It all started with one man with enough money to buy a large tract of land, H. J. Whitley, the “Father of Hollywood.” As is evident in the Hollywood we know today, Whitley had more than just a deep pocket, but also a vision. To create a thriving new area ten miles west of L.A., he started to curate business in his newly purchased bit of land. By 1900, Hollywood had a post office, newspaper, hotel, and two markets – the building blocks of any great society. And speaking of building, in 1902 Whitley built the Hollywood Hotel to attract land buyers. He created quite a stir by spending a lot of money for electric lighting to the first residential area, Ocean View Tract. He even built a bank and road for the area. 1910, in the middle of prohibition, Hollywood merged with Los Angeles to secure an adequate water supply.
This connection to the city of Los Angeles provided more than just water, as major motion-picture companies began to set up in or near L.A. . Interesting enough, Hollywood had a ban on movie theaters, but not on production. The first major film shot in Hollywood was inside Whitley’s home and property. This lead to other companies setting up in Hollywood, including Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO and Columbia pictures. These companies fled to Hollywood to escape strict rules imposed by Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company in New Jersey. Basically, they did it to dodge the patent monopoly that existed in the East. Because of the influx of such businesses, commercial and retail success polarized to a specific niche, movies. Nicknames like Tinseltown and Movie Biz City started circulating the nation, adding to Hollywood’s image as the film mecha of the United States.
The 1950s provided an explosion of infrastructure in Hollywood – the Hollywood Freeway, Capitol Records Building, and Walk of Fame where all erected during this period. The ‘50s created many of the landmarks that create Hollywood’s image today.
Mainly, movies are made in Hollywood because of the big shift in film production companies to the west coast in the early twentieth century in order to dodge strict patent laws. The large distance provided excess time for advanced warning that the Eastern Edison company was coming to investigate and see if their patents were being violated, and a quick trip to Mexico was an easy option for hiding. What survived the ages was a film industry that wasn’t just producing content, but also infrastructure that branded Hollywood as an American hallmark. What shouldn’t be ignored is Whitley’s ability to judge the buyers of land and facilitate the building of a community of filmmakers, and to contribute with his own content too. It really was perfect timing, as the beginning of the twentieth century welcomed moving pictures and Hollywood’s existence; and the late ‘50s brought in television to a Hollywood that already had the industry cornered.
Today, Hollywood is still the mecca for large film production agencies, but you can also find producers of film and television in any major city, such as New York City and Atlanta.