Hollywoodland

From: Chapter XXIII – August, One Summer – America 1927 (2013), by Bill Bryson:

“…In 1927, the iconic “HOLLYWOOD” sign on the hillside above the city actually said “HOLLYWOODLAND”. It had been erected in 1923 to advertise a property development and had nothing to do with motion pictures. The letters, each over forty feet high, were in those days also traced out with electric lights. (The “LAND” was removed in 1949.)

Los Angeles in 1927 was America’s fastest growing city…

By 1927, Hollywood was producing some 800 feature films a year…Studios were churning out as many as four new films a week, a rate that was clearly incompatible with quality. When somebody pointed out to MGM chief Irving Thalberg that it was wrong to put a beach scene into a movie set in Paris since Paris patently is not on any coastline, Thalberg looked at the person in astonishment. “We can’t cater to a handful of people who know Paris,” he replied…

Big cinemas began to appear from about 1915…People, it was said, went to Loew’s cinemas just to enjoy the well-appointed toilets.

Architects borrowed freely and imaginatively from any culture that had ever built on a grand scale…At the Tivoli in Chicago the marbled lobby was said to be an almost exact copy of the king’s chapel at Versailles…

…the granddaddy of them all (was) the vast, bejewelled Roxy Theatre on Fiftieth Street at Seventh Avenue in New York…The Roxy even boasted its own “hospital” where, as the literature proudly noted, “even a major operation can be performed if necessary”. So dazzling was the infrastructure that even Scientific American sent a reporter to write a feature…

…the name and vision came from Samuel Lionel Rothafel – known to one and all as “Roxy”…The most notable fact about Roxy himself was that he didn’t actually like movies. He lived in an apartment hidden above the cinema’s five-storey-high rotunda…

The new Roxy took in $127,000 in its first week, but such business could never be sustained.*

*A little-noticed fact was that the Roxy was sold almost at once to the Fox film company for a whopping $15 million. The purchase contributed significantly to Fox’s bankruptcy in the following decade.

thirty-six people from the creative side of the industry met for dinner at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in January 1927 and formed a kind of executive club to promote – but even more to protect – the studios. It was a reflection of their own sense of self-importance that they called it the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, elevating films from popular entertainment to something more grandly artistic, scientific and, literally, academic. In the second week of May,…the academy was formally inaugurated at a banquet at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. (The idea of having an awards ceremony was something of an afterthought, and wasn’t introduced until the academy’s second-anniversary dinner in 1929.)”

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