This Week in L.A. History: The Birth of Hollywood Cinema

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On March 10, 1910, famed film director D.W. Griffith releases the first motion picture ever made in Hollywood: the short silent film In Old California.

Before Hollywood became home to the stars, it became the dream film location for silent movie director D. W. Griffith. During his visits to Los Angeles, Griffith fell in love with the Hollywood landscape and sought its beautiful scenery for his next project, In Old California, a 17-minute melodrama on Mexican and Spanish-occupied California in the early 19th century.

The film was released by motion picture distributor Biograph Company, the first movie company in America. Griffith shot the silent melodrama in two days close to the historic Hollywood Hotel. The film did not receive the critical acclaim that Griffith’s 1915 silent drama The Birth of a Nation received, but it did help transform Hollywood into the movie capital of the world. When In Old California was released in 1910, New York produced the highest number of motion pictures. By 1920, Los Angeles was the number one producer of motion pictures, and major film companies, including Paramount and Columbia Pictures, had opened their studios in Hollywood.

Until the discovery of In Old California in 2004, Cecil’s B. DeMille’s 1914 feature length film The Squaw Man was long considered the first film shot in Hollywood. The movie short was screened later that year at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, marking the first time the public had seen the film since its release. The film can claim another first, as well: it’s the first motion picture to center on a Latino-based storyline.

 

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  1. comment name

    March 13, 2013 at 12:19 am

    What isn’t mentioned here, is that Hollywood began as a third choice, between New York and Arizona. Edison owned the patent on the Nickelodeon, and had sent out his thugs and goons to smash the movie producer’s machines.

    Fleeing west, they landed in Arizona, and probably a few other places, before arriving in the perfect film making situation of Southern California.

    Edison either was unaware of their activity there, or he had simply given-up.