In case you weren’t already aware, Los Angeles is the center of the entertainment universe. There’s no business like show business, and business is pretty good down in Hollywood. For over a century L.A. has been the headquarters to basically every American movie studio going, with both the day-to-day of running a production or distribution company and the actual filming happening on the West Coast.
Los Angeles has become so enshrined in popular culture as to become an icon in popular culture itself, much like New York has. There is an excess of films made in Hollywood which are about Hollywood, from Sunset Boulevard to Singin’ In The Rain up through current smash-hit La La Land. The picture business isn’t all L.A. has going for it, however.
The small screen is becoming as big a deal as, well, the big, and the economic prosperity and gorgeous weather has made it an obvious location for entrepreneurs in the tech world to set up shop, for musicians to kick back and follow their muse, and a whole sub-industry of independent work being created and performed. In fact, here are nine reasons why L.A. is the mecca of the entertainment industry and a perfect starting point for VIDGO to launch the streaming app.
The Studio System
We’ve already touched on it, but you can’t talk about the entertainment industry in California without talking about Hollywood. Heck, you can’t talk about films, period, without talking about Hollywood. To this day, Tinseltown and its studios produce the most films of anywhere in the world, and some of the most successful to boot.
From the turn of the 20th century, this downtown Los Angeles district was home to enterprising filmmakers with a permit from Thomas Edison to create silent moving pictures. As the decades rolled on, the studio system created an industry that’s much the same today, albeit with the matinee idols of years past replaced with younger models more suited to traversing CGI explosions and improvised comedies.
“Hollywood” itself is sometimes used interchangeably with the United States film industry at large, and whilst cheaper location shooting is often done elsewhere in the country (and across the globe), it’s California where the lion’s share of stars, suits, and behind-the-scenes folks call home, pitch their ideas, and pick up their paychecks. There’s nowhere else quite like it.
It Looks Good On Paper, Too
Hard-boiled fiction was all but born in Los Angeles. Later writers pastiched the style, in books like James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential (and its big screen adaptation) and films like Chinatown, but the initial style of the noir detective was set down in California decades before. Raymond Chandler set his Philip Marlowe stories there, which were made into movies like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye.
Chandler’s bestsellers influenced later authors like Ross Macdonald, famous for his private eye character Lew Archer. These books were read far and wide, across the country and the rest of the world, and have since influenced an untold number of other novels, TV shows, movies and video games based around the mystery and detective genre; no L.A., no Chandler, and with no Chandler, you likely wouldn’t have police procedurals all over television.
The literary world of Los Angeles goes beyond the pulp, though. American Psycho, his best-known, is a New York story, but many of Bret Easton Ellis’s later novels have been set in his new home of California. Elsewhere, there’s a mountain of memoirs and thinly-veiled autobiographical books written by those who got famous in Hollywood, but none were more cutting nor more hilarious than those by the recently-departed Carrie Fisher.
Don’t Forget The Small Screen
The movie business remains in rude health, but a creative sea change has found more and more interesting work being done on television. Since the smaller screen’s inception, its bigger brother has feared its stealing of the spotlight, but the two now manage to coexist, with many movie studios diversifying into TV and shows being shot on the same backlots previously reserved for film production.
Television production is almost as important to Hollywood nowadays as movies. Whilst the number of series actually shot on location in L.A. has been falling for a number of years, California is still the place where many production offices can be found, where writers rooms are based, and where studio work is done for series like New Girl.
The East Coast doesn’t hold a complete monopoly over chat shows, either. Conan O’Brien’s nightly talk show is shot in L.A., and tickets are almost as hotly contested for audiences of that stalwart of the schedules as are those for Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel Live, the latter of which is filmed at El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and transmitted across the country.
And The Unions Which Hold Them Up
Since Los Angeles is the place to go when looking for work in the entertainment industry, it’s also home to some of the largest and most powerful labor unions in the country as well. It’s all but required you join one of the entertainment-related unions before starting work in your field of choice, with the largest – the Screen Actors Guild, or S.A.G. – being formed during the early days of the Hollywood studio system, to help break actors out of multi-year-long contracts which stifled their work.
S.A.G. represents some 100,000 film and television (having elected to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) actors around the world from their main office in Hollywood, but they’re just the biggest example of such unions in the L.A. area. You’ve likely seen acronyms like P.G.A or D.G.A. at the end of people’s names during movie credits (those are the Producers and Directors Guilds of America, respectively), which also petition for things like health insurance and pension benefits for those in the entertainment industry.
There are other, non-union-based societies for everyone from cinematographers to make-up artists, which are nonetheless all about providing a sense of community and promoting the importance of work done in the entertainment industry. These societies and unions have an effect felt around the world, but the majority of them cite L.A. as their base of operations.
Video Games Are The New Movies, Remember!
A recent controversy regarding said unions has been a strike over royalties by actors for video games. These famous voices (if not faces) are based in Hollywood not only because many of them also work in film and television roles, but because increasingly Los Angeles is becoming a hotbed of video game studios along with movies. Activision Blizzard who, between them, are responsible for the all-conquering Call of Duty and World of Warcraft franchises, are based in Western L.A.’s Santa Monica.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere on the West Coast, you will find Electronic Arts, or E.A., in Playa Vista. E.A. are responsible for the likes of Battlefield, Need for Speed and The Sims, as well as owning the licenses to Star Wars and basically every professional sport under the sun. They’re the ones who put out those annual Madden, NBA and FIFA games!
In Burbank, you find Insomniac Games, who make the Ratchet and Clank games; Last of Us and Uncharted makers Naughty Dog are also in Santa Monica; and Riot Games, developers of the hugely popular online multiplayer phenomenon League of Legends are even based in the area of Hollywood previously occupied by the studios. Video games really are the new blockbusters!
(Near) Silicon Valley Is Where Everything Starts
Of course, a path was cleared for video game companies to set up shop in L.A. thanks to the pioneering work of Silicon Valley and its denizens. Microsoft was formed in Washington before making the move to California, whilst Apple began in Cupertino. The Valley itself is based in nearby San Francisco, but a considerable amount of resources and start-ups have found a home in Los Angeles as well.
Some of the biggest entertainment-based tech companies who call Hollywood home include music streaming site Pandora, image and video messaging app Snapchat, dating app Tinder, online TV service Hulu. IBM, Google and Amazon all have their Los Angeles headquarters as well, making sure they’re close to the action of showbiz.
One of the biggest pop cultural tech companies also calls Hollywood home: Netflix. In fact, the streaming giant is not alone, since the aforementioned Hulu, Amazon, and Yahoo can also be found on the West Coast. It makes sense, right? Hollywood is where the majority of the entertainment you consume comes from, so the companies which get said entertainment to you are positioned nearby!
Another Thriving Comedy Scene
As with New York, Los Angeles has developed its own considerable comedy scene thanks to the amount of talent which moves to the West Coast to make it in the movie business. Judd Apatow regularly casts from the L.A. branch of East Coast-based improv comedy school/venue the Upright Citizens Brigade, with much of his film Funny People being based around and starring performers who learned their trade there.
Elsewhere there are comedy clubs whose histories and influence stretch even further than the U.C.B.’s. The Comedy Store opened in 1972, with Johnny Carson being one of the earliest acts to perform then. He set the standard for the level of celebrity stand-ups who have gigged at the Store, with legends like John Belushi, Bill Hicks and Andy Kaufman doing time on the famous stage and recent stars including Amy Schumer and Kevin Hart continuing to crack wise for the L.A. audiences.
Elsewhere The Laugh Factory has been a place for up-and-comers and established comedians alike to workshop new material, and possibly get spotted by a talent scout, with Tim Allen and Dave Chappelle being a couple of recent stars to drop by. Perhaps the hottest club in L.A. is The Meltdown, a comic book shop which hosts comedy nights in a backroom where you can catch sitcom actors like Steve Agee and Hollywood legends like Andy Dick.
Where The Podcast Is King
It’s not just established forms like music, television, and cinema which Hollywood’s output has a considerable hold over. Many of the best podcasts the internet has to offer are recorded by Los Angeles-based talent as well. Beginning to take form with the rolling out of high-speed internet and MP3 players like iPods, podcasts have gone from home-recorded approximations of radio shows to an industry unto itself.
You can find podcasts on almost any subject, from sports commentary to true crime murder stories to comedy shows. Networks like The Nerdist (run by Chris Hardwick of @midnight) and Earwolf (which has shows hosted by comedians like Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas from The League and a regular interview series by former news anchor Katie Couric) are producing a huge amount of great content and making money doing so.
In a relatively short space of time podcasts have gone from curio to novelty to a legitimate part of the entertainment industry with considerable clout. Crossover hits like Serial have only helped bring a larger audience into the fold, and with smartphones superseding MP3 players, nearly everyone has the ability to either download or stream them. With a huge amount of available talent on both sides of the mic, L.A. is the epicenter of this revolution.
The Music “Capitol” of America
As the rest of the entertainment industry appeared to be thriving there, it didn’t take the music business long to up sticks and move to Los Angeles either. A&M Records and Capitol both have offices in the city, the former in a studio built by Charlie Chaplin to record music for his own movies; Warner Bros., meanwhile, managed to build a successful side-business to their movie work with a roster of artists including R.E.M., Van Halen and Prince over the years.
Historically, the Sunset Strip was the point of origin for a whole generation of iconic acts in the sixties, including The Doors, The Beach Boys, and Buffalo Springfield. The eighties saw the parallel artistic and commercial ascendancies of both rock bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers and rap acts like N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg from Compton.
Recently, the Los Angeles music scene has diversified even further, producing alternative pop acts like Local Natives, nurturing a D.I.Y. noise scene at which No Age are the center, continuing to producer, rap talent like The Game and becoming the so-called “rave capital of the United States” for the number of house, dubstep, and EDM acts that play and festivals which are held in the city. Randy Newman loves it! …We think.
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