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Fantastic Functionality: Studio Architecture and the Visual Rhetoric of Early Hollywood


This article examines film studio architecture in the Los Angeles region in the 1910s. Building on the work of architectural historian Reyner Banham, it argues that studio architects developed “fantastic functionality” to meet their dual task of creating functional sites for efficient production while also giving film companies a public face that might mediate local anxieties about the new industry. By focusing on studio spaces rather than studio films, the article stresses the value of expanding our view of film production to include its architectural forms, and of pushing visual analysis beyond the film text to include the spaces of filmmaking. As an addendum, this essay also reprints and examines the demolition permit for Lois Weber’s film studio.

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