After the news that Amazon Studios will be moving into Culver Studios at 9336 Washington Blvd, we looked into the history of this movie studio.
It was built by silent movie producer-director Thomas Ince in 1918 on a lot acquired from Harry Culver, who founded Culver City in 1917. It was owned by director Cecil B. De Mille from 1925 to 1928, then by RKO-Pathé from 1933 to 1950. For several years it was leased by David O’ Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind (1939). In 1950 it was purchased Howard Hughes, who continued to lease it. In 1956 it was bought by Lucille and Desi Arnaz for their Desilu Studios; they renamed it Culver Studios in 1970. It was acquired by Sony Pictures in 1991 and its 13 sound stages have housed the production of countless movies. See list and history at this link.
And here’s the history of the most legendary movie studio, MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that was not located in Hollywood but in Culver City, which in 1936 was dubbed “The Heart of Screenland.” It was built in 1915 as Triangle Studios by Thomas Ince, who moved its Inceville here from the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset, then sold the lot to Samuel Goldwyn in 1918. Its original colonnade entrance along Washington Blvd in Greek-revival style is still standing. In 1924 it became MGM Studios, after the merger of three companies: Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Studios, Louis B. Mayer Productions. In 1981 it merged with United Artists into MGM-UA, it was sold to Lorimar in 1986. In 1989 Warner Bros, who had bought Lorimar, sold the lot to Columbia Pictures, that had been acquired by Sony, the Japanese tech giant. Sony Pictures spent $100 million to completely renovate the historic studio to its former glory, including the 1938 Thalberg building.
Harry Culver built the Culver Hotel in 1924 in Renaissance revival style, renovated in 2013, with 46 rooms and a lively restaurant.
The Helms Bakery was built as the official bakery of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
No longer standing is another movie studio in Culver City, the Hal Roach Studios (1919-1963)
In the parking lot in front of Culver Studios, construction has started for a retail and restaurant complex called The Culver Steps. It is scheduled to open in 2019 like the giant 500,000 square feet Ivy Station in the parking lot of the Expo station that closed in February.
Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli