It's located right in the heart of "Gower Gulch," near the corner of Gower Street and Sunset Boulevard) - hence the new name.
Columbia Pictures was founded in 1920 by Harry & Jack Cohn, and during 50 years on this studio lot Columbia gave us a mixture of B-movies (like the Three Stooges movies) and such classic feature films as Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" (1939) and his "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1934).
Other Columbia gems included "Born Yesterday" (1950), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "On The Waterfront" (1954), "The Caine Mutiny" (1954), "Picnic" (1955) "Bell, Book & Candle" (1958), "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "Bye Bye Birdie" (1963), "Dr. Strangelove," and "Fail Safe" (1964). In later years, they brought us "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967), "Oliver! " (1968), "Funny Girl" (1968). The stars of those films included Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Jimmy Stewart, Judy Holiday, William Holden, Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Henry Fonda, Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon and Barbra Streisand.
M-G-M, which was a star's studio, Columbia borrowed most of its stars from
other studios. When M-G-M wanted to punish their actors, they used to loan
their stars to Columbia. In one instance, the honchos at M-G-M thought
they were "punishing" a young Clark
Gable when they exiled him to Columbia
to make a "minor picture" called "It Happened One Night"
- the hit movie that made Gable a star.
In 1972, Columbia left its Hollywood studios at Sunset & Gower (to save money) and moved over the hill to the San Fernando Valley, where they shared "Burbank Studios" with Warner Bros.
In their new Burbank location,
Columbia made "The Last Picture Show" (1971), "The
Way We Were" (1973), "Shampoo (1975), "Taxi Driver"
(1976), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977),
"Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979), "The China Syndrome"
(1979), "The Blue Lagoon" (1980), "Tootsie"
(1982), and "The Karate Kid" (1988). The new stars
there included Cybill Shepherd,
Robert De Niro,
and Brooke Shields.
In 1978, Columbia Pictures made the Guinness Book of World Records by paying the highest price ever paid ($9,500,000.) for the rights to the Broadway stage hit "Annie" (which, as it turned out, wasn't the wisest investment in the studio's illustrious history.)
But eventually, Columbia was bought by Sony Entertainment of Japan, and they finally settled into the historic M-G-M Studios lot in Culver City, where they remain today, along with Sony's other label, TriStar Pictures.
Now that Columbia has moved on, the old studio lot they deserted isn't just sitting idly by. The re-named "Sunset-Gower Studios" no longer has a permanent film production company to call its own (hence the geographical name), but it keeps busy renting out its ample sound stages for assorted television and indie movie productions. The studio employees between 2,500 and 3,000 people, depending upon the time of year.
As of 2008, the two major productions on the lot are NBC's "Heroes" and Showtime's hit serial killer, "Dexter".
In recent years, they filmed the NBC series "American Dreams" and the HBO series "Six Feet Under" here. as well as "JAG," "Moesha," "Blossom," "Married With Children," "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Who's the Boss?" and "The John Larroquette Show" were taped at Sunset-Gower. In fact, although Columbia's film division is long gone, their television division remains on the lot.
The Sunset-Gower Studios offer no public tour of this historic lot, but sometimes there is a way to get inside the walls, just the same. You will notice when you drive past the studio that there are large posters mounted on the outside walls that advertise television shows that are being taped inside.
The public is invited to the live tapings of these sitcoms when they take place. To find out whether anything is taping there right now, call "Audiences Unlimited" (see separate page), and ask them if there are any free tickets to shows taped at Sunset-Gower. Then you can go inside to watch the TV taping, and walk into the studio which gave us "Gandhi," "A Man For All Seasons" and "Ghostbusters."
In late 2008, Sunset-Gower studio was merged with KTLA studios
(next door), to create the new Capital Studios.
The lot will be known as "Capital Studios at Sunset Gower", while
KTLA will be known as "Capital Studios at Bronson". Together,
the new studio will cover 28 acres, with 23 sound stages and 700,000 square
feet of office production space.
Getting there: the studio is located on Sunset, just west of Fox and KTLA studios. From Hollywood & Vine, take Vine Street south (two blocks) to Sunset Boulevard. Turn left (east) and go three blocks, to the corner of Sunset & Gower. You will find the gated entrance to the studio just east of Gower, on the right (south) side of Sunset.
[You can access the studio's official website at www.sunsetgower.com.]
The new Capital Studios website is at www.shootatcapital.com
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