Friday, June 12, 2009

Film Distribution Row: S. Liberty Street

In the mid-1930s, the 100 and 200 blocks of South Liberty proliferated with motion picture company film distribution centers. United Artists, Warner Brothers and Paramount all owned structures in this corridor. The building below is the lone survivor. Built for United Artists Corporation in 1929, the structure housed fireproof film storage vaults, had concrete floors, and brick outer walls.

In 1953, the New Orleans architectural firm Benson & Riehl (1951-1961) was hired to draft specifications for restoring the former Warner Brothers building after there had been an explosion on the 150 S. Liberty Street site. Also completed in 1929 -- designed by Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth -- the Warner Brothers structure had brick walls 12" thick, concrete floors and fireproof vaults for storing films. As Warner Brothers expanded its business, successor firm Dreyfous & Seiferth was hired to build a new film exchange at 201 S. Liberty Street (1948).

Where were the structures located?

United Artists Corporation (built 1929)
Universal Film Exchange (by 1955)
143 & 147 S. Liberty Street

Warner Brothers
150 S. Liberty Street (1929)
201 S. Liberty Street (1948)

Paramount Pictures
215 S. Libery Street

Screen Guild Productions
218 S. Liberty Street

Pathe Film Exchange
221 S. Liberty Street

Saenger Theaters
234 S. Liberty Street

R.K.O. Film Exchange
1418 Cleveland Avenue

Fireproof film vaults were also located at 222 & 223 S. Liberty Streets and 1307 & 1309 Tulane Avenue. In 1931, Southern Sound and Service Inc., a film laboratory, was located at 1315 Tulane Avenue. Most of the area is now developed as Tulane Medical Center.

If you want to read more about the history and development of film exchange/distribution rows, read Max Joseph Alvarez's article, "The Origins of the Film Exchange," Film History: An International Journal 17:4 (2005): 431-465 available from Project Muse.

Historic photographs of many of the film exchange buildings, including the structure below, may be found in the LOUISiana Digital Library. Most of these images were digitized from the Charles L. Franck/Franck-Bertacci Photograph Collection, The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Building contracts/specifications for the original Warner Brothers Film Exchange may be found in the Southeastern Architectural Archive's Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Collection.

Above: 143 & 147 S. Liberty Street, built 1929. Upper right: Detail of Art Deco ornamentation from 143 & 147 S. Liberty Street. As photographed 11.06.2009 by K. Rylance.

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