Midwood Before Hollywood

A Film Industry Grew in Brooklyn

Midwood Before Hollywood

New York, Brooklyn, New York 11211, United States

Created By: Slouch Productions

Tour Information

Did you know that Midwood was home to the first modern movie studio in the U.S.? For over 100 years, countless films and TV shows were produced in Midwood — silent comedies, early musicals, iconic TV specials, variety shows, series, and soap operas — all made right here!

The Vitagraph Company of America built the nation’s first modern film studio in 1906, where it operated until 1925 as one of the most prolific moving picture companies in the world, making Brooklyn the epicenter of film production long before Hollywood. Bought by Warner Brothers in 1926, which later drew NBC to build a neighboring studio complex, Vitagraph established a significant legacy of film and television production in Midwood up until 2014. Architectural remnants of the old studio buildings still exist; the walk will include a tour of those structures, as well as an overview of significant contributions to early film and television history that happened right here in Midwood!

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Midwood Development Corporation - 1416 Avenue M #201

Here is where we will start.  Look north to the end of E 15th street.  That's where the Vitagraph Company of America once stood. Englishmen Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton founded the Vitagraph Company of America in 1900, with the... Read more
Former Vitagraph Company studio site, South East corner on Chestnut street.

PLAY VIDEO The lower left hand corner of the Vitagraph complex pictured in this photograph is where you would have been standing.  You can see that the elevated BMT line, adjacent to the back of the studios, was running back then. Using h... Read more
1277 E 14th used to be the Shulamith School for Girls

PLAY VIDEO Before the former site of Vitagraph Studios was leveled for new residential development, it was utilized for over 30 years by the Shulamith School for Girls. This film footage includes point of view from the inner courtyard of th... Read more
Vitagraph smokestack and site of original entrance to Vitagraph Company studio to on Locust and

Here is the where the original Locust Ave enrance was.  By 1908, Vitagraph directors were producing eight films a week, mostly one and two-reelers cast from the studio's stock company of four hundred players. Major stars included Florence... Read more
Short directed by J. Stuart Blackton

PLAY VIDEO While your are walking, have a look at this Vitagraph 1908 short, The Thieving Hand (don't trip!).  The film pioneered early special effects, in this case, stop-motion substitution and movement by hidden wires.  And those exter... Read more
Site of Vitaphone - new sound studios on west side of E. 14th street.

PLAY VIDEO Vitaphone Studios - 1925 - 1952 When Vitagraph was sold to Warner Brothers in 1925, a new sound stage was built directly across the street from the old Vitagraph studios (on East 14th street and Locust Ave) since the elevated BMT... Read more
Vitaphone Sound Studios - Sound-on-Disc demo

PLAY VIDEO Sound Engineer E B Craft demonstrates how to set up the Vitaphone recording system (edited).  This was produced in 1926 - a year prior to the release of The Jazz Singer (1927) starring Al Jolson, the first feature-length motio... Read more
Baby Rose Marie

PLAY VIDEO A child star and vaudville veteran, Baby Rose Marie was featured in Vitaphone shorts and had her own radio show and numerous records.  Rose Marie went on to adult fame on the Dick Van Dyke Show.  Born in 1923, she celebrates h... Read more
The Ghost of Fatty Arbuckle

If one believes that ghosts haunt places where they had unfinished business, the old Vitaphone studio building would certainly qualify. Fatty Arbuckle made a series of highly successful "comeback" Vitaphone two-reelers for the 1932-33 seaso... Read more
NBC and Beyond

Classic TV and beyond  - 1952 - 2014 In the 1950s, the sound stages became NBC studios where hundreds of TV specials, series, and variety shows were taped.  The original Studio 1 is along Locust Avenue .and had a swimming pool under the f... Read more
Don Rickles gives a tour of the neighborhood

PLAY VIDEO Rickles was a frequent guest on the Kraft Music Hall variety show, recorded in the NBC studios.  The show had a long history, starting in radio, moving to television in the late '50s with its first host, Milton Berle who was suc... Read more
location of 'Buzzin Around - 1306 Avenue M

PLAY VIDEO Here is Arbuckle in Buzzin' Around - a 1932 Vitaphone short shot on location on Avenue M.  Visible building numbers and street signs make this pretty easy to identify.  You are standing on the spot!   ...


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