Issue: Discover Hollywood Summer 2019

Finding the Real Hollywood

Nyla Arslanian

Nick Cartell 7000 Romaine - The old Howard Hughes Headquarters
Photo by Kathy Flynn


While some visitors to Hollywood may see Hollywood Boulevard as representing this town, it is its “Main Street,” but the area that gave Hollywood its fame and fortune is south of the popular Walk of Fame corridor in the Media District several blocks to the south and east of Vine Street to Van Ness.

            As Hollywood grew in the 1920’s, land where the first movie studios were built was subdivided and sold to make way for shopping centers and housing developments. Paramount Pictures moved to Melrose Avenue, RenMar, Raleigh, and other studios and production companies sprung up to serve the growing industry. Eastman Kodak, Mole Richardson lighting, Glen Glenn Sound and Technicolor to name a few.

Glen GlennGlen Glenn Sound has provided audio services to the industry since 1937

            Today a new generation is moving in with different needs and facing the challenge to retain its relevance in a changing industry, to maintain and do business in an increasingly altered environment while remaining vibrant and committed to providing entertainment for the world. To respond to myths that movies weren’t made in Hollywood anymore, key businesses serving the industry took action.

            In 2000, the Hollywood Media Business Improvement District was created. Comprised of 220 commercial property owners, this was no easy task. Extensive outreach and a vote by a majority of these owners was required. Each property owner pays a proportional share of the one million dollar annual budget based on gross building square footage and lot size. Public safety patrols, maintenance and community improvements use eighty five percent of the budget. The BID is renewed by vote every five years.

The mission of the Hollywood Media District is to enhance the security, cleanliness, beautification and commercial desirability of the area. Through the improvement of the area, local studios attract television, film and commercial production companies, post production firms expand services, restaurants and live theatre thrive, and the neighborhood is a safe and pleasant environment for residents and employees.   

            With a focus on its history as well as emerging technology, the assets of the district are enhanced with new development at the Sunset Las Palmas Studio (formerly Hollywood Center Studio, Zoetrope) and the new Hollywood 959 is now the home of Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s recently formed Quibi which stands for “quick bites” due to launch next Spring creating more than 100 pieces of original content per week. According to Katzenberg, Quibi will benefit from the growth of 5G mobile networks and the tendency of younger millennials to shy away from conventional television for entertainment.

SpoonfedSpoonfed at Hollywood 959 Complex on Seward Avenue

As reported in Los Angeles Business Journal, Bill Humphrey, senior vice president for Sunset Studios at Hudson Pacific, commented” The demand for spaces has significantly outpaced the stages. Companies are looking to lock down as many studios as they can.”

Certainly, adding to the demand is the new big gorilla in town “Netflix” which has leased over one million square feet of space throughout Hollywood and will occupy the Sunset Las Palmas new “Harlowe” building in addition to its facility at Hudson Properties Sunset Gower lot. It has also taken space at the under construction Academy project under construction on Vine Street just south of Sunset.

Checking the dossiers of the facilities within the media district, the phrase “If these walls could talk, “comes to mind. The list of productions created in its Red Studios and recently renamed Sunset Las Palmas, formerly Hollywood Center Studios and Zeotrope, spans generations from silent to Golden Age to television and now digital offerings. From Harold Lloyd to LaLa Land, Charlie Chaplin to Francis Ford Coppola, there’s a dizzying array of names and productions--“I Love Lucy,” “Seinfield” and Jeopardy to name a few. Countless live audiences have stood in line to laugh and witness what we now know was entertainment history being made.

To the west  at  Romaine and Sycamore, satellite radio giant SiriusXM has established its West Coast headquarters in a dramatic new structure recently completed by CIM Group. It lies immediately adjacent to one of Hollywood’s historic assets, now known as 7000 Romaine.

New ConstructionNew construction throughout the area shows a thriving Hollywood

Who would have guessed that a young producer who took up residence at Metropolitan Studios to shoot a World War I epic Hell’s Angels would create his own empire and become a legend known as much for his business ventures as his eccentricity—Howard Hughes?

                Although initially purchased for the color film lab, the Romaine headquarters at 7000 Romaine would become the command center for all things Hughes. He oversaw his tool company, his film projects, and later his airline ventures all from these offices. Today, the building looks pretty much the same as it did during Hughes's time there.

Further east and not within the boundaries of the district, Godfather Paramount Studios is planning to expand its historic lot.  Its parent company Viacom moved its headquarters directly into central Hollywood a few years ago in the redo of Columbia Square. Hollywood’s last major motion picture studio, it shares its end of Melrose Avenue with Raleigh Studios. Raleigh with considerably less acreage still has impressive historic creds.

Within the district, the same is true of RenMar on Cahuenga with its four sound stages and a history going back to the Golden Age. While the past is present everywhere you look in this unpretentious part of Hollywood, there’s no doubt that it’s part of the Hollywood technological renaissance. Milk Studio’s spectacular Hollywood plant is a stunning example of creative new space. Older buildings are also being refurbished and are sought after for their “creative” atmosphere —often with exposed brick and courtyards.

MILK StudiosThe stunning MILK Studios contrasts with art deco Red Studios on Cahuenga

And everywhere it seems, new apartment buildings are being built to house a new generation of talent making its mark in Hollywood.

Where there’s people there is also a demand for services and, another of Hollywood’s emerging industries. Restaurants such as Rao’s, a favorite New York eatery, has taken the Studio Grill and given it its own distinctive look and Italian comfort food fare. Nearby a new offering by Sean Loeffel has opened Spoonfed, a delightful lunch spot with outdoor tables, quick counter service or indoor tablecloth dining.

A favorite of the music industry for three decades, Cat ‘n Fiddle’s new spot is popular with industry types and neighborhood residents. There’s literally something for everyone. You may not be rubbing elbows with recognized celebrity clientele, but here you will mingle among those who really make Hollywood happen.

And tucked here and there along Santa Monica Blvd. is the Theatre District with several live theatres providing the opportunity for actors to return to the stage to hone their craft while waiting for their next sitcom, drama or commercial. The Complex with its 5 stages, The Blank Theatre at 2 nd Stage and the Hudson Theatres attract audiences looking for entertainment or producers casting their next production.

Also adding cultural interest to the district are a number of art galleries lining Highland Avenue including the well-respected KP Projects Gallery on Santa Monica Blvd., and Jeffrey Deitch’s gallery on Orange steps from the Howard Hughes building.

Ever changing and evolving, major Hollywood studios and its Media District are poised for future growth both in construction and in content. With the advent of 5G, new platforms will be developed and the creative genius and talent of generations to come will continue to make Hollywood the entertainment capital of the world.