Poverty Row Studios
About Poverty Row Studios
Poverty Row Studios, L.L.C. is owned by
Emmy Award winning TV Host/Executive Producer Christopher Ewing
The 100 years of history of "Poverty Row"
Early 1900's when the square block between Sunset Blvd, Gower St. and Gordon St. and Fountain St. was still farm land.
You could say that "Hollywood" was created because of Thomas Edison.
During the 1890s, Thomas Edison owned most of the major US patents relating to motion picture cameras. The Edison Manufacturing Company's patent lawsuits against each of its domestic competitors crippled the US film industry.
Edison, based in New Jersey, had also been notifying distributors and exhibitors that if they did not use Edison machines and films exclusively, they would be subject to litigation for supporting filmmaking that infringed Edison's patents.
Exhausted by the lawsuits, Edison's competitors, approached him in 1907 to negotiate a licensing agreement, and no further applicants could become licensees. The purpose of the licensing agreement (according to an Edison lawyer) was to "preserve the business of present manufacturers and not to throw the field open to all competitors."
It also kept independent filmmakers, who were not part of his Motion Picture Patents Company (aka "Edison Trust"), from being able to make movies, plain and simple. The MPPC, in essence, established a monopoly on all aspects of filmmaking. George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak) owned the patent on raw film stock and became a member of the trust and, thus, agreed to only sell film stock to other members. Likewise, the trust's control of patents on motion picture cameras and raw film stock ensured that only MPPC studios were able to create a film, and the projector patents allowed the trust to make licensing agreements with distributors and theaters – and, thus, determined who screened the films they made and where they were shown.
The patents owned by the MPPC also allowed them to use “federal law enforcement officials to enforce their licensing agreements and to prevent unauthorized use of their cameras, films, projectors, and other equipment”. In some cases, however, the MPPC made use of its own hired thugs and mob connections to violently disrupt productions that were not licensed by the trust by smashing their cameras, etc.
Many independent filmmakers responded to the creation of the MPPC by moving their operations to Hollywood, California in an attempt to get as far away from Edison's home base of New Jersey as possible to make it more difficult for the MPPC to enforce its patents. Southern California was chosen because of its beautiful year-round weather. Hollywood also had one additional advantage: if a non-licensed studio was caught trying to create a movie, it was only a hundred miles to "run for the border" and get out of the US to Mexico, where the trust's patents were not in effect and, thus, their camera equipment could not be seized.
George Eastman and Thomas Edison
The phrase "Poverty Row"
"Poverty Row" may seem like a strange name to call a studio, but it is actually a phrase that is steeped in Hollywood history.
The phrase "Poverty Row" was a slang term used in Hollywood from the 1920s through the 1950s to refer to a variety of small B-movie studios, many of them were on (or near) today's Gower Street in Hollywood. Bounded by Sunset Boulevard on the North, Gower Street on the West, and Beachwood Drive on the East, the Poverty Row area of Hollywood was a collection of small warehouses and offices where independent filmmakers gathered to buy "short ends" of film from the major studios in order to create their own motion pictures.
The films of Poverty Row, many of which were westerns (including series like "Billy the Kid", or comedy/adventure series such as those featuring "The Bowery Boys" and detectives such as "The Shadow"), were generally characterized by low budgets, casts made up of lower-ranked stars or unknowns, and lesser quality production values.
Studios such as Warner Bros, Disney, Paramount, RKO and Columbia were all once part of "Poverty Row".
CBC Studio (1329 Gordon Street Studio) 'Hallroom Boys Comedies'. Harry Cohn (white shirt) and Jack Cohn (white pants) and studio managers in 1924.
The studios of "Poverty Row" circa 1920.
Before it became Columbia Pictures, the buildings were the Horsley Studios/Laboratories. Nestor Studios was the very first motion picture studio in Hollywood.
Columbia Pictures was founded on June 19, 1918 as Cohn-Brandt-Cohn (CBC) Film Sales by brothers Jack and Harry Cohn, and Jack's best friend, Joe Brandt, and released its first feature film in August 1922. Brandt was president of CBC Film Sales, handling sales, marketing and distribution from New York along with Jack Cohn, while Harry Cohn ran production in Hollywood. The studio's early productions were low-budget short subjects: "Screen Snapshots", the "Hall Room Boys" (the vaudeville duo of Edward Flanagan and Neely Edwards), and the Chaplin imitator Billy West. The start-up CBC leased space in a Poverty Row studio on Hollywood's famously low-rent Gower Street. Among Hollywood's elite, the studio's small-time reputation led some to joke that "CBC" stood for "Corned Beef and Cabbage".
In 1922, Harry Cohn of Cohn-Brandt-Cohn (CBC) Film Sales Corporation rented 6070 Sunset Blvd in Poverty Row. Following its success and a move into feature films in 1926, CBC (under its new name of Columbia Pictures), acquired a Gower Street property with stages previously used by California Studios. In 1928, Columbia's official address became 1438 N. Gower Street, and that year they bought the last piece of land of the old Gower Ranch at 1400 N. Gower Street.
Columbia Pictures back lot
"It Happened One Night", which nearly swept the 1934 Oscars, put Columbia on the map. It has garnered critical acclaim and, to this day, is widely hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. "It Happened One Night" was the first of only three films to win all five major Academy Awards in the same year: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It took over 40 years to be joined by the other two, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Silence of the Lambs". Columbia also produced several other top motion pictures, such as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington",
"The Caine Mutiny" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" to name just a few.
At Harry Cohn's insistence, the studio signed "The Three Stooges" in 1934. Rejected by MGM (which kept straight-man Ted Healy and let the Stooges go), Larry, Moe & Curley made 190 shorts for Columbia between 1934 and 1957. Columbia's short-subject department employed many famous comedians, including Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon, Andy Clyde, and Hugh Herbert. Almost 400 of Columbia's 529 two-reel comedies were released to television between 1958 and 1961.
Columbia also incorporated animation into its studio in 1929, distributing Walt Disney's famous Mickey Mouse cartoons, as well as the Silly Symphonies cartoons until 1932. Also in 1929, Columbia took over distribution of the Krazy Kat series from Paramount Pictures by Charles Mintz. In 1933, The Mintz studio was re-established under the Screen Gems brand; Columbia's leading cartoon series were Krazy Kat, Scrappy, The Fox and the Crow, and (very briefly) Li'l Abner.
Screen Gems was the last major cartoon studio to produce black-and-white cartoons, producing them until 1946. That same year, Screen Gems shut down, but had completed enough cartoons for the studio to release until 1949.
In 1948, Columbia agreed to release animated shorts from United Productions of America; these new shorts were more sophisticated than Columbia's older cartoons, and many won critical praise and industry awards. In 1957, two years before the UPA deal was terminated, Columbia distributed the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Loopy De Loop from 1959 to 1965, which was Columbia's final theatrical cartoon series.
Sunset Blvd. (Gower St. in the foreground, Beechwood Drive, next intersection)
Sunset Gower Studios
Today, the Columbia Pictures lot is called Sunset Gower Studios, which is the home of numerous hit films, as well as some of the most popular television shows in history.
Television programs which have occupied sound stages on the Sunset Gower lot includes classics such as "The Three Stooges", "The Donna Reed Show", "Father Knows Best", "I Dream of Jeannie", "Bewitched", "The Monkees", "The Golden Girls", "Blossom", "JAG", "NewsRadio", "Soap", "Married... with Children", "Saved by the Bell", "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", "Heroes", "Dexter", "Deal or No Deal", "Scandal", "How to Get Away with Murder", "The Newsroom", "Grace & Frankie" and many, many more.
Christopher's Poverty Row Studios is proud to call Sunset Gower home as it continues the historic lot's legacy of
producing outstanding independent productions.
Our current productions include the new kids TV shows "Aunt Molly & Friends", "Rusty's Playhouse"
and new episodes of Christopher's Emmy Award winning series "Hang On to the Dream".
Other productions include the podcasts "William Holden Wildlife Foundation Podcast with Stefanie Powers" ,
"The History of Hollywood with Marc Wanamaker" and many more.
He was a young black kid growing up in a single-parent home in the inner city of Detroit with a love for horses, who fought the obstacles of racism to become one of the top African-American riders in the history of equestrian show jumping. In 1992, Mr. Ewing and one of his horses were inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Besides being an accomplished equestrian, Mr. Ewing is also an actor, T.V. show host and producer. As an actor, he has appeared on such top rated shows as "All My Children", "One Life to Live", "Kate & Allie" and others, plus hundreds of radio & T.V. commercials. He has also been the narrator and /or spokesperson in countless industrial films for General Motors, IBM and many others, as well as Master of Ceremonies for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and more.
He is also the creator, producer and host of "Hang On to the Dream", a unique children’s television newsmagazine which showcases young people who are considered positive role models for others. This program has won the prestigious "Emmy Award" for "Best Children’s & Youth Program", as well as a "Service to Children Television Award" presented on Capitol Hill by the National Association of Broadcasters, which named "Hang On to the Dream" one of the top-10 children’s programs on television. Following the success of that program, Post-Newsweek Inc. developed a talk show which they asked Mr. Ewing to be the host of. The show,"Christopher E!", was a cool, teen-oriented "interactive" talk show which dealt with issues that concern young people. The show was nominated for numerous awards and was highly praised for its unique style, as well as for Mr. Ewing’s hosting abilities.
Mr. Ewing also has "news reporter" on his impressive list of accomplishments. With his own franchise created by Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc. called "The E-Files" (for "Ewing"), Christopher covered teen & young adult topics, as well as celebrity interviews for the 5, 6 & 11pm newscasts on WDIV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit, as well as other affiliates around the country.
Mr. Ewing is a singer/songwriter/producer of music as well, who has written scores for industrial films and commercials, as well as the themes for many of his T.V. shows. The theme for "Hang On to the Dream" received national attention from the media because of its inspirational lyrics.. The late Peter Jennings of "ABC World News Tonight" called the theme for "Hang On to the Dream", "Wonderful, I love it!"
Mr. Ewing is a National Member of the Television Executives Group of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Selected by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to serve as one of their prestigious "Blue Ribbon Judges", Mr. Ewing has served for several years as an annual judge for the Emmy Award competitions, including the "Daytime Emmy Awards” and the "News & Documentary Emmy Awards".
In 2011, Mr. Ewing created the Indie Music Channel, a popular, interactive digital music platform geared to the promotion of up & coming singers and bands. The Indie Music Channel features the music, videos and artist profiles of thousands of independent singers and bands of all genres from around the world. He is also a syndicated DJ for numerous radio stations across the country and is currently the Host & Executive Producer of “Indie Music Cafe”, a popular weekly syndicated television show that airs on major network affiliates across the country. On the show, Christopher features music videos of independent singers and bands from around the world, as well as interviews with top celebrities. He is also the Executive Producer and Host of "The Radio Cafe Top 10 Countdown" radio show which is heard each week around the world on iHeart Radio, Pandora, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and more.
Christopher is also the President and Founder of Hang On to the Dream Foundation, a national, 501(c)(3), non-profit organization that helps kids from across the country by providing them with needed equipment, opportunities and finances in an effort to help them reach their goals in life.
Christopher's television production company, Poverty Row Studios, located at the iconic Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood, is currently producing a number of television and radio shows. When he is not hard at work, he can often be found on the back of a horse competing in showjumping competitions. He also devotes a lot of time to church-related activities and to his outreach efforts of feeding the homeless who live on the streets.
Note from Christopher:
"Click below and watch the BEST documentary you will ever see on the history of
Hollywood, Poverty Row and Sunset Gower!
Directed, written and produced by
an AWESOME filmmaker (and really cool guy), B. Michael Christo."