IMAGINEERING
Yesterland
Real Buildings that Inspired
Universal Studios Florida
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Three years ago, I began a series of articles about “Real Buildings that Inspired Disney-MGM Studios.” I followed up with “Real Buildings that Inspired Disney’s California Adventure.” Universal Studios Florida also has an idealized Hollywood based on actual buildings. Some originals are long-gone, but many are still standing—and those are the ones we’ll look at today.
Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, November 12, 2010    

 
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Universal: Carrozzeria de Paolo Motoring Accessories façade
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Inspiration: former Hollywood Playhouse, 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood

Designed by the architecture firm of Gogerty and Weyl, this Spanish Colonial Revival style theater has hosted many of the greatest performers of the 20th century as a live theater, nightclub, radio studio, and television studio. Originally opened in 1927 as the Hollywood Playhouse theater, it has operated under more than a half dozen names. For example, in the 1960s, is was the Jerry Lewis Theater for The Jerry Lewis Show and the Hollywood Palace and Hollywood Palace variety series, both on ABC. Today, it’s the Avalon Hollywood, a mega-nightclub.


 
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Universal: Max Factor Building façade
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Inspiration: Max Factor Building, 1660 North Highland Ave., Hollywood

The Max Factor Building (1931) is an icon of the Golden Age of Hollywood, not only because of its Regency Deco design by theater architect S. Charles Lee, but also because it was commissioned by movie make-up genius Max Factor. Today, it’s the Hollywood Museum. Wisely, the museum kept Max Factor’s ground floor salons. Their website invites you to visit “the private beauty salons where Marilyn Monroe became a blonde and Max Factor transformed Lucille Ball into a redhead!”


 
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Universal: Beverly Wilshire Hotel façade
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Inspiration: Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

The elegant Beverly Wilshire Hotel was completed in 1928 at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It was designed by the architecture firm of Walker & Eisen in an Italian Renaissance style. It’s now officially called the “Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel).”

The Universal version does a masterful job of capturing the style of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel’s exterior, despite being a much smaller building.

Why do hotel names keep getting longer and longer? Disney’s new resort on O‘ahu is officially called “Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai‘i.”


 
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Universal: Kress façade
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Inspiration: S.H. Kress & Co., 6608 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

S.H. Kress & Co. was once a thriving variety store chain, with 5-10-25-Cent Stores on main streets all over America. The chain’s founder, Samuel H. Kress (1863–1955), took architecture seriously. His Hollywood Boulevard store (1935) was a Hollywood spectacular, designed in an Art Deco style by S.H. Kress & Co. chief architect Edward F. Sibbert.

From 1949 to 2005, the building housed lingerie retailer Frederick’s of Hollywood. Within the landmark store, Frederick’s of Hollywood Lingerie Museum featured lingerie worn by celebrities in movies. The exhibit even included the bra worn by Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot (1959).

In 2008, after a multi-year restoration, the Kress name went back onto the building—but not as a sign for an S.H. Kress & Co. variety store. That chain disappeared from U.S. cities in 1981. The building is now the Kress Hollywood nightclub and restaurant.


 
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Universal: Montmartre Café façade
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Inspiration: former Montmartre Café, 6753 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

Located on the second floor of a 1922 building by architects Meyer & Holler, the Montmartre Café was a nightclub famous for its movie star clientele. There’s still a nightclub in the building, Marbella. The ground floor was originally a bank; it’s now Famima!! Super Convenience, an upscale convenience store featuring grab-and-go Japanese foods.


 
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Universal: Pantages Theater (Horror Make Up Show)
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Inspiration: Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

The Pantages Theatre, designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca, opened in 1930 as the last movie palace built by showman Alexander Pantages. It was an Art Deco masterpiece, inside and out. For decades, it operated as a reserved-seat, roadshow movie theater. From 1949 to 1959, it also hosted the Academy Awards ceremonies, including the first televised ceremony in 1952. In 1977, the Pantages was converted into a live theater for big Broadway musicals, such as a revival of West Side Story (running November 30, 2010 - January 2, 2011).


 
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Universal: Studio Styles replica jewelry store
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Inspiration: former Chamber of Commerce, 6520 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood

Designed by the firm of Morgan, Walls and Clements in 1925, this Churrigueresque structure served as the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for a half century. In 1976, it became the flagship store for Schaeffer Photo and Camera Supply. It’s now Larson Studios, a digital audio firm.


 
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Universal: Darkroom façade
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Inspiration: former Darkroom, 5370 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

The Darkroom at Universal and the original in Los Angeles have something in common in addition to their large “programmatic architecture” camera façades: both originally sold cameras and film, and now neither one does.

For more information about the Darkroom, see the Yesterland article, Seeing Triple: The Darkroom and the Derby.


 
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Universal: Williams of Hollywood façade
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Inspiration: Crossroads of the World, 6669 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

This building is part of the Crossroads of the World complex, designed by Robert V. Derrah and built in 1936. It’s now Eckankar, a religious organization. Another theme park building inspired by the same building is Schmoozies at Disney California Adventure.


Would you like to see more comparisons? Then take another look at these articles from 2007 and 2008 (as mentioned in the introduction):


Click here to discuss this page on the Yesterland Discussion Forum at MiceChat!


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© 2010-2011 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated March 22, 2011.

Photo of Hollywood Boulevard at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Hollywood Playhouse replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of the Avalon (former Hollywood Playhouse) in Hollywood: 2010 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Max Factor Building replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Max Factor Building in Hollywood: 2007 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Beverly Wilshire Hotel replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills: 2007 by Chris Bales.
Photo of S.H. Kress & Co. replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Kress Restaurant in Hollywood: 2010 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Montmartre Cafe replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of former Montmartre Cafe in Hollywood: 2010 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Pantages Theatre replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Pantages Theatre in Hollywood: 2007 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Studio Styles jewelry store at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of former Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in Hollywood: 2010 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Darkroom replica at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of former Darkroom in Los Angeles: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Williams of Hollywood at Universal Studios Florida: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Crossroads of the World in Hollywood: 2010 by Chris Bales.