Movie  and TV Shows

The silent film industry started in Long Beach in the 1900’s.

Long Beach offered an ideal setting for the motion picture industry.  Many silent stars and directors began their careers at Balboa Studios which was located at Sixth Street and Alamitos Avenue in Long Beach.


Left to right:   Charlie Chaplin at camera; Lou Anger, manager for Arbuckle; H.M. Horkheimer; and Buster Keaton.  Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle produced 5 movies at Balboa Studios in Long Beach, CA, while Chaplin visited the Studios on three separate occasions.

There were eight film houses and two stock company theaters along The Pike.  In 1908, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was singing in Long Beach and even got married on stage the same year at the successful Byde A Whyle Theater next to the Hotel Virginia.



Balboa Studios was like a city within the city of Long Beach with 20 buildings on 8 acres downtown, with 11 additional acres for outdoor shooting on Signal Hill. The studio became Long Beach’s biggest employer and tourist attraction with as many as 10 movie companies shooting simultaneously at the studios using silent stars like William Desmond Taylor, Theda Bara, Baby Marie Osborne, Jackie Saunders, Henry King, Ruth Roland, and Lewis Cody.  Adding to the success were the directors, writers, and a unique film distribution system of Fox Pictures and Pathé.



In 1921, oil was discovered in Long Beach and derricks popped up everywhere, even in The Pike parking lot.  The land then became too valuable, and the film studios moved to Hollywood.

As a postscript, while oil ended the film industry in Long Beach, it wound up saving the film industry itself.  The film used on the old silent movies was composed of a nitrate base that decomposed in a short period of time.  80% of all the silent movies in the world and 40% of all movies produced prior to 1952 have disappeared due to nitrate decomposition and neglect.  Oil has given us the plastics to make the film we enjoy today.

Some of the stars, films and TV shows made at The Pike:

Stars who filmed at The Pike:
Elvis, Abbott & Costello, Tyrone Power, Vincent Price, Eddie Cantor, and Kim Novak

Silent Sunrise,  Sugar Daddies (1927), Life Hesitates at 40 (1935), Strike Me Pink (1936),  Gorilla at Large (1954),  It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).

TV Shows:
Barnaby Jones, Mannix, Cannon, Rockford Files, Six Million Dollar Man with Lee Majors, and Bill Bixby starring in the The Magician.