The Day the Movies Died: Southbank’s Rich Film HistoryJune 27, 2015 3 comments Print Article
From EU Jacksonville: Jacksonville has permitted more than 400 film, television, and digital media productions. Vincent Vega (John Travolta) called the city “a great asset” due to the diverse locations after shooting Lonely Hearts and Basic here. Written by Brenton Crozier.
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In just the last handful of years, Jacksonville has permitted more than 400 film, television, and digital media productions. Vincent Vega (John Travolta) called the city “a great asset” due to the diverse locations after shooting Lonely Hearts and Basic here. Film and television is on the rise in Jacksonville and is a growing source of employment and meaningful economic impact. As exciting as this growth is, Jacksonville is not unfamiliar with being a coveted destination of the movie industry. In the early 20th century, Northeast Florida carried the moniker, “Winter Film Capital of the World,” a far cry from Cowford! Southbank housed some of the most significant studios of the time, specifically in Dixieland Park. Todd Roobin of the Jacksonville Film & Television office helped me dig into Jacksonville’s rich film history.
Dixieland Amusement Park, located on the riverfront across the river from downtown, opened in 1907. The thirty-acre park was dubbed the “Coney Island of the South” by the Times-Union and included 100,000 feet of riverfront property, a 1,600-seat theater, several rides, shops, a dance pavilion, and a swimming area. Dixieland is where several major film studios rented space. Westerns and animal pictures were made by Selig Polyscope Company and Essany Companies, and religious films were made by The Edison Company. (Thomas Edison visited the studio when wintering in Fort Myers.) A handful of other production companies made films at Dixieland studios on a more limited basis, including the prominent Gaumont Studios. From 1908 to 1918, the “Winter Film Capital of the World” was the locale for countless silent movies.
The Vim Comedy Company, based in Jacksonville and New York, was one of several film studios operating in the Jacksonville area in the first three decades of the 20th century. Before going out of business in 1917, it employed such stars as Oliver “Babe” Hardy, Ethel Burton, Walter Stull, and Kate Price, as well as Swedish-born director Arvid Gillstrom.
Oliver Hardy began his film career and rise to international fame in Jacksonville, first at the Lubin studio, then with Vim and his own production company, and finally with the King Bee Studio, which took over Vim after its repeated financial troubles. Hardy, Price, and many of the other Jacksonville actors made permanent moves to Hollywood soon after the political atmosphere in Jacksonville turned against the movie industry due to accusations of fraud, ties to political corruption, and fear of endangering the public welfare with elaborate stunt sequences staged without city approval. The film Bouncing Baby shows stunts shot in the streets of Jacksonville.