“That spot is hallowed f*cking ground.” So says Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple) in the premiere episode of “The Offer” while describing the Bronson Gate at Paramount Pictures, where a ready-for-her-close-up Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) drove onto the fabled lot in the 1950 classic “Sunset Boulevard.” Truth be told, virtually every square inch of the studio is hallowed ground, though! From the Bronson Gate to Lucy Park to New York Street, each of the facility’s 56 acres is thoroughly steeped in Hollywood history.
The only major studio still located in Tinseltown, the Paramount Pictures juggernaut as we know it today dates back to 1912 when Hungarian producer Adolph Zukor established his first production company, Famous Players, and began releasing films via the Paramount Pictures Corporation, a distribution concern owned by William W. Hodkinson. As detailed in the book “Los Angeles Attractions,” “Paramount also distributed the films of the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, which was formed in 1913 by vaudeville musician Jesse Lasky, glove salesman Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) and actor and playwright Cecil B. DeMille. In 1916 Zukor and Lasky merged their two companies, resulting in a production giant called Famous Players-Lasky. Zukor quickly bought out Goldfish and managed to oust Hodkinson and take control of his company, together with its name.” And thus, Paramount Pictures was born.
Initially headquartered in a small barn at Vine St. and Selma Ave., Lasky and Zukor found themselves in need of more space by 1926 and promptly snapped up United Studios, located about a mile away, to serve as Paramount’s new home base. All of the lot’s production buildings were subsequently razed and the then 26-acre site was transformed into a state-of-the-art facility with seven brand new soundstages, contemporary offices and a myriad of sets and backdrops, a project that took eight months to complete at a cost of $750,000. Hollywood real estate prices were soaring at the time, causing most major production companies to flee to less expensive parts of Los Angeles, like Burbank and Culver City. The migration became so prevalent that a 1926 Associated Press article declared, “Hollywood is doomed as the world’s motion picture capital . . . There will not be a single film plant of magnitude left in Hollywood.” But Paramount certainly defied that prediction!