Thomas H. Ince Studio at 9336 Washington Blvd
After Thomas Ince's alliance with D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett went sour, he entered into a five-year lease agreement with Harry Culver for a new 14 acre studio fronting on Washington Blvd., east of the first studio. It took two years to build the Thomas H. Ince Studio at 9336 Washington Blvd. Reminiscent of Mount Vernon, a December 1, 1918 Los Angeles newspaper called it a "motion picture plant that looks like a beautiful Southern estate." The studio was planned by Meyer and Holler of the Milwaukee Building Company.
Ince, a visionary in the industry, and actor turned producer, promoted the glamour of moviemaking with a reverence. He entertained the King and Queen of Belgium, and President Woodrow Wilson. The administration building became a well-known landmark, and Ince was rapidly expanding his successful facility. In the early days, the studio fire chief also acted as the city fire chief.
But in November of 1924, amidst clouded circumstances, Thomas Harper Ince fell ill on William Randolph Hearst's yacht, and reportedly died of a heart attack at home within the week. His wife Elinor K. Ince, once a talent agent, took the reins until the next year, when it became De Mille Studios.
Harry Culver spoke at the rededication, and Cecil B. De Mille became famous for his big budget movies, like King of Kings, (the first movie shown at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre). De Mille worked out a deal with Producers Distributing Corp. (PDC) and Cinema Corp. of America was formed as a holding company for PDC and De Mille Pictures Corp. Keith-Albee-Orpheum purchased half interest in PDC and Radio Corp. of America bought in. Pathe Exchange Inc. merged with PDC/K-A-O/DeMille to become RKO in 1928, RKO-Pathe in 1930. Backlot acreage was added just south of the studio in 1931. Joseph Kennedy, who attempted to raise movies to an art form, had a financial interest in the studio during the Pathe years. Some of the stars working in those early years were Bette Davis, Robert Mitchum, Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. King Kong was released in 1933, and those sets were later torched to make movie magic as "the burning of Atlanta" for Gone with the Wind. By 1935, the studio was known as Selznick International. David O. Selznick was the son-in-law of MGM studio chief, Louis B. Mayer, which explains GWTH's MGM's release. A Star is Born, Intermezzo, Rebecca and Citizen Kane also contributed to the studio's fame. Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock enjoyed great success on the lot. In the early 50s, even with Howard Hughes' backing, RKO went downhill.
The Desilu name appeared on the lawn about 1956, and for the next 15 years, television was most important. The back lot provided locals with peeks at series like "The Untouchables", "Hogan's Heroes", the "Real Mc Coys," and "Lassie." The studio was sold in 1968 to Perfect Film and Chemical, which unloaded the back lot, then to OSF Industries in 1969, and become Culver City Studios in 1970.
In 1977, the studio became Laird International Studios, a rental facility. When Laird filed Chapter 11 in 1986, Grant Tinker and Gannett (USA Today), paired to purchase the lot as GTG Entertainment. It became The Culver Studios. Studio chief Jack Kindberg led a model renovation effort to render it a state of the art functional facility. The City of Culver City designated several buildings Landmark and Significant structures. Acreage in the next block was acquired, but construction was held in abeyance as the partnership was dissolved to leave Gannett a long distance owner. The famed lot where Spielberg filmed "ET" was up for sale, and in 1991 it became a part of the Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) family. During that decade, SPE also completed their plans for a new structure in the block east of the studio. Today, Mr. Kindberg is president of operations for both lots that Thomas Ince built in Culver City.