Biograph Company

906 Girard St., downtown Los Angeles.  Buried underneath the L.A. Convention Center.


Biograph Company

906 Girard St., Los Angeles
Site active 1911-1925
Biograph occupied 1911-1916

In January 1910 the Biograph Company sent its Director General, D.W. Griffith, to the West Coast to determine if it was a suitable place to build a studio.  He brought a company of players with him, found a vacant lot, and begin making movies right away. 

Griffith was already a recognized as the industry's premier director.  He is credited with creating much of the movie "vocabulary" (techniques) we take for granted today. Griffith started as an actor with Biograph.  Among his Biograph associates were Mack  Sennett, who would become the greatest of the early Comedy producer/directors, and Mary Pickford, the biggest actress in the silent era who would own a studio of her own.

Griffith had been promoted from actor to director and quickly became Biograph's Director-General, the man who got the best assignments.  It was clear that Griffith was a director unlike the industry had seen before.  His movies were unlike anything seen before.  Griffith would go on to produce the biggest movies of the silent era.

American Biograph and Mutoscope Company was one of the early giants. It was founded in 1895 by W.K.L Dickson, the man who helped Edison become the man credited with inventing the motion picture (see Edison's biography).  Dickson, along with inventors Herman Casler, Henry Marvin, and businessman Elias Koopman incorporated the American Mutoscope Company in New Jersey on December 30, 1895.  Their product was a machine to play flip card type movies, becoming Edison's chief competitor.  In 1899 the name became American Mutoscope and Biograph Company as they began to make their own movies, and in 1908 it was shortened to just the Biograph Company.

The name Biograph name conjured an image of quality, class, adventure. On a par with its main competitor, Vitagraph of America Company, they both eclipsed the original movie studio, the Edison Company.  These three companies dominated the early film industry.

The company, led by Griffith, landed in L.A. at the corner of what would become Washington and Grand in a vacant lot.  They spent the winter making movies here and by the time they returned to New York Griffith was convinced that Biograph should built a permanent presence in Los Angeles.  The following year they returned to buy land and built a studio.  Biograph would send a seasonal crew every year to shoots movies at its newest movie plant until 1916.

They build on Girard St.

Biograph sent yearly companies from 1910-1916 to shoot in the sunny Los Angeles climate during the East Coast winters.  In January of 1911, they began construction of their Los Angeles studio.  They picked a spot a few blocks away that seemed to meet all their needs.

This studio, located at 906 Girard St. at the corners of the now obliterated streets Girard and Georgia.  The studio consisted of 6 city lots.  The three on the northern border each measure 50' x 150' and the three southern lots were 50' x 200' totaling approximately 1.2 acres.  The small studio occupied nearly 1/3 of the block that was also bound by Sentous St. (now L.A. Live Way) on the west. Over the years they had three stages (55' x 55', 55' x 90', and 75' x 65') that used only natural light only. They also had on-site labs for film processing, set, prop, and costume departments, and business offices.

By 1916 Biograph was out of business (see Biograph main page for details).

Thomas Ince takes over the studio

After Biograph abandoned the site producer/director Thomas Ince use the lot as a temporary home (1917) while he was building his second Culver City studio.  Kalem Co also leased the space.  In 1921 (exact dates unknown) and it was the home of B.P. Schulberg's Ambassador Pictures, Inc.  As of 1921. plat maps of the era show the studio name it was known by at the time, Katherine MacDonald  Moving Picture Company.

This site goes by several addresses: Pico and Georgia St., 906 Girard St. 906 12th Pl. (Girard St. became 12th Pl.).

Today the Los Angeles Convention Center sits on top of most of this area and has obliterated the streets and businesses once occupying it.  The area is now the home of L.A. Live, L.A. Convention Center, Staples Center, Microsoft Theater, and other entertainment venues.

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Biograph on the Map

More Photos of Biograph in L.A.

Some photos courtesy of Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives

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Please contact me if you would like a copy of this image

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