Who knew that our very own Santa Barbara was the center of the movie-making world for almost a decade, before Hollywood. In 1912, the Chicago-based American Film Manufacturing Company’s Western unit relocated to Santa Barbara. By 1915, the “Flying A”, known for its winged logo, had built the nation’s largest studio with some of the industry’s top directors, actors, and writers. The film pioneers of the Flying A left a legacy in Santa Barbara that continues to influence the movies and television shows of today.
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum now has a new exhibit, The Flying A: Silent Film in Santa Barbara, commemorating the studio’s centennial anniversary in Santa Barbara. The exhibition’s focus is the studio’s influential and prolific operation between 1912 and 1921. Dan Calderon, Museum Curator, invites visitors to learn more, “Many locals are not aware that for close to a decade, their city was a thriving center of early film making.”
Santa Barbara’s beautiful area offered a wide variety of film backdrops for over 950 westerns, dramas, and comedies that to be set in historic adobes to magnificent mansions, and beautiful beached to the mountains. The Flying A cranked out two to three movies a week while located in Santa Barbara, with a specialization in short films of less than 30 minutes. Purity, a feature film produced in Santa Barbara was one of the industry’s first films to include nude scenes.
After the industry moved to Hollywood, the studio ceased operations in 1921. Through this exhibit visitors can now experience the original Flying A artifacts, documents, photographs and a selection of original silent films, which will play on the Sala Gallery Wall Theatre. The exhibit is open and free to the public through August 19. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays, noon – 5 p.m. Docent-led tours are available on Saturdays and Sunday at 2 p.m. For more information contact the Museum at 805/966-1601 or visit www.santabarbaramuseum.com .
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