A movie ranch is a ranch that is at least partially dedicated for use as a set in the creation and production of motion pictures and television productions. These were developed in the United States in southern California, because of the climate. The first such facilities were all within the 30-mile (48 km) studio zone, often in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, and Simi Valley in the U.S. state of California.
Movie ranches were developed in the 1920s for location shooting in Southern California to support the making of popular western films. Finding it difficult to recreate the topography of the Old West on sound stages and studio backlots, the Hollywood studios went to the rustic valleys, canyons and foothills of Southern California for filming locations. Other large-scale productions, such as war films, also needed large, undeveloped settings for outdoor scenes, such as battles.
To achieve greater scope, productions conducted location shooting in distant parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada. Initially production staff were required to cover their own travel expenses, resulting in disputes between workers and the studios. The studios agreed to pay union workers extra if they worked out of town. The definition of "out of town" was defined as a distance of greater than 30 miles (48 km) from the studio, or beyond the studio zone.
To solve this problem, many movie studios purchased large tracts of undeveloped rural land, in many cases existing ranches, that were located closer to Hollywood. The ranches were often located just within the 30-mile (48 km) perimeter, specifically in the Simi Hills in the western San Fernando Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Santa Clarita area of the Greater Los Angeles Area. The natural California landscape proved to be suitable for western locations and other settings.
As a result of post-war (WWII) era suburban development, property values and taxes on land increased, even as fewer large parcels were available to the studios. Los Angeles development was widespread, resulting in urban sprawl. Most of the historic movie ranches have been sold and subdivided. A few have been preserved as open space in regional parks, and are sometimes still used for filming. In addition, studios have developed movie ranches in other regions, such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.
Below is a partial listing of some of the classic Southern California movie ranches from the first half of the 20th century, including some other and newer locations.
Classic movie ranches
Apacheland Movie Ranch (Apacheland Studio)
Apacheland Movie Ranch and Apacheland Studio was developed from 1959-1960 and opened in 1960. Starting in late 1957, movie studios had been contacting Superstition Mountain-area ranchers, including the Quarter Circle U, the Quarter Circle W, and the Barkley Cattle Ranch, for options to use their properties as town sets. One notable production during this time was Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster. Though historically inaccurate, it features the area known as Gold Canyon, with the Superstitions prominent behind the movie's representation of the Clanton ranch. During this time, Victor Panek contacted his neighbors in Apache Junction, Mr. and Mrs. J.K. Hutchens, to suggest the idea of building a dedicated studio in the Superstition area. Hutchens and Panek found a suitable site that was developed into Apacheland, intended to be the "Western Movie Capitol of the World".
Construction on the Apacheland Studio soundstage and adjacent "western town" set began on February 12, 1959 by Superstition Mountain Enterprises and associates. By June 1960, Apacheland was available for use by production companies and its first TV western Have Gun, Will Travel was filmed in November 1960, along with its first full-length movie The Purple Hills. Actors such as Elvis Presley, Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, Ronald Reagan, and Audie Murphy filmed many other western television shows and movies in Apacheland and the surrounding area, such as Gambler II, Death Valley Days, Charro!, and The Ballad of Cable Hogue. The last full-length movie to be filmed was the 1994 HBO movie Blind Justice with Armand Assante, Elisabeth Shue, and Jack Black.
On May 26, 1969, fire destroyed most of the ranch. Only a few buildings survived, but the sets were soon rebuilt to accommodate ongoing productions. A second fire destroyed most of Apacheland on February 14, 2004. The causes of both fires were never determined. On October 16, 2004, Apacheland was permanently closed. The Elvis Chapel and the Apacheland Barn, both of which survived the second fire, were donated to the Superstition Mountain Museum. Each structure was partially disassembled at the ranch, moved by truck, and reassembled on the museum grounds, where both stand today.
Big Sky Movie Ranch
Big Sky Ranch is a movie ranch located in Simi Valley, California. It has been widely used for the filming of Western television and film productions. Some of the past television episodes and productions filmed there include: Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven, Father Murphy, The Thorn Birds, Jericho and Carnivàle.
A fire in 2003 destroyed most of the standing sets, including a replica of the farm house from Little House on the Prairie and sets used in the TV series Gunsmoke and many movies.
In 2019, the ranch's web site indicates that it is still available as a filming location, "with rolling hills and great vistas and .. with secluded canyons, undulating valleys and a grand mesa. Credits in the past few years include "The Office", "Saving Mr. Banks", "Captain America", "Django Unchained", "Agents of SHIELD", "Hail Caesar", "The Revenant", and the HBO series "WESTWORLD".
Corriganville Movie Ranch
Circa 1937, Ray "Crash" Corrigan invested in property on the western Santa Susana Pass in California's Simi Valley and Santa Susana Mountains, developing his 'Ray Corrigan Ranch' into the 'Corriganville Movie Ranch.' Most of the Monogram Range Busters film series, which includes Saddle Mountain Roundup (1941) and Bullets and Saddles (1943), were shot here, as well as features such as Fort Apache (1948), The Inspector General (1949), Mysterious Island (1961), and hundreds more .
Corrigan opened portions of his vast movie ranch to the public in 1949 on weekends to explore such themed sets as a rustic western town, Mexican village, western ranch, outlaw hide-out shacks, cavalry fort, Corsican village, English hunting lodge, country schoolhouse, rodeo arena, mine-shaft, wooded lake, and interesting rock formations. This amusement park concept closed in 1966.
In spite of Corriganville's weekend tourist trade, production of films continued. The action TV series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin used the Fort Apache set for many shots from 1954 to 1959. Roy Rogers, Lassie, and Emergency! production units also filmed scenes on the ranch. In 1966, Corriganville became 'Hopetown' when it was purchased by Bob Hope for real estate development. A wildfire destroyed the buildings in 1970.
Only about 200 acres of the original 2,000 acres survives as a park. It is now part of the Simi Valley Park system, open to the public as the Corriganville Regional Park. Though the original movie and TV sets are long gone, many of the building concrete foundations are still extant. Corriganville Regional Park.
Parts of the movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were filmed at Corriganville Park, as a stand-in for the Spahn Movie Ranch.
Iverson Movie Ranch
In the 1880s, Karl and Augusta Iverson homesteaded a 160-acre (65 ha) family farm in the Simi Hills on Santa Susana Pass in what is now Chatsworth, eventually expanding their land holdings to about 500-acre (200 ha). It has been said that they allowed a movie to be shot on the property as early as 1912, with the silent movies Man's Genesis (1912), My Official Wife (1914), and The Squaw Man (1914) being some of the productions often cited as among the earliest films shot on the site. However, many of the earliest citations have turned out to be incorrect. For example, "The Squaw Man" is now known to have filmed a scene elsewhere in Chatsworth, a short distance southwest of the Iverson property, but did not film on the Iverson Ranch.
By the late 1910s, what would become a long and fruitful association developed between Hollywood and the Iverson Movie Ranch, which became the go-to outdoor location for Westerns in particular and also appeared in many adventures, war movies, comedies, science-fiction films and other productions, standing in for Africa, the Middle East, the South Pacific and any number of exotic locations.
Buster Keaton's Three Ages (1923), Herman Brix's Hawk of the Wilderness (1938), Laurel and Hardy's The Flying Deuces (1939), John Wayne's The Fighting Seabees (1944), and Richard Burton's The Robe (1953) are just a handful of the productions that were filmed at the ranch. The rocky terrain and narrow, winding roads frequently turned up in Republic serials of the 1940s and were prominently featured in chases and shootouts throughout the golden era of action B-Westerns in the 1930s and 1940s. For the 1945 Western comedy Along Came Jones, producer and star Gary Cooper had a Western town built at the ranch; this set was subsequently used in many other productions during the next 20 years.
Hollywood's focus began to shift to the medium of television beginning in the late 1940s, and Iverson became a mainstay of countless early television series, including The Lone Ranger, The Roy Rogers Show, The Gene Autry Show, The Cisco Kid, Buffalo Bill, Jr., Zorro, and Tombstone Territory.
An estimated total of 3,500 or more productions, about evenly split between movies and television episodes, were filmed at the ranch during its peak years. The long-running TV western The Virginian filmed on location at Iverson in the ranch's later period, as did Bonanza and Gunsmoke.
By the 1960s, the ownership of the ranch was split between two of Karl and Augusta's sons, with Joe Iverson, an African safari hunter married to Iva Iverson, owning the southern half of the ranch (the Lower Iverson) and Aaron Iverson, a farmer married to Bessie Iverson, owning the northern half (the Upper Iverson). In the mid-1960s the state of California began construction on the Simi Valley Freeway, which ran east and west, roughly following the dividing line between the Upper Iverson and Lower Iverson, cutting the movie ranch in half. That separated the ranch, and also produced noise, making the property less useful for movie-making. The waning popularity of the Western genre and the decline of the B-movie coincided with the arrival of the freeway, which opened in 1967, and greater development pressure, signaling the end for Iverson as a successful movie ranch. The last few movies that filmed some scenes here included "Support Your Local Sheriff" (1968) and "Pony Express Rider" (1976).
It was during this period that the nearby Spahn Ranch was occupied as the base of Charles Manson, the cult-leader and criminal, and his followers known as The Family.
In 1982, Joe Iverson sold what remained of the Lower Iverson to Robert G. Sherman who almost immediately began subdividing the property. The former Lower Iverson now contains a mobile home park, the non-denominational Church at Rocky Peak, and a large condominium development. The Upper Iverson is also no longer open to the public as it is now a gated community consisting of high-end estates along with additional condos and an apartment building.
Part of the ranch has been preserved as parkland on both sides of Red Mesa Road, north of Santa Susana Pass Road in Chatsworth. This section includes the famous "Garden of the Gods" on the west side of Red Mesa, in which many rock formations seen in countless old movies and TV shows are accessible to the public. This includes the area on the east side of Red Mesa that includes the popular Lone Ranger Rock, which appeared beside a rearing Silver, the Lone Ranger's horse, in the opening to each episode of The Lone Ranger TV show. This area has been owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy since 1987.
The location of the ranch was in the northwest corner of Chatsworth, along the western side of Topanga Canyon Boulevard where it currently intersects with the Simi Valley Freeway.
- Iverson Movie Ranch: History, vintage photos.
- Iverson Movie Ranch: Filmography.
- Iverson Movie Ranch Analyzes virtually every rock seen in a movie, includes pictures of the site today.
Jack Ingram Movie Ranch
Formerly the estate of Charles Chaplin, the 160-acre ranch was purchased by Jack Ingram in 1944 from James Newill and Dave O'Brien, who had purchased the goat ranch in order to avoid the draft during World War II. When they were declared 4F unfit for military service, they sold the ranch to Ingram.[self-published source?] Ingram purchased a bulldozer, and with the help of his friends including actors Pierce Lyden and Kenne Duncan built a western town of two streets on the site. The ranch included a house that Ingram lived in that could occasionally be seen in the background of some scenes shot at the ranch. In 1947 the Ingram ranch became the first movie ranch open to the public
In 1956, he sold the ranch to Four Star Television Productions. Its current status is unknown.
Lasky Ranch – San Fernando Valley Providencia Ranch
The First Lasky Ranch in the San Fernando Valley was located on the Providencia Ranch. In 1912, Universal purchased the property and named it Oak Crest Ranch. This old universal ranch was built for the production of Universal 101 Brand Westerns.
Hunkins Stables and Gopher Flats are close to Old Universal/Lasky Ranch in the San Fernando Valley.
Lasky Movie Ranch – Ahmanson 'Lasky Mesa' Ranch
This area is noted for a filming location history of many important movies, including, The Thundering Herd (Famous Players-Lasky Co. 1925), Gone with the Wind (Selznick 1939) and They Died with Their Boots On, "Santa Fe Trail" (Warner Bros. 1940), and many others.
From The Moving Picture World, October 10, 1914 (page 622 relates to the Lasky ranch and page 1078 to the new Lasky Ranch):
In 1963, the Ahmanson family's Home Savings and Loan purchased the property and adjacent land. Home Savings and Loan was the parent company of Ahmanson Land Company, and so the ranch became known as the Ahmanson Ranch. Washington Mutual Bank (WAMU) took over ownership of Home Savings and proceeded with the development plans for the ranch.
The public advocacy for undeveloped open space pressure was very strong, and development was halted further by new groundwater tests showing migrating contamination of the aquifer with toxic substances from the adjacent Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) experimental Nuclear Reactor and Rocket Engine Test Facility. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the State of California purchased the land for public regional park. The Lasky Movie Ranch is now part of the very large Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, with various trails to the Lasky Mesa locale.
The property was sold to a conservancy in 2003 but some filming was done there afterwards, including some scenes for the 2006 film Mission: Impossible III. More recently, it has been a hiking area.
Lasky Mesa external links:
Monogram Ranch/Melody Ranch
Originally known as 'Placeritos Ranch', the 110-acre (45 ha) ranch was commonly referred to as the 'Monogram Ranch'. Russell Hickson owned the property from 1936 until his death in 1952, and built-reconstructed all original sets on the ranch. A year later in 1937, Monogram Pictures signed a long-term lease with Hickson for 'Placeritos Ranch', with terms that the ranch be renamed 'Monogram Ranch.'
After Gene Autry purchased the property in 1953, he renamed it as 'Melody Ranch.' It is located in lower Placerita Canyon near Newhall, just north of San Fernando Pass. In 1962 a brush fire destroyed most of the western town sets on the ranch, and Autry sold 98-acre (40 ha), most of Melody Ranch.
The remaining 22-acre (8.9 ha) property was purchased by the Veluzats in 1990 for the new Melody Ranch Studios movie ranch.
From 1926, early silent films were often shot in Placerita Canyon, including silent film westerns featuring Tom Mix. In 1931, Monogram Pictures took out a five-year lease on a parcel of land in central Placerita Canyon. The western town constructed there was located just east of what is now the junction of the Route 14 Antelope Valley Freeway and Placerita Canyon Road. Today this is part of Disney's Golden Oak Ranch (see below) near Placerita Canyon State Park.
In 1935, as a result of a Monogram-Republic studio merger, the 'Placerita Canyon Ranch' became owned by the newly formed Republic Pictures. In 1936, when the lease expired, the entire western town was relocated a few miles to the north at Russell Hickson's 'Placeritos Ranch' in lower Placerita Canyon, near the junction of Oak Creek Road and Placerita Canyon Road. The property was leased by the newly independent Monogram Pictures, and renamed as 'Monogram Ranch' in 1937.
Gene Autry, actor, western singer, and producer, purchased the 110-acre (45 ha) 'Monogram Ranch' property from the Hickson heirs in 1953. He renamed the property 'Melody Ranch' after his 1940 film of the same name, and his following Sunday afternoon CBS radio show (1940-1956) and . A brushfire swept through 'Monogram Ranch' in August 1962, destroying most of the original standing western sets. However, the devastated landscape did prove useful for productions such as Combat!. Fortunately, a large Spanish hacienda, and a complete adobe village survived on the northeast section of the ranch.
In 1990, after the death of his horse 'Champion,' which Autry had kept in retirement there, the actor put the remaining 12-acre (4.9 ha) ranch up for sale. It was purchased by Renaud and Andre Veluzat to be developed as an active movie ranch for location shooting. The Veluzats have a 22-acre (8.9 ha) complex of sound stages, western sets, prop shop, and the backlots. They call it the 'Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio' and 'Melody Ranch Studios.'
The ranch has a museum open year-round. One weekend a year the entire ranch is open to the public during the Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, held at the end of April.
Paramount Movie Ranch
In 1927, Paramount Studios purchased a 2,700-acre (11 km2) ranch on Medea Creek in the Santa Monica Mountains near Agoura Hills, between Malibu and the Conejo Valley. The studio built numerous large-scale sets on the ranch, including a huge replica of early San Francisco, an Old West town, and a Welsh mining village (built by 20th Century Fox for (1941) How Green Was My Valley, and later redressed (with coal mine tipple removed) as a French village for use in (1943) The Song of Bernadette, and again used for (1949) The Inspector General). Western town sets posed as Tombstone, Arizona, and Dodge City, Kansas, as well as Tom Sawyer's Missouri, 13th-century China, and many other locales and eras around the world.
It is now Paramount Ranch Park in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The National Park Service took over a section of the lot in 1980 and restored the sets, working from old black and white photographs. The NPS website lists movie and TV productions filmed there.
The Western Town was constructed during 1954 when Paramount purchased (Academy Award-winning) sets previously used at RKO Pictures Encino Movie Ranch, and was a location for some of the era's popular TV Westerns, including The Cisco Kid and Gunsmoke. This remaining set of buildings continued to be used in filming, notably for the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman television series and the HBO series Carnivàle, and more recently Westworld.
The Paramount Ranch was also the home of the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California from 1966 to 1989, the home of the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest, held each May, and the eponymously titled Paramount Ranch, an alternative art fair founded from 2014-2016.
The Paramount Ranch structures suffered near-total destruction during the November 2018 Woolsey Fire. By that time, it was managed by the National Park Service but some filming had been done here for Westworld (TV Series) Seasons 1 and 2. Parts of the 2015 movie Bone Tomahawk were filmed here. A campaign called The Paramount Project was launched as of November 16 to aid in the reconstruction efforts to rebuild Paramount Ranch.
Red Hills Ranch
Red Hills Ranch is a movie ranch in Sonora, California, which served as a location for Bonanza, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Little House on the Prairie and other productions. The outdoor sets built for Back to the Future Part III (1990) and used in Bad Girls (1994) were destroyed by a lightning strike wildfire in 1996. It is no longer an area for filming.
Republic Pictures Ranch – Walt Disney Golden Oak Ranch
The former Republic Pictures Movie Ranch off Soledad Canyon became the Walt Disney Golden Oak Ranch in 1959. The ranch is located in central Placerita Canyon near Newhall, California in the northern San Gabriel Mountains foothills. It was named for the Gold discovery by Francisco Lopez in the wild onion roots under the "Oak of the Golden Dream", in present-day Placerita Canyon State Park. The Ranch was still being used for occasional filming, when Walt Disney took an interest in the property. In 1959, driven by concern that the ranches of other movie studios were gradually being sub-divided, Disney purchased the 315-acre (1.27 km2) ranch. During the next five years, the Walt Disney Studios also bought additional land which enlarged the property to 691 acres (2.80 km2).
The Walt Disney Company worked closely with the State of California when a portion of the western border of the ranch was purchased for the Antelope Valley Freeway. This construction was carefully planned so that it didn't intrude into the film settings. In 2009, Disney announced the expansion of the studio complex, with master planning and environmental impact studies commencing. The expanded site would be called Disney | ABC Studios at The Ranch.
Disney productions that have done filming at the Golden Oak Ranch over the past decades include Old Yeller, Toby Tyler, The Parent Trap, The Shaggy Dog, Follow Me Boys and more recently, The Santa Clause, Pearl Harbor, Princess Diaries II and Pirates of the Caribbean II & III.
Spahn Movie Ranch
The Spahn Movie Ranch is a 55-acre (0.22 km2) property located on Santa Susana Pass in the Simi Hills above Chatsworth, California. The Spahn Movie Ranch, once owned by silent film actor William S. Hart, was used to film many westerns, particularly from the 1940s to the 1960s, including Duel in the Sun, and episodes of television's Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. A western town set was located at the ranch.
Dairy farmer George Spahn purchased the 55 acres in 1953, from former owners Lee and Ruth McReynolds. Spahn added more sets and rental horses, making it a popular location for horseback riding among locals. This continued to be the location for various B movie and TV series film until the late 1960s. As the westerns genre became less popular, however, the ranch became almost deserted. The Spahn Ranch was home to the infamous Manson Family by 1968.
Spahn allowed the Manson group to live there rent-free in exchange for housework and sexual favors from the group's women, according to TIME. The ranch was the base for the group's murder of Sharon Tate and six others over a two-day period in August 1969. The ranch and some residents are depicted in the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The scenes for the movie were actually filmed at Corriganville Park in Simi Valley.
20th Century Studios Movie Ranch
Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, the 20th Century Studios Movie Ranch (aka: Century Movie Ranch & Fox Movie Ranch) was first purchased in 1946 by 20th Century Studios. One of the first sets was a working New England farmhouse built for (1948) Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. From 1956-1957, 20th Century Fox productions filmed their first television series there: My Friend Flicka for CBS television.
The Fox Ranch was used for most exteriors of the CBS-TV series Perry Mason (1957–66).
The Century Movie Ranch was the main filming location with outdoor sets for the original 1970 MASH film and subsequent M*A*S*H (TV series). It was used as a location in dozens of films, including a number of the Tarzan movies, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the original Planet of the Apes film and subsequent television series.
The Fox Movie Ranch property was purchased and preserved in the new state park, Malibu Creek State Park, opened to the public in 1976. A few productions continued to be filmed there.
Other original locations
Bell Moving Picture Ranch
Among the many movies to film at Bell Ranch were Gunsight Ridge (1957), starring Joel McCrea; Escort West (1959), starring Victor Mature; Hombre (1967), starring Paul Newman; Gun Fever (1958), starring Mark Stevens; and Love Me Tender (1956), the first movie of Elvis Presley.
The climactic sequence in the Elvis movie Love Me Tender, a Western that also starred Richard Egan and Debra Paget, was filmed on a rugged slope at Bell Ranch known as the "Rocky Hill," with its exact location remaining a mystery for almost 60 years until it was discovered on an expedition by film historians in early 2015. The Victor Mature movie Escort West (1959) filmed at the same location, and shots from the two movies were combined to help find the site.
Many of the television Westerns used the ranch, including Gunsmoke, Zorro, The Monroes, How the West Was Won, Dundee and the Culhane, The Big Valley and Have Gun – Will Travel. Even McCloud used the Western street and surrounding area for an episode with Dennis Weaver. An episode of the original Star Trek series, "A Private Little War" (1968), was partly shot at Bell Ranch's Box Canyon using it to stand in for an alien world.
In 1990, all of the sets were removed but some filming continued.
Columbia Ranch – Warner Bros. Ranch
Columbia Pictures purchased the original 40-acre (160,000 m2) lot in 1934 as additional space to its Sunset Gower studio location, when Columbia was in need for more space and a true backlot/movie ranch. Through the years numerous themed sets were constructed across the movie ranch.
Formerly known as the Columbia Ranch and now the "Warner Brothers Ranch", this 32-acre (130,000 m2) movie ranch in Burbank, California, served as the filming location for both obscure and well-known television series, such as Father Knows Best, Hazel, The Flying Nun, Dennis the Menace, The Hathaways, The Iron Horse, I Dream of Jeannie (which also used the Father Knows Best house exterior), Bewitched, The Monkees, Apple's Way, and The Partridge Family (which also filmed on ranch sound stages).
A short list of the many classic feature films which filmed scenes on the movie ranch would include; Lost Horizon, Blondie, Melody in Spring, You Were Never Lovelier, Kansas City Confidential, High Noon, The Wild One, Autumn Leaves, 3:10 to Yuma, The Last Hurrah, Cat Ballou, and What's the Matter with Helen?.
It is commonly believed, though not the case, that Leave It to Beaver was filmed here, ('Beaver' actually filmed (first season) at CBS Studio Center - née Radford Studios and later at Universal Studios). The Waltons originally filmed on the Warner Bros. main lot where the recognizable house facade was located until it burned down in late 1991. A recreation of the Walton house was built on the Warner Bros. Ranch lot, utilizing the woodland mountain set originally utilized by Apple's Way, and later occasionally used by Fantasy Island TV shows. The facade remains and has been used in numerous productions such as NCIS, The Middle, and Pushing Daisies.
On April 15, 2019, it was announced that Warner Bros. will sell the property to Worthe Real Estate Group and Stockbridge Real Estate Fund as part of a larger real estate deal to be completed in 2023 which will see the studio get ownership of The Burbank Studios in time to mark its 100th Anniversary.
Pioneertown, California, in the Morongo Basin region of Southern California's Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California. The town started as a live-in Old West motion picture set on a movie ranch, built in the 1940s. The movie set was designed to also provide a place for the actors to live, while having their homes used as part of the movie set. A number of Westerns and early television shows were filmed in Pioneertown, including The Cisco Kid and Edgar Buchanan's Judge Roy Bean. Roy Rogers, Dick Curtis, and Russell Hayden were among the original developers and investors, and Gene Autry frequently taped his show at the six-lane Pioneer Bowl bowling alley.
The sets have been retained as a tourist attraction which remained open as of April 2019.
RKO Encino Ranch
The RKO Pictures Encino Ranch consisted of 89 acres (360,000 m2) located on the outskirts of the City of Encino, California, in the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles River and west of Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area on Burbank Boulevard. RKO Radio Pictures purchased this property as a location to film their epic motion picture Cimarron (1931), (winner of four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Writing, Best Art Direction, and Best Make-Up). Art Director Max Ree won his Oscar for creative design of the very first theme sets constructed on the movie ranch which consisted of a complete western town and a three block modern main street built as the Oklahoma (fictional) town of Osage.
In addition to Cimarron scenery, RKO continued to create a vast array of diverse sets for their ever-expanding movie ranch that included a New York avenue, brownstone street, English row houses, slum district, small town square, residential neighborhood, three working train depots, mansion estate, New England farm, western ranch, a mammoth medieval City of Paris, European marketplace, Russian village, Yukon mining camp, ocean tank with sky backdrop, Moorish casbah, Mexican outpost, Sahara Desert fort, plaster mountain range diorama, and a football field sized United States map on which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced across in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). Also available were scene docks, carpentry shop, prop storage, greenhouse, and three fully equipped soundstages with an average of 11,000 square feet each.
A short list of classic movies that contain scenes shot on the RKO Pictures Encino Ranch include: What Price Hollywood? (1932), King Kong (1933), Of Human Bondage (1934), Becky Sharp (1935), Walking on Air (1936), Stage Door (1937), Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Kitty Foyle (1940), Citizen Kane (1941), Cat People (1942), Murder, My Sweet (1944), Dick Tracy film noir series (1945-1947), It's a Wonderful Life (1946) (Bedford Falls),They Live by Night (1948), and many more.
In 1953 Dragnet was the last project to film on the ranch for an NBC 1954 broadcast of an episode entitled "The Big Producer" in which the crumbling lot played the part of a fictitious "Westside Studio". Standing sets exhibited on this particular Dragnet program were a ranch security gate entrance with a background church and house facades ('George Bailey' wrecked his car there during a snow storm in It's a Wonderful Life 1946), a cocktail lounge exterior on Modern Street, stucco desert mountain range used in Stagecoach (1939), ocean tank & sky backdrop used in Sinbad the Sailor (1942), Notre Dame de Paris Carre built for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), and (the very first sets ever built on the ranch) the Academy Award-winning western town from Cimarron (1931).
The ranch property was sold in 1954 to the Encino Park housing development. After all those unique themed sets were bulldozed in 1954, the 'Encino Village' subdivision was built on the property with modern home designs by architect Martin Stern, Jr..
Will Rogers State Historic Park
The former estate of American humorist Will Rogers: with his historic residence, equestrian ranch, and regulation polo field; are now within the Will Rogers State Historic Park beside Rustic Canyon in Pacific Palisades. While not dedicated to location shoots in his era or now, the property has been used for movie, TV, and print ad filming since his death.
Some filming has been done at the park over recent years, such as scenes for Mailbu Road, released in 2019, but it was closed indefinitely to filming because of fires in the area in November 2018.
Newer movie ranches
Santa Clarita ranches
According to the L.A. Times there were about 10 movie ranches in that valley at the time, including Melody Ranch, Blue Cloud Movie Ranch, the Golden Oak Ranch owned by Disney since 2013 and the Rancho Deluxe.
Productions that have done some filming at the Rancho Deluxe studio include "SWAT", "Timeless", "LA to Vegas", "MasterChef", and seasons one and two of HBO's "Westworld". A 2016 fire destroyed trees and brush but not the structures.
Sable Ranch is a 400-acre property in Santa Clarita that featured lakes, a western town, a hacienda, barn, fields, and a train. The large field enabled the construction of large sets and has been used by numerous film and television series including The A-Team and in subsequent years 24 and Wipeout. The ranch was destroyed in the Sand Fire wildfire on July 24, 2016.
However, by 2019, Sauble Ranch was at least partially back in business, serving as the filming site for the Wipeout-inspired mini-golf competition Holey Moley. In May 2019, fires caused additional damage to some of the movie sets.
J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch
Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch was opened in the early 1960s with their first production being the CBS television series Empire in 1962. Over 250 other productions have filmed here over the years including The Cheyenne Social Club, Chisum, Easy Rider and Young Guns II. In 1998, a tornado touched down one mile from the film crew of Wishbone's Dog Days of the West as they were shooting the western scenes. It dissipated as it headed toward the set.
The Eaves Ranch is open to the public and has been home to the Thirsty Ear roots music festival. Other festivals have also been held here, but some movie-making continues. For example, some scenes for the 2018 Cohen Brothers anthology film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, were filmed here.
The Skywalker Ranch is not a movie ranch in the conventional sense, but rather is the location of the production facilities for film and television producer George Lucas in Marin County, California. Based in secluded but open land near Nicasio in Northern California, the property encompasses over 4,700 acres (19 km2), of which all but 15 acres (61,000 m2) remain undeveloped.
In 2019, the Skywalker Ranch web site stated that it "occupied the 153,000-square-foot Technical Building, which features a world-class scoring stage, six feature mix stages, 15 sound design suites, 50 editing suites, an ADR stage, two Foley stages, and the 300-seat Stag Theater. The property also includes the iconic Main House and the beautiful Lake Ewok".
Southfork Ranch is a working ranch in Parker, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas, that is used for some location filming. It was the backdrop for the 1980s prime time soap opera Dallas and its 2010s continuation.
As of 2019, it was a tourist attraction.
Circle M City
Circle M City, in Sanford, North Carolina, is the set for the Christian movie Cowboy Trail. Backing up to 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land, this town features a church that seats 50 people, a mercantile, bank, saloon, livery, jail, costumes, and horses.
In 2019, it was a venue for various events and weddings.
- Studio zone
- History of cinema
- Cinema & Film
- Sound stage
- Location shooting
- Role of the Vasquez Rocks in entertainment
- Apacheland Movie Ranch official website
- Columbia Ranch history website
- Corriganville history website
- Golden Ranch
- Santa Fe movie ranch
- Circle M City movie ranch
- Iverson Movie Ranch history website
- nps.gov-SMMNRA: Maps
- The Old Corral – Homepage
- Panoramic and aerial views of the Iverson Movie Ranch 1955 and before.
- J.W.Eaves at Monument Gallery
- Melody Ranch: historical sets and filming photos
- IMDB: Melody Ranch; Cinema & TV Filmography.
- "Movie Magic in Placerita Canyon" Melody Ranch history website
- contemporary 'Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio' website
- www.melodyranchstudio. Melody Ranch Studio Museum
Paramount Movie Ranch Links: