Some of the first talkies were produced at Hollywood Center Studios in the 1920s.
HOLLYWOOD—The 1927 Warner Bros. film The Jazz Singer is widely credited with ushering in the era of movie sound. Although not the first Hollywood picture to feature sound—that honor goes to Don Juan, released a year earlier—it was the first to include synchronized dialogue and its enormous success touched off a mad dash among movie studios and production companies to jump on the talkie bandwagon.
Al and Charles Christie, owners of Metropolitan Studios (now Hollywood Center Studios) were among the early converts to the idea of sound and quickly had two of their stages outfitted with Vitaphone equipment, the same system Warner Bros. used to produce The Jazz Singer. They promptly rechristened the lot Metropolitan Sound Studios.
The first sound feature produced at Metropolitan was Black Waters, a now lost 1929 crime drama based on a Broadway play. Starring James Kirkwood and Mary Brian (who was known as “the sweetest girl in pictures”), the film was also the first “all talkie” produced by a British company; British and Dominions Film Corporation brought the production to Hollywood because no suitable sound equipment could be found in England. The film was directed by Marshall Nielan, who also wrote the story for a much more famous talkie shot on the Metropolitan lot, the Howard Hughes epic Hell’s Angels.
In the Vitaphone system, sound was recorded to 33 1/3 rpm discs and played back on a turntable synchronized to a film projector. The shortcomings of the system were famously satirized in the 1952 MGM musical Singin’ in the Rain. They were also the reason that Vitaphone lost out in a format war with Movietone, a system where sound was recorded on film. Within a few years, Vitaphone was no longer used for movies.
Sound, of course, remained, as did the two sound stages. Now known as Stage 1 and Stage 2 at Hollywood Center Studios, they continue to be used virtually every day by television, commercial and film productions.
About Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood Center Studios has a rich and colorful history that mirrors the development of Hollywood and the growth of the entertainment industry. The studio has played host to some of the most notable productions of the past century, including such iconic television shows as I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, Jeopardy, Rockford Files and Mad TV, and classic film productions such as When Harry Met Sally and The Player. In recent years, Hollywood Center Studios has continued to grow and modernize to support its large television clientele which includes Disney, NBC, Comedy Central and MTV. Hollywood Center Studios remains a vital part of the Hollywood community and a place where entertainment history continues to be made every day.
Hollywood Center Studios is located at 1040 N. Las Palmas Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90038. For more information, call (323) 860-0000 or visit www.HollywoodCenter.com.