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Santa Barbara: The First Hollywood

Updated on December 12, 2009
Santa Barbara: The First Hollywood
Santa Barbara: The First Hollywood

The First Hollywood: Santa Barbara

The name Hollywood is known the world over.  The name signifies the movie industry and represents the dreams and hopes of thousands of aspiring actors.  However, many do not know that the Hollywood of today, which is located near Los Angeles, was not the original center of the movie industry.  To see the first Movie Mecca, one would have to travel one and a half hours north up the coast of the Pacific Ocean, to the beautiful city of Santa Barbara.

 

Santa Barbara: Both Coastal And Mountainside
Santa Barbara: Both Coastal And Mountainside
Santa Barbara Was Built With Spanish Influences Including One Of California's Missions
Santa Barbara Was Built With Spanish Influences Including One Of California's Missions

Santa Barbara: Scenic Beauty

Santa Barbara is located 85 miles North of Los Angeles.  It is a coastal city set on a Peninsula and is famous for its Mediterranean climate.  The beaches are clean and beautiful. The City was built with Spanish influences and houses one of California’s missions. 

Santa Barbara also sits alongside a small mountain range.  So from many points in the city one can see the ocean to one side and mountains to the next.  In the early 1900s, Santa Barbara was mostly an agricultural area known for its abundance of fruits and vegetables.  . 

                                                                                                    

Studios Like Flying A Flourished In Santa Barbara Until The 20s When Most Moved To Los Angeles
Studios Like Flying A Flourished In Santa Barbara Until The 20s When Most Moved To Los Angeles

Movie Center: Santa Barbara

From 1910 through 1920, Santa Barbara was the center of the growing silent movie industry.  The most famous studio to set up in Santa Barbara during that time was the Flying A studios, which had offices located in the heart of Santa Barbara that took up almost two blocks.   Built on an abandoned Ostrich farm, Flying A Studios flourished in Santa Barbara using the availability of workers, the ocean views and the neighboring mountains as background to many silent films.  The hillsides were very important as westerns were the most popular type of movies in those days.  Stars that graced Flying A Studios were Lon Chaney and Victor Fleming.  In total, Flying A Studios made nearly 1,200 films in Santa Barbara. 

 

Despite The Studios Leaving, Santa Barbara Still Has A Vibrant Movie Scene
Despite The Studios Leaving, Santa Barbara Still Has A Vibrant Movie Scene
Sideways Showcased The Santa Barbara Area's Wine Industry And Beautiful Scenery
Sideways Showcased The Santa Barbara Area's Wine Industry And Beautiful Scenery

The end of an era

However, by 1921, the movie industry’s run in Santa Barbara was coming to a finish. Flying A Studios, based in Chicago was not doing very well. Many of the other studios looked to Los Angeles as a new home as it was closer to more Capital and other resources. Further, an Earthquake in Santa Barbara in 1925 drove many studios away, and ironically, most of those studios settled in Los Angeles. Lastly, the Great Depression virtually ended the day to day studios remaining in Santa Barbara.

However, the movie scene did not leave Santa Barbara entirely. Every year, Santa Barbara hosts an International Film Festival. Not as well known as Cannes, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is an Eleven Day event that is growing in size and prestige each year. Further, while the studios may have left Santa Barbara, many movies are still filmed there. Scenes from the Graduate were filmed on location in Santa Barbara. More recently, the film Sideways was filmed in Santa Ynez and other areas surrounding Santa Barbara and showcased the area’s great wine industry.

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    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR

      bgpappa 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I went to UCSB too. Lived on campus freshman year then various places in IV.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Entourage_007 profile image

      Stuart 

      8 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      I also went to college there bgpappa, Great article. Where did you live in Santa Barbara?

    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR

      bgpappa 

      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I went to college there. It is an amazing place. Great weather, great food, great culture. For all of that, very expensive. You should go. Let me know if you do, I will give you some tips.

      Thanks for reading.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      As always, you find interesting historical subjects and write about them with just the right amount of information. I had a friend move to Santa Barbara a few years and he said it was the most wonderful place to live in the country. I have been to LA a couple of times, and San Diego once but never Santa Barbara. I'll have to make that trip someday. Thanks for the information that was new to me.

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