The Winter Wonderland
Where the movies came to warm up
Jacksonville's place in movie studio history is unique. Over the years it was the winter home to about 30 studios (not simultaneously). It was the permanent home to several others. For a brief time, covering a couple of decades, every winter many of the studios from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago would take advantage of the sun and warmth to continue their movie making away from their cold, cloudy, rainy homes.
Jacksonville could have been the movies capital of the world instead of Hollywood. It was the right place, at the right time. It would have been the logical choice, as it was closer to the New York corporate offices of most of the movie companies. It had year round sun, and plenty of open space for location shooting.
The size of the movie producers' payrolls were enormous. They employed thousands of people at any given time. Supporting industries sprang up: carpenters, electricians, bakers, drivers, film processing, and many others employed thousands of people. All of these people needed housing, food, schools, and more. The movies added tremendously to the Jacksonville economy.
But Jacksonville's city fathers became complacent, and the local community became hostile to the constant ruckus the movie people brought to their quiet city. As a result the producers began taking their studios to Hollywood, who won the war for the industry. Jacksonville didn't even fire a shot. In the mid teens, the allure of Jacksonville faded and by the fall of 1917 there was no movie making activity in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Studios of Jacksonville, and Florida, and the rest of the Sunbelt
This list is as comprehensive as I can find. Most of these companies used Jacksonville as a winter location. A few made Jacksonville their permanent home. For most studios there is no information beyond the name. If there is more information for a studio, click its link.
- Amber Star
- Eagle Film Co
- Eastern Film Corp. (HQ Rhode Island)
- Edison Studio
- Field Feature Film Co
- Fine Arts (DW Griffith)
- Florida Film Corp.
- Foster Photoplay Company
- Garrik Studios (Eastern Film Corp.)
- Gaumont Studios
- Jaxon Studio (Eastern Film Corp.)
- Jester Comedy Co.
- Kalem Moving Picture Co.
- King-Bee Film Company
- Klever Pictues, Inc
- Klutho Studios
- Lubin Manufacturing Company
- Majestic Films
- Metro Pictures
- Miami Studio
- Monograph Studio (at Garrick)
- New Art Pictures Co., Phoenix Park,
- Norman Studios
- Ocean Film Co.
- Selig Polyscope
- Serial Film Corp
- Superior Pictures
- Technicolor Film Studios
- Thanhouser Company
- Vim Comedy Co.
- United States Motion Picture Co. (Black Diamond Studios)
Jacksonville's Missing Studio History
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Chicago and Philadelphia have preserved their film histories in museums and are very well documented in videos, web sites, and books. Chicago was a film center itself, and has dug into and preserved its history and made it available to the public. There are several studio remnants, as well.
Not so Jacksonville. There is very little of Jacksonville's studio history available to the public. If there is a history, it is buried and hidden from sight. There are a few mentions on a few web sites, a few photos publicly here and there, a few magazine articles. The one book on Jacksonville movie making that I could find was a list of movies made in Florida. It almost completely ignored the studios themselves. the owners, and the business side of the business. Not one in depth studio history.
Actually, there is one exception: the Norman Studio, the only studio still standing. The Norman site was bought out of ruin and restored as a park with a museum. Kudos to the city fathers for this effort, but it as a shame they did not start sooner and preserve more movie studio history and make it available to the public. Too little, too late. All the rest has disappeared.
So, as a result, my history of Jacksonville is a bit lacking. Lacking detail, lacking depth. I have had to dig and dig and have spent more time than the results show. What I know is here.
What is lost is too great to fathom. It leaves me discouraged.
Jacksonville's place in film making history should be secure and robust. After all, with about 30 studios over its history it dwarfs Chicago, Fort Lee and Edendale. But the people of Jacksonville rejected the movie industry and has, until recently, ignored their own heritage and at this moment in time there is very little information to put together a comprehensive history.
Fort Lee has taken great care to preserve its movie heritage. Even though their studios have long ago disappeared, the Fort Lee Film Commission set about to preserve everything they could put their hands on. There are books, videos, web sites, preserved photos and found documents and maps. They have searched garages and attics and wharehouses looking for bits and pieces. The Fort Lee Film Com has built a brand new film heritage center, the Barrymore.
Edendale's history has been preserved in books and sites, documents and photos are readily available. Its well integrated into Hollywood's history. Even though its studio history should be a fraction of the size of Jacksonville's, there is an abundance of information. Understanding Edendale's place in movie history has been easy.
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