Itinerary: Heart of Screenland, Culver City

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Section of the Wizard of Oz public art piece on the Sony Lot in Culver City, CA

The Oscars are less than one month from now. If you are visiting during this time of year you may be wondering what you want to do while you are in Los Angeles. The next posts will be the daily itineraries I put together for the Oscar visit.

DAY 1: THURSDAY [Culver City, CA]

Tour of Sony Studios, nee MGM Studios

In the early 1900s a real estate man from Nebraska named Harry Culver set on a mission to lure movie studios to the middle of nowhere. Seeing it now it is hard to believe that Culver City was once that place. A land of vast barley fields, the perfect setting for the Wizard of Oz which was filmed at Culver Studios a few years after Culver City was incorporated. In 1924 the iconic MGM studios which brought you Gone With the Wind, Ben Hur, Singing in the Rain, and more films than I can ever mention set up shop in Culver City. Between Culver Studios, MGM, and outposts for RKO and Pathé. It was actually Culver City, not Hollywood, that was the heart of screenland.

Many of those studios are gone now.  What was once MGM now sits Sony Picture Studios. It was at that I decided to start the itinerary. This was before the troubles, before the hacking, before the Interview.

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Hepburn building on the Sony Studio lot.

This 2 hour plus walking tour focuses a lot on the history of that place. The blocks between Overland and Madison, Culver and Washington. It doesn’t necessarily focus on Sony per se. Although you are touring current television show and movie sets, our guide Tony (Rhymes with Sony) was quick to point out a buildings historical context.

We toured the Jeopardy set (if you are inclined to try out remember to smile), sound stages, and my favorite the backdrop painting building. It is really amazing to see the time put in, the size of some of these backdrops are bigger than my apartment building, and a handicraft that can not be replicated by technology.

Cost of the tour is $40

Happy Hour at the Culver Hotel

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Culver Hotel and Lobby Bar in Culver City

The Culver Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Culver City and celebrated its 90th birthday last year with a 20s Prohibition Ball. (Although I was disappointed that they didn’t make it an annual thing.) The Hollywood Regency decor of plush velvet sofas were perfect for after 2.5 hours of walking in unseasonably warm Los Angeles. This is one of the few places that you can truly lounge during happy hour. Very often they project classic movies on the wall across from the bar. You can sip on your Dirty Harry while watching Casablanca During weekend brunch they have a jazz duo that plays. The entertainment schedule is online.

The service isn’t the most attentive, but there is free popcorn.

Happy Hour is 4 to 7 on weekdays

Getting here: Harry Culver once boasted that “all roads lead to Culver City” it is finally getting to be that way again. This area of Culver City is served by L.A. Metro’s Expo line, 733, and 33, the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus lines 12, R12, and 5, and the Culver City busses 1 and 3.

For Further Reading:

Greta Garbo: A Life Apart by Karen Swenson

KCET’s web article “Culver City: From Barley Field’s to the Heart of Screenland” by Nathan Masters

3 responses to “Itinerary: Heart of Screenland, Culver City

  1. Pingback: This Ugly Beautiful Itinerary #1 | This Ugly Beautiful City·

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