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The early history of the UA studio lot: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formose Avenue in 1922. 

"The Lot"

The History of the United Artists Lot (also known as the Samuel Goldwyn Studio)

by J. A. Aberdeen

1041 North Formosa Avenue
Hollywood, California

When United Artists was formed in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith, the founders never intended the company to be like a regular Hollywood studio. It started solely as a distribution company. Its mission was to release films made by independent producers, therefore it had no studio lot. However, many of the independent producers owned their own property, like the Charlie Chaplin Studio on Sunset Boulevard.

The closest thing to a studio lot was the 18-acre property owned by Pickford and Fairbanks on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue in Hollywood. It was originally owned by Jesse Durham Hampton, and then became known as the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio. As United Artists began to lure independent producers away from the major studios, many of the producers like Samuel Goldwyn and Joseph Schenck rented offices and stages on the property. In the early 1920s, the lot was renamed the United Artists Studio, though it was operated as a separate entity from United Artists the distribution company.

Goldwyn and Schecnk financed the expansion of the studio, creating an awkward ownership structure. Pickford and Fairbanks controlled the deed to the land, but Goldwyn and Scheck owned the actual facilities on the lot. In 1935 when Scheck left United Artists, Goldwyn took over his share. And when Fairbanks died in 1939, Pickford reclaimed his portion. Thus Mary Pickford and Samuel Goldwyn remained joint owners of the land, which caused bitter arguments over the years, as both were head-strong independents, but neither had clear majority control.

When Goldwyn left United Artist under strained conditions in 1940, he renamed the lot the Samuel Goldwyn Studio, over the protest of Mary Pickford, who still owned half the property. Goldwyn and Pickford bickered over the studio until their disagreement created a deadlock that landed them in court, and put the lot up for sale at auction in 1955. Goldwyn, assisted by James Mulvey, outbid Pickford, and became sole owner of the property.

The lot provided a home for many independent production companies over the years, and continued to be known as the Samuel Goldwyn Studio until 1980. Among the famous movies filmed there were Wuthering Heights (1939), Some Like It Hot (1959), and West Side Story (1959). Television producers also called the studio home, including Sid & Marty Krofft. In 1977, after when George Lucas had wrapped principle photography on Star Wars at the Elstree Studio in England, he re-shot some of the Cantina scenes at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio.

The UA-Samuel Goldwyn Studio, now known as The Lot (1998).

In 1980 Warner Bros. purchased the site as an auxiliary to its Burbank headquarters, and renamed it the Warner Hollywood Studio. After Warner sold the property to a private film company in 1999, it remained in operation with a new identity called The Lot.


CLICK HERE for more information on the UA-Samuel Goldwyn Studio, now known as The Lot.



United Artists Studio lot: Carey, Doug and Mary, p. 90.
Paramount-First National alleged merger and the formation of United Artists: Balio, United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars, pp. 11-24; Chaplin, My Autobiography, pp. 219-226; Pickford, p. 110-116. "We also think that", Moving Picture World, February 1, 1919, p. 619, also quoted in Balio, p. 13.
Samuel Goldwyn Studio-“History,” Warner Hollywood Studios: http://www.warnerhollywood.com. In 1999, Warner Bros. agreed to sell the property to a real estate investment firm for $65 million: Chris Gennusa and David Robb, “Warner Hollywood Sold,” HR, December 9, 1999, pp. 1, 34.

See Bibliography.


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