Posts tagged ‘los angeles’


By Chad Upton | Editor

The HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles, California needs little introduction.

Although it is often associated with movies and television it was originally erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a new housing development named Hollywoodland. It originally cost $21,000 to build the 50-foot high letters on Mount Lee, including the four thousand 20 watt bulbs that illuminated them.

The letters quickly became a symbol of the movie industry. Ironically, actress Peg Entwistle became famous when she climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and allegedly jumped to her death in 1932. She was apparently unhappy about her failure as an actress. It’s true, she was not well known — it took two days for police to identify who she was, and only then because her uncle contacted them to see if it could be her.

In 1944, the housing developers transferred ownership of some land, including the Hollywoodland sign, to the City of Los Angeles. By 1949, the sign was in grave disrepair. As the city was demolishing it, public outcry turned the demolition into a refurbishing project, during which time it was shortened to HOLLYWOOD. The letters were shortened too, now standing 45 feet tall, instead of the original 50. More residents could identify with HOLLYWOOD since that was the name of the city from 1903 to 1910 and remains the name of the district today.

The 1949 sign was built from sheet metal and wood, which fared well considering its materials, but was falling apart by 1978. At this time, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a campaign to replace the sign with a more permanent version. Nine generous donors including, Hugh Hefner; Warner Brothers Records and Alice Cooper, each paid $27,700 to reconstruct a letter. In 2009, Hugh Hefner saved the sign again when he donated $1 million to The Trust for Public Land, an organization formed to protect the area from further real estate development.

Decades of temporary alterations to the sign began in 1976, some authorized and some not. A few of the more famous modifications include: HOLLYWEED, HOLYWOOD, GO NAVY, CALTECH, OLLYWOOD, OIL WAR, PEROTWOOD, GO UCLA, SAVE THE PEAK, JOLLYGOOD. To prevent further unauthorized modifications, the LAPD installed a motion detector alarm system in 2000.

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Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid (cc)

Sources: Wikipedia (Hollywood Sign, Peg Entwistle), Film Bug, Beachwood Canyon

December 20, 2011 at 2:00 am 6 comments

What is the Thirty Mile Zone?

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

August 18, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

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