower Studios continues to house films, commercials, and hit television productions such as: “Golden Girls”, “Full House”, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, “Blossom”.
GI Partners purchases Sunset Gower Studios in November 2004. Re–vamping for the 21st Century is a top priority. This includes interior and exterior renovations, construction of a new on–site parking structure, and breaking ground on a state-of-the-art, 6-story office building — the future home of Technicolor’s digital media ventures.
Hudson Capital LLC becomes the sole owner of these two history laden plots of land in Hollywood. They bring a new energy and a deep respect for all that has come before. Stay tuned to see what’s next!
Our studios are built on a rich foundation.
Sunset Gower Studios and Sunset Bronson Studios coming together as one is the sort of thing that only happens, well, in the movies. The history of both begins at the dawn of Hollywood itself. Two of the film industry's most celebrated families first put down West Coast roots on Sunset Boulevard: the Warners and the Cohns.
Sam and Jack Warner, already old hands at film distribution bought a farm on Sunset Boulevard between Van Ness and Bronson Avenues in 1919 — Sunset Bronson was born. The area the Warner Brothers chose was already a buzz with low budget production companies, gaining the nickname “Poverty Row”. Harry Cohn came to Hollywood in 1922 to expand his own family business, he also set down roots on the Row, leasing a lot at 6070 Sunset Boulevard — Sunset Gower was beginning to take shape.
The two studios struggled to get their footing in an increasingly competitive city. The Cohns’ CBC Production concentrated on low budget silent films of dubious quality. Their focus on economics instead of talent earned them the sobriquet “Cabbage and Corned Beef Films” — the Cohns saw that change was needed.
The Warners had better luck with their talent pool. They were approached by Darryl Zanuck in 1924 — he brought with him the idea for Rin Tin Tin and the first Warner Brothers franchise was born. The films did well, but the studio was only a moderate success. In 1927, the Warners made a fateful decision — become early adopters of sync sound. They formed a new company, Vitaphone, and made a piece of cinematic history, The Jazz Singer. Sunset Bronson had produced its first cinematic milestone and the Warners’ studio was a powerhouse.
Success came to the lots at Sunset Gower as well. In 1924, the Cohns re-focused their Hollywood designs and Columbia Pictures emerged. The focus of the company was not the bottom line, but rather to find and develop undiscovered talent within the rapidly growing film industry. That new approach paid off big in the form of Frank Capra. His first film at Columbia, That Certain Thing, was a modest success in 1927 and cemented the relationship of the studio and the director. Capra honed his craft at Columbia culminating in It Happened One Night, his 1934 film that was the first to ever win the Academy Awards’ Big 5: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay.
Both studios were enjoying golden moments in the Golden Era, as were their parent companies. With success came growth. Warner moved much of their operations to a newly purchased ranch in Burbank. The Sunset Bronson lot became focused on animation, shorts, and studio star projects. Columbia continued to develop top talent — purchasing all of the adjacent lots to their original buildings resulting in the 16 acres that make up the present day Sunset Gower lot.
Both lots began to take an interest in television production. In 1948, Columbia established Screen Gems, a television arm, it was the first studio to do so. Though KFWB, a radio station, had been broadcasting from Sunset Bronson for years it was in 1954 that the lot established itself as a leading television production space with the opening of KTLA. This coincided with the purchase of the Sunset Bronson lot by its southern neighbor, Paramount Studios. The Warner Era at Bronson was over.
Sadly, the Cohn era at Sunset Gower came to an end when Harry Cohn passed in 1958. His funeral, held on Sunset Gower Stages 12 and 14, is considered one of the largest in Hollywood history. With their founding companies moved on, the lots began a new phase in their history. As the studio system declined the lots shifted their focus to independent work as well. In 1964, Gene Autry purchased Sunset Bronson and turned it into a studio focused on independent theatrical and television productions. Sunset Gower, now owned by the Pick Vanoff Company, diversified its business model by offering music rehearsal spaces and indoor tennis courts in addition to production facilities. They now counted Frank Zappa, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr among their clients.
In recent years, the lots have focused attention on being top-notch production and post-production facilities. Hudson Capital saw that the experienced staff, long history, and deep integration with the industry made these two a match meant to be. Sunset Gower has completed its new Technicolor post-production facility and a majority of Sunset Bronson’s stages are fully digital ready. Sunset Gower and Sunset Bronson are a star couple in Hollywood with a lot less drama and a long future in sight.