Seeing Stars: The Movie Studios


10201 Pico Boulevard (at Avenue of the Stars),
Century City, CA. / (310) 277-2211


At the southern edge of ultra modern Century City, you'll find what remains of the grand old studios of 20th Century Fox.

Century City, with its glitzy array of hotels, shopping centers and towering skyscrapers, was built on what used to be the back lot of the 20th Century Fox movie studio, which is why they called the new complex "Century City." The studio sold the land to developers in 1961, after losing a vast sum of money on the making of Elizabeth Taylor's "Cleopatra."

Founded in 1913 by William Fox, the studio had begun producing the famous Movietone Newsreels (the precursor of today's network newscasts) even before they moved to their current location.

Fox had opened their studios in Century City in 1928, on land which used to be the personal ranch of Western movie star Tom Mix. Seven years later, Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures (which had been founded in 1933 by Daryll Zanuck, after he left Warner Brothers), and the company became 20th Century Fox in 1935.

In the years since, 20th Century Fox Studios has produced such memorable films as: "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), "Rebecca" (1940), "Song of Bernadette" (1943), "Laura" (1944), "State Fair" (1945), the original "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947, and its 1997 remake), "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), "The Robe" (1953), "Cleopatra" (1963), "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Hello Dolly" (1969), "Patton" (1970), the original "M*A*S*H" (1970), "The French Connection" (1971), "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), "Romancing the Stone" (1984), "Cocoon" (1985), "Die Hard" (1988), "Predator" (1987) and "Home Alone" (1990).

Prior to the release of "Titanic," the studio's biggest hit was 1977's "Star Wars," which still ranks as the second highest-grossing movie of all time, if you adjust for inflation (behind only "Gone With the Wind".

 They did almost as well with its two sequels, "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (1983)

In fact, 20th Century Fox has always had good luck with movie sequels. Fox gave us the fourteen "Sherlock Holmes" mysteries starring Basil Rathbone, as well as the five "Planet of the Apes" adventures (1968-1973), three thrillers based on 1976's "The Omen," and the many "Alien" films starring Sigourney Weaver.

The names of the actors and actresses who have worked on the Fox lot are equally impressive. Little Shirley Temple made most of her classic musicals here. Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Fonda, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Richard Burton, Natalie Wood, Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Gene Hackman, Julie Andrews, Charlton Heston, Tyrone Power, Jean Harlow, Sonja Henie, Gregory Peck, Don Ameche, Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Will Rogers, Susan Hayward, Carmen Miranda, Milton Berle, Caesar Romero, Roddy McDowall, Jeanne Crain, Bruce Willis, and Barbra Streisand (to just to name a few) all made films on this famous back lot.

20th Century Fox's epic "All About Eve" was nominated for more Academy Awards (fourteen) than any other motion picture in the history of Hollywood (although it actually won "only" six Oscars, including Best Picture of 1950). 1963's "Cleopatra" was the most expensive film ever made at its time, and its star, Elizabeth Taylor, still holds the world record for the most costumes changes in a single movie (she wore 64 different costumes in that one Egyptian epic). It was a major money-loser for Fox.

In 1956, Elvis Presley made his first movie for Fox: "Love Me Tender."

In 1960, at the height of the Cold War, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States and asked to see Disneyland. When they turned down his request to tour the Magic Kingdom, they brought the angry Khrushchev to the 20th Century Fox Studios for lunch instead, where they let him watch the making of the musical "Can Can" (starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine). He didn't seem to enjoy the experience... Actor Ronald Reagan was invited to the lunch, but refused to come.

If you head south down the posh Avenue of the Stars, you'll see the Twentieth Century Fox studios on your right side just before you turn right (west) onto Pico Boulevard. Most of the studio's back lot was sold off when Century City was developed, and some of the studio's facilities have been relocated elsewhere to make room for the shopping center. But a good part of the old Fox studios have survived and still remain busy making movies and TV dramas.

Recent theatrical releases from Fox included the mega-hit "Avatar", plus the "X-Men" series, the "Die Hard" seies, "Love and Other Drugs ", "Black Swan", "Knight & Day", "The Chronicles of Narnia", "Horton Hears a Who!", "Marley & Me", "Australia", "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "The Wrestler", "Taken", "Juno," "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "Alien vs. Predator," "Night at the Museum," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Borat," "Cheaper By the Dozen,"  "I, Robot," "Garfield," "Master & Commander,"   "Daredevil," "Minority Report," "The Road to Perdition," "Unfaithful," "Cast Away," "Fight Club,"  the blockbuster "Titanic" (the highest-grossing movie of all time), "There's Something About Mary," "Hope Floats," "Ever After," "The X Files," "Hope Floats," "Independence Day," the "Home Alone" movies,  "Speed," "That Thing You Do," "A Walk In The Clouds," "Waiting To Exhale," "True Lies," and "Mrs. Doubtfire," adding star names to the Fox roster such as Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, Keanu Reeves, Drew Barrymore, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, John Travolta, Jodie Foster, Robin Williams, Cameron Diaz, Patrick Stewart and Daniel Day-Lewis.

For television, The ABC show "Castle" is filmed at Fox studios.

Fox TV gave us  "The Simpsons", "Glee", "New Girl", "Bones" and "The Following", and also made the hits "24," "House", "Boston Legal," "Prison Break,"  "Malcolm in the Middle,"  "My Name is Earl" and others. Earlier, they also gave us "Buffy the Vampire Slayer,"  "Angel," "Ally McBeal," "Boston Public", "Roswell" and "The X-Files."

The studio is now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which also owns the Fox Television Network.

Despite a fire which ravaged the back lot a few years back, the studio even still retains some of the historic sets from the good old days. If you look carefully at the back lot as you drive by, you should be able to glimpse a portion of the colorful, turn of the century New York street set where "Hello Dolly" was filmed (with Barbra Streisand).

  • You can see vintage photos of the Fox backlot (including the "Hello Dolly" set) by clicking here.

Alas, the studio doesn't offer public tours. They do tape TV shows here, but only a few sitcoms or shows requiring a live studio audience. For instance, "NYPD Blue" and "The X-Files" were both lensed at the 20th Century Fox Studios, but neither one required a live audience.

However, there are occasionally sitcoms being taped at Fox, such as "Joe, Joe & Jane", and previously "Reba" (with Reba McEntire). Contact "Audiences Unlimited" and/or Paramount Guest Relations at (323) 956-1777 to find out if there's anything taping there right now.

The Fox studio also occasionally offers sneak previews of its new films (on the lot) through giveaways on local radio stations. And their "legendary" commissary is available for rent to groups.

Incidentally, while you're in the area, you might be interested in a few more details about the surrounding area known as Century City.

Given the area's movie history, many people assume that the name of the Century City's main street, "Avenue of the Stars" refers to movie stars. They are mistaken. The project was imagined as a city of the future, and thus its streets are named "Galaxy," "Constellation," and "Avenue of the Stars."

But today it could just as accurately refer to Hollywood royalty as to heavenly luminaries. The giant Fox Tower on Avenue of the Stars was featured as the skyscraper taken over by terrorists in the original "Die Hard" movie with Bruce Willis. And up until his death Ronald Reagan still had his offices on the top floor of that building.

The Hyatt Regency Hotel next door was blown up in 1993 thriller "Point of No Return" (with Bridget Fonda). And the whole neighborhood came tumbling down in "Fight Club".

Rock star Prince/ opened his Paisley Records offices at 1999 Avenue of the Stars ("1999," get the pun?)

The twin Century Plaza Towers were featured on TV in both "Remington Steele" and "Moonlighting", and the fountains on Avenue of the Stars have been seen in many films and TV shows. Just around the corner (at 1888 Century Park East) is the headquarters of Orion Pictures. The ABC television network had its corporate headquarters in the ABC Entertainment Center (until they moved into the Valley), which is across the street from the Century Plaza Hotel - where many U.S. Presidents stay when they're in town. The Shubert Theatre is nearby (but not for long). Steven Spielberg once opened a restaurant of his own in the Century City Shopping Center; called "Dive! ", patterned after a submarine. Unfortunately, it sank.

Just across Pico Blvd from the 20th Century Fox Studios is the famous Hillcrest Country Club. Back in the 1940's, when most golf courses discriminated against Jews, Hillcrest was an exclusively Jewish country club, attracting movie stars such as Jack Benny, George Burns, Groucho Marx, and Danny Kaye. (Producer Louis B. Mayer punched producer Sam Goldwyn in the showers here.) When the club eventually decided to open up membership to those not of the Jewish faith, their first choice for a new member was Danny Thomas (a Lebanese Catholic), prompting one member to remark: "If we're going to let in a gentile, can't we at least pick one who looks like a gentile?"

Getting there: From Rodeo Drive, simply turn southwest on Santa Monica Boulevard and follow it (about one mile) to Avenue of the Stars. Turn left (east) on Avenue of the Stars and go east another mile to Pico Blvd. The studio will be on your right (northwest) side as you turn right (west) at Pico.


[For more information on this subject, you can access Fox's official websites at: http://www.fox.com and http://www.foxhome.com.]



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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