Culver City is a city on the Westside of Los Angeles County. Culver City is a city rich with motion picture, television and aviation history, this place was home to half of America’s motion picture production and was dubbed the “Heart of Screenland.” In addition to the entertainment industry, the petroleum and technology industries are economic mainstays of the city. With a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, Culver City is one of the best places to live in California.
Harry Culver, a real estate developer, founded the city in 1913. Located along the roads and rail line that connected the beach resort city of Venice with downtown Los Angeles, the town grew fairly quickly. Culver attracted migrants from the Midwest by offering homes that included furniture and even appliances in exchange for a monthly mortgage payment.
Since the 1920s, Culver City has been a center for film and later television production, best known as the home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. It was given the moniker the “Heart of Screenland” during the 1930s and 1940s when it was responsible for half of America’s motion picture production; today it remains home to Sony Studios (formerly MGM Studios) and Culver Studios.
Movies that have been produced in Culver City include classics such as Citizen Kane, the original King Kong, and Gone With the Wind. The Wizard of Oz was filmed at MGM studios, and the original yellow brick road is still inside the lot on Stage 27 of Sony Studios. In addition to being the home of classic films, the television show I Love Lucy was produced at Desilu Studios. More recent productions include Grease, Raging Bull, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, City Slickers, Men in Black, Air Force One and Spider-Man. In addition to I Love Lucy, television shows made on Culver City sets include Lassie, Batman, The Andy Griffith Show, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
The city has other ties to the entertainment industry beyond the movies and television shows created at its studios. The iconic Culver Hotel was once owned by Charlie Chaplin and was later sold to John Wayne, allegedly for the price of $1 after a high-stakes poker game. The town’s streets also reflect Culver City’s entertainment history, with names such as (Mary) Pickford and (Douglas) Fairbanks.
In addition to its role in the film and television industry the city has a reputation as a great food destination due to the huge number of trendy restaurants found in the downtown and elsewhere. From 1932 to 1986, it was the headquarters for the Hughes Aircraft Company. National Public Radio West and Sony Pictures Entertainment have headquarters in the city.
Culver City was in a state of decline in the 1990s, but since that time has undergone a tremendous revival. The downtown area is now a bustling district that is home to dozens of restaurants and multiple theaters, while other districts throughout the city are gaining reputations for the culinary and artistic businesses that have set up shop.
Today entertainment companies that call Culver City home include Sony Studios (formerly MGM), Culver Studios (future home of Amazon Studios), National Public Radio’s “NPR West” facility, the NFL Network, and a handful of smaller media companies. In 2021 HBO will move its West Coast headquarters to Culver City, followed in 2022 by the opening of a new facility housing 1,000 employees working on Apple’s entertainment offerings.
Culver City’s streets have been featured in many films and television series. Despite having two movie studios and several television production facilities within the city limits, the only public tour is at Sony Studios, which offers a tour rather than a theme park attraction like Universal City.
In addition, a handful of museums are scattered throughout the city, each one small and focused on a particular subject, special offers to those interests for experienced fans trace screen origins. Two highlights include the Wende Museum, which is highly regarded for its Cold War collection, and the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which has somewhat of a cult following for its general weirdness and for its willingness to mix truth and fiction.
Downtown Culver City
Downtown Culver City is a charming collection of outdoor cafes, unique shops and galleries opening onto tree-lined walking boulevards. Handsome landmark buildings house cutting-edge media facilities and creative arts workshops.
Much of the architecture has not changed in decades, particularly in residential areas, the nostalgic sitcom The Wonder Years set many of its outdoor scenes in Culver City. The 1970s–80s series CHiPs also featured many chase scenes through the streets. The Nicolas Cage film Matchstick Men included scenes made at Veterans Memorial Park, which was also featured in the opening scenes of the sitcom The Hogan Family.
John Travolta’s “Stranded at the Drive-In” sequence in Grease was filmed at the Studio Drive-In on the corner of Jefferson and Sepulveda. It served as a set for many other films, including Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The theatre was closed in 1993 and demolished in 1998; it is now a housing subdivision featuring large homes on small lots, as well as the Kayne-ERAS center, a school and community center for the disabled and mentally challenged.
The historic Hull Building, 9543 Culver Boulevard at the northwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Watseka Avenue featured as Flynn’s Arcade in the 1982 movie, Tron.
The Aviator, a film about Howard Hughes, featured several mentions of Culver City in connection with Hughes. Scenes from Bewitched (2005) with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell were also filmed in the Culver City streets. The film Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) starring Jim Carrey was filmed there. The closing aerial sequence of Get Shorty (1995) starring John Travolta and Danny DeVito is also filmed in Culver City, at Sony Pictures Studios. Additionally, scenes of Superbad (2007) starring Jonah Hill and Michael Cera were filmed in areas surrounding Culver City High School.
In 2010, the films Killers and Dinner for Schmucks were filmed in Culver City. In 2011, Lincoln Lawyer, Moneyball, Horrible Bosses and Jack and Jill were released, all of which were filmed in Culver City. Think Like a Man and The Campaign were filmed in Culver City and released in 2012.
The Hayden Tract was a derelict, postindustrial stretch of Culver City until the mid-1980s, when developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith commissioned architect Eric Owen Moss to revive the area. Over the ensuing decades, the surreal, sci-fi-inspired architecture has attracted high-profile commercial tenants, including Nike and Beats by Dre.
Once considered the “other side of the tracks,” the Hayden Tract has become an architectural masterpiece showcasing close to 30 industrial buildings designed by renown architect Eric Owen Moss, Visionaries Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith worked with Moss to create avant garde, thought provoking structures that incite social change. Each one uniquely named—Samitaur Tower, The Beehive and most recently The Wrapper.
The structures are an architectural feat and fittingly house some of the world’s most forward thinking startups as as well as Chef Jordan Kahn’s Michelin starred restaurant Vespertine. While you’re there, be sure to also experience Khan’s more casual daytime eatery Destroyer. Coffee connoisseurs should look no further than Bar Nine Coffee, one of L.A most notable coffee roasters.
A 1924 landmark pie-slice-shaped hotel downtown. Many of the cast of The Wizard of Oz stayed here during filming of the movie in 1939. The hijinks of that period, including the hotel’s being taken over by the “Munchkins,” were featured in the 1981 movie Under the Rainbow. Formerly owned by Charlie Chaplin, who sold it (or lost it) to John Wayne during a poker game, the hotel has housed many stars including Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Red Skelton, Buster Keaton and Ronald Reagan.
Westfield Culver City
Westfield Culver City (formerly known as the Fox Hills Mall), is a shopping mall in Culver City, California, owned by the Westfield Group. Its anchor stores are JCPenney and Macy’s. Junior anchors are Best Buy, Nordstrom Rack, Target, Forever 21, and Trader Joe’s.
The Helms Bakery on the border of Los Angeles and Culver City, California, was a notable industrial bakery of Southern California that operated from 1931 to 1969. The buildings have now been adapted for reuse as retail shops, restaurants and the interior design trade showrooms and the complex is part of what is now called the Helms Bakery District.
The Culver Studios is a movie studio in Culver City, California. Located in downtown Culver City, Culver Studios was founded in 1919. Originally created by silent movie pioneer Thomas H. Ince, classics from Hollywood’s Golden Age were filmed there. Many classics from Hollywood’s Golden Age were filmed there, including Gone with the Wind (1939), A Star is Born (1937), Intermezzo (1939) and Rebecca (1940).The Culver Studios was also used for television shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, Lassie, Batman, The Nanny and, more recently, Scrubs, Arrested Development and Cougar Town.
The Sony Pictures Studios is an American television and film studio complex located in Culver City, California at 10202 West Washington Boulevard. In addition to films shot at the facility, several television shows have been broadcast live or taped there. The lot, which is open to the public for daily studio tours, currently houses a total of sixteen separate sound stages.
Sony Pictures Studios Tour guide visitors step back into a legendary time. Located on one of the world’s most famous studio lots, walking tour gives you a rare glimpse of old Hollywood’s glory days and an insider’s view of a state-of-the-art motion picture studio. The two-hour guided tour leads through stages that have seen the filming of such productions as the Wizard of Oz, Men in Black, and Spider-Man. Visitors may also see the homes of the game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
St. Augustine Catholic Church
St. Augustine Catholic Church is a Catholic church located in Culver City, California, part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The church is located across the street from the Sony Pictures Studios, previously the MGM Studios.
King Fahad Mosque
The King Fahad Mosque is a mosque located in Culver City, California in Los Angeles County, US. The mosque was financed by Saudi Arabia, specifically by Fahd of Saudi Arabia, after whom it is named, and by one of his sons, Prince Abdulaziz. The mosque has a capacity of 2,000 worshippers, a marble facade, hand made tiles from Turkey, and a 72-foot high (22 m) minaret topped with a gold leaf crescent”. The complex on about 77,500 square feet (7,200 m2) of land also contains a lecture and meeting hall, classrooms, research centers, a bookshop, a children’s playground, and a car park.
Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
The Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary is a Jewish cemetery located at 6001 West Centinela Avenue, in Culver City, California. Many Jews from the entertainment industry are buried here. The cemetery is known for Al Jolson’s elaborate tomb (designed by Los Angeles architect Paul Williams), a 75-foot-high pergola and monument atop a hill above a water cascade, all visible from the adjacent San Diego Freeway.
Holy Cross Cemetery
Holy Cross Cemetery is a Catholic cemetery at 5835 West Slauson Avenue in Culver City, California, operated by the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Opened in 1939, Holy Cross comprises 200 acres (81 ha). It contains—amongst others—the graves and tombs of showbusiness professionals. Many celebrities are in the sections near “The Grotto” in the southwest part of the cemetery; after entering the main gate, turn left and follow the leftmost road up the hill.
Star Eco Station
The STAR Eco Station is an environmental science museum, an exotic wildlife rescue center, and a haven for endangered and illegally-trafficked exotic animals confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An exotic environmental science & wildlife rescue center that is in a nondescript building, the Eco Station is a hidden attraction offering hands-on experiences with rescued tropical birds, mammals, reptiles and other critters.
The Culver City Fire Department has three fire stations, which are available for the public to tour. The fire station tours are designed for schools and organizations within Culver City.
Center for Land Use Interpretation
The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) is a non-profit research and education organization involved in exploring, examining, and understanding contemporary landscape issues in the United States. Founded in 1994, the CLUI organizes exhibitions, programs, field trips, and maintains an online archive and database to engage the public’s understanding of the man-made landscape, and extent and impacts of human interactions with the surface of the earth. The exhibits hosted in their minuscule gallery space are small, but are usually very intriguing and often draw attention to features of the landscape you would normally overlook.
Culver City Historical Society
An archives and resource center preserves local history, and aims to serve everyone from young children to senior citizens.
Culver City Plunge
The Culver City Municipal Pool, affectionately known as “The Plunge”, is a heated, Olympic-sized swimming pool that was first opened in 1949. It is open to the public (resident and non-resident) for recreation swimming, lap swimming, water aerobics, swimming lessons, and diving (1-m and 3-m springboards).
Sony Pictures Entertainment Museum
The Sony Pictures Entertainment Museum is an exciting, behind-the-scenes look at the studio’s celebrated past and the innovative techniques used today.
The Wende Museum
The Wende Museum is a collections-based research and education institute that preserves Cold War artifacts and history, making resources available to scholars and applying historical lessons of the past to the present. The museum’s exhibits and artifacts include artwork, films and personal histories from the fall of Communist Europe in the late 1980s. Much of the collection is about the German Democratic Republic (DDR). Also has materials from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Museum of Jurassic Technology
The Museum of Jurassic Technology at 9341 Venice Boulevard in the Palms district of Los Angeles, California, was founded by David Hildebrand Wilson and Diana Drake Wilson in 1988. It calls itself “an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic”. The museum’s collection includes a mixture of artistic, scientific, ethnographic, and historic items, as well as some unclassifiable exhibits; the diversity evokes the cabinets of curiosities that were the 16th-century predecessors of modern natural-history museums.
The factual claims of many of the museum’s exhibits strain credibility, as it is an artistic mixture of fact and fiction, featuring weird and wonderful displays of things that never happened, next to strange but true practices of bygone years; it can be hard to distinguish between the two. Exhibits include micro-sculptures that fit within the eye of a needle, portraits of the canine astronauts of the early Soviet space program, and artwork made from the scales of butterfly wings that can be viewed under microscopes.
Culver City is home to 14 contemporary and fine art galleries with several more located just over the border in the City of Los Angeles. Most of the galleries are located in the Culver City Arts District along Washington and La Cienega Boulevards.
The Actors’ Gang
The Actors’ Gang is an experimental theatre and nonprofit group based at the Ivy Substation in Culver City, California. It was founded in 1981 by a group of actors, including Tim Robbins, now a member of the board and Artistic Director of the troupe. The group states its mission is “to create bold, original works for the stage and daring reinterpretations of the classics”.
Kirk Douglas Theatre
The Kirk Douglas Theatre is a 317-seat theater located in Culver City, California. This performing arts center was built in 1947 as a movie theater with over 1,000 seats, and today the original marquee and tower are still in place, creating a striking presence in downtown Culver City.
Since 2004, it has been operated by the Center Theatre Group, operates as a performing arts center and playhouse. An $8 million restoration project, with a $1.25 million grant from the City of Culver City, included the addition of two new stages, one with 100 seats and another with over 300 seats. Most of the exterior has been preserved, including the box office and the signature mezzanine tile.
The city has a wide array of sculpture, murals, and other installations that will be of interest to art lovers.
Game Show Building – From the sidewalk, you can see Terry Allen’s sculpture “Golden Time”, a humorous comment on work after overtime. Michael Hayden’s sculpture uses cutting edge materials (holographs) producing a rainbow spectrum on the sidewalk and surrounding areas of the Game Show Building. Hayden collaborated with Game Show Building architect, Steven Ehrlich, AIA, who won a National AIA Design Award for the project.
Hobbit House – The Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments have been aptly called the “Hobbit House,” and people live in these unusual apartments. Los Angeles city historic-cultural landmark No. 624.
Jim Heimann’s sculptures – Jim Heimann’s sculptures “Studio Pass I”, “Studio Pass II”, and “King Kong Gone” (1995-6), celebrate the history of Culver Studios and Sony Pictures
Plato’s Cup – Jim Heimann’s sculpture “Plato’s Cup” (1995) is a riff on a weathervane, which pays homage to the film industry, a former cafe at the location, and the initials of the building’s owner.
Primordial Reflections – Albert Paley’s entrance gates “Primordial Reflections” (1996) provide a monumental entry to architect Jaquelin T. Robertson’s Media Building
Scan – Jud Fine’s courtyard installation “Scan” traces the history of television.
Sony Pictures Child Care Center – From the sidewalk, you can see sculptural gates and fencing, created by artist John Okulick, using the colors of “My First Sony” (red, yellow, blue). Also, Margaret Nielsen designed a mural maquette.
Wading Pool – R. M. Fisher designed “Wading Pool” (2000), the plaza fountain, which celebrates Sony’s history of filmmaking and references the set of “Lost Horizon.”
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Over three hundred feet above the surrounding neighborhoods, this overlook provides tremendous views of the LA basin, as well as some short nature trails for those interested in native plants and animals. A self-pay parking lot is available at the top of the hill, but hearty souls can park for free along Jefferson Blvd and then walk up 315 vertical feet of switchbacks and steps. The visitor center features exhibits on area history and nature. Special events including twilight walks, junior ranger programs, and bird-watching are scheduled regularly.
Ballona Creek bicycle path
The Ballona Creek bicycle path is a 7 mi (11 km) long concrete path that is popular with bicyclists, walkers and joggers. The bike path runs along Ballona Creek from the back of the sports fields in Syd Kronenthal Park on McManus Street in Culver City all the way to the ocean, where it then joins the Coast Bike Path along the beach. In addition to the access from either end of the path, the bike path can also be accessed at most major intersections where the road passes over the creek.
Dr. Paul Carlson Park
Carlson Park is a small park located in the Carlson Park neighborhood. It is intended for recreational use and features open grassy spaces as well as picnic and barbecue facilities. It is named for Dr. Paul Carlson, a former resident of Culver City whose martyrdom in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1964 attracted national attention.
Cruisin’ Back to Culver City Car Show
This car show features hundreds of classic cars, food, and entertainment, with proceeds benefiting local charities. The streets of downtown are closed and filled with stalls and classic cars, with owners competing for awards in dozens of categories such as “Best of the 20s”, “Best of the 70s”, “Best Paint”, “Most Different”, “Best Hearse”, etc. The first car show was held in 2005, and it has since become a yearly event.
Culver City Farmer’s Market
Held every Tuesday, rain or shine. The market offers fresh foods, flowers, crafts, and other fare. Two hours of free parking are available in downtown garages.
Fiesta La Ballona
This annual festival is held at the end of the summer and generally lasts from Friday through Sunday. The festival features a beer & wine garden, carnival rides, petting zoo, food trucks, a farmers’ market, 100 booths selling artisan wares, and live music.