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Sunset Gower Studios is a 14-acre (57,000 m2) television and movie studio at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Established in 1912, it continues today as Hollywood’s largest independent studio and an active facility for television and film production on its twelve soundstages.
The studios were originally founded by Columbia Pictures Studios movie mogul Harry Cohn in 1918 in the Poverty Row area of Hollywood. Poverty Row was the area bounded by Sunset Boulevard on the North, Gower Street on the West, and Beachwood Drive on the East.
Poverty Row was a collection of small warehouses and offices where independent film makers gathered to buy “short ends” of film from the major studios, in order to create their “great American dreams”. On January 10, 1924, Columbia Pictures Corporation was born. By 1929, the familiar image of the lady with the torch was beginning to make an impact on the Hollywood scene.
The Sunset Gower Studios lot, the home of such classics as Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night in 1934, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939, Funny Girl and The Caine Mutiny, has continued to host productions of top new films such as The Good Shepherd and The Good German. Television programs which have occupied several sound stage most notably include current series Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder and ended series Heroes, Dexter, NewsRadio, The Amanda Show, Deal or No Deal, City Guys, Six Feet Under, JAG, Married… with Children, Soap, That’s So Raven, The Donna Reed Show, Father Knows Best, I Dream of Jeannie (which also used the “Father Knows Best” exterior house and “Donna Reed Show” interior living room), Bewitched, the first four seasons of The Golden Girls, the final three seasons of The Facts of Life, and the final two seasons of Silver Spoons.
In 1958 at age 66, Harry Cohn died. His memorial service was held on stages 12 and 14 at the studios (there is no stage 13).
Without the guidance of the Cohn Brothers, Columbia Pictures Corporation was not the profit-making company it once was. Between 1970 and 1972, Columbia moved from the 14-acre (57,000 m2) lot, and joined forces with Warner Bros. in Burbank. Its “back lot” on which all the great Columbia westerns were made on Hollywood Way in Burbank became the property of Warner Bros.
Columbia Pictures Corporation, renamed “Columbia Pictures Industries, Incorporated” after merging with its subsidiary Screen Gems in 1968, became a film entity without real estate. A large list of successful films were produced during this time, and in 1982, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. was sold to The Coca Cola Company for $750 million
The lot, in the meantime, sat fallow. In 1977 the property was purchased by the Pick Vanoff Company for $6.2 million. The name was changed to “Sunset Gower Studios” and the lot became a rental facility for independent film companies. It was also used in the seventies as a music rehearsal facility catering to such music greats as Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Ringo Starr, Frank Zappa, and Olivia Newton-John. For a time stages 12 and 14 became indoor tennis courts.
In November 2004, Sunset Gower Studios was purchased by GI Partners for an estimated $105 million, and in 2006 began construction on a six-story building for Technicolor SA.
In August 2007, Sunset Gower Studios was bought by Hudson Capital. The Technicolor building opened its doors in 2008. Since 2007, the studio has been undergoing both interior and exterior improvements on the lot. Sunset Gower Studios is now working closely with its sister company Sunset Bronson Studios, located just a couple of blocks west on the site of the original Warner Bros. lot (1923-37), formerly owned by Tribune Broadcasting.