Preservationists look to L.A. to save West Hollywood studio

Filmmakers and history buffs protesting the planned demolition of part of a West Hollywood movie studio once owned by Mary Pickford say they may turn to next door Los Angeles for help in preserving the place.

That strategy was revealed during a noisy demonstration Sunday outside The Lot studio at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue by opponents of the proposed razing of production buildings built in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Passing motorists honked their horns in support of about 50 pickets carrying signs such as “Tell WeHo No” and “Save the Last Silent Era Film Studio.”

The movie lot’s owner, CIM Group, plans to remove the studio’s Pickford and Goldwyn buildings and, in later phases, the Fairbanks Building, Writers Building, Editorial Building and several other production facilities. In their place the company plans to construct larger glass-and-steel structures.

Protester Manon Banta, a director of the Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education, pointed to the Pickford Building as a tribute to the first woman to own a movie studio.

Demonstrator Chadmichael Morrisette, a West Hollywood display designer, was dressed as Charlie Chaplin — who worked at the studio as silent movies gave way to talkies. “They need to preserve this place, not just for West Hollywood’s history but for cinematic history as well,” he said.

Director Allison Anders, who filmed part of her first movie “Border Radio” at the studio, said the old buildings could easily be updated. “You can feel the DNA of every filmmaker and artist who has worked here before you,” she said.

Although West Hollywood has approved the redevelopment, preservation-supporter Sal Gomez said it may be possible to enlist Los Angeles’ help in blocking the project. That’s because the West Hollywood-Los Angeles boundary line crosses through several structures that face razing.

“I know an L.A. city councilman, and he thinks they can stop the demolition until things are reviewed,” said Gomez, a movie lot historian who lives in La Puente. “We believe we can get most of it saved.”

Gomez declined to identify the councilman.

CIM Group officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.