What is the Thirty Mile Zone?

August 18, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Thirty Mile Zone or The Studio Zone, these terms refer to the area within 30 miles (48.3 km) of downtown Los Angeles, specifically the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and North La Cienega Boulevard.

That intersection is significant because it was the home of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was originally formed to mediate labor disputes between studios and workers.

The Academy is no longer stationed there, but it remains the center point of The Studio Zone. And yes, this is the same Academy that Oscar winners always thank in their acceptance speeches.

The Studio Zone is important to the entertainment industry in Southern California. It was created to establish a reasonable distance that union workers should be expected to travel to and from the production location without additional compensation.

Productions outside of this area require higher wages to union workers and therefore many productions remain in the Studio Zone. Productions outside the zone are often referred to as runaway productions.

The Studio Zone is responsible for a land-rush during the early part of the 20th century when studios acquired ranches and other large parcels of land within the zone. In the 1920s, Westerns movies were popular, and the ranches were great locations for these pictures. Because they were in the zone, “Studio rates” were paid to the workers, which helped keep the costs down. When a picture is shot outside of the zone, the studio may pay “distant location rates” in addition to travel time and mileage, depending on the agreement.

There is one exception, MGM’s Conejo movie ranch. It was a few miles outside of the Thirty Mile Zone, but the Academy considered it part of the zone for labor purposes. Why? It’s hard to say, but it’s probably worth mentioning that the Academy was started by Louis B. Mayer, the second “M” in MGM. The MGM ranch is now a nature preserve and a housing development.

Although Western movies are no longer popular, movie ranches still are. Because many of them are in the zone, they help keep costs low. Productions are bigger than ever, even TV shows use movie ranches for large elaborate sets. Click the embedded image to visit the google maps location of the Wipeout set (under construction at time of picture).

The celebrity news show TMZ stands for “Thirty Mile Zone” — that’s where they capture most of their footage.

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Sources: California Film Commission, Wikipedia (The Studio Zone, AMPAS, Movie Ranch, Wipeout), Shapell Homes,

Photos: ezioman (cc), Film LA, Google – Imagery GeoEye, US Geological Survey, DigitalBloge, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data

Entry filed under: Demystified. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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