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Movie ranch


Movie ranch

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A movie ranch is a ranch that is at least partially dedicated to being used as a site for the production of motion pictures.

Movie ranches first came into use in southern California in the 1920's when westerns had become increasingly popular. Hollywood based studios found it difficult to recreate the wide expanses of the old West on sound stages, or in studio back lots.

To achieve greater scope, productions would conduct location shooting shooting in Arizona, Nevada or other parts of California, but the expense of travel for production staff eventually created a full blown dispute between workers and the studios. Finally, the studios agreed to pay union workers extra if they worked out of town. The definition of out of town specifically referred to a distance of greater than 35 miles from the studio.

To solve this problem, many movie studios invested in large tracts of undeveloped land, in many cases existing ranchland, located closer to Hollywood. In most cases, the ranches were located just within the 35 mile perimeter, specifically in the Santa Monica Mountains, Canyon Country and the San Fernando Valley. The natural California landscape proved a suitable stand-in for western locations, and other settings.

As a result of the urban sprawl of greater Los Angeles, most of these movie ranches have since been sold off and subdivided. However, a few of these have survived and are still in use as of 2005.

Movie ranches have gradually sprung up in other jurisdictions, notably New Mexico and Texas.

Below is a partial listing of some of the famous movie ranches.


Apacheland Studio

Intended to be the "Western Movie Capitol of the World" construction on Apacheland Studio western town began on February 12, 1959 by Superstition Mountain Enterprises and associates. By June of 1960 Apacheland Studio was open for business and filmed its first TV western "Stagecoach West" and full length movie "The Purple Hills".

Actors such as Elvis Presley, Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, Ronald Reagan, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Audie Murphy filmed western television shows and movies, such as "Gambler II", "Wanted: Dead or Alive", "Death Valley Days", "Blind Justice", "Charro!", "Have Gun, Will Travel" and "Ballad of Cable Hogue" at the western movie studio for some or all of the filming.

The last full length movie to be filmed was the 1994 HBO movie "Blind Justice" with Armand Assante, Elizabeth Shue and Jack Black.

On May 29, 1969, a suspicious fire destroyed most of the ranch. Only 7 buildings survived. The sets were soon rebuilt but then almost 35 years later on February 14, 2004, 2 days after it's 45th anniversary, another suspicious fire destroyed most of the Apacheland. On October 16, 2004 Apacheland closed its doors to the public permanently. The cause of both fires remain a mystery.

Plans are under way by the non-profit group Preservation of the Cowboy Way Society headed by Wayne Richardson and Philip Rauso, Jr. to rebuild Apacheland as it looked in 1960 when it first opened to the public.

Iverson Movie Ranch

The Iverson family ranch first allowed for a movie to be shot on their property in 1912, which was very likely a western called the Squaw Man. This began a long association of the ranch with Hollywood. The Flying Dueces, The Fighting Seabees and Lives of the Bengal Lancers are just a few of the productions that filmed here.

By 1962, the ownership of the ranch was divided, with Joe Iverson owning the lower portion of the ranch and Aaron Iverson owning the uppper part. In 1966, the State of California began construction on the Simi Valley Freeway which cut the Iverson ranch in half. This freeway ended the use of the ranch as a viable movie location because of the high sound levels caused by traffic.

In 1982, Joe Iverson sold the lower Iverson ranch to Robert G. Sherman, who almost immediately began subdividing the property. The upper Iverson is also no longer open to the public, as it is now a gated community.

The location of the ranch was in the northwest corner of Chatsworth, California and was roughly where Topanga Canyon Boulevard currently exits from the 118.

Melody Ranch

The Melody Ranch follows in the tradition of film shoots which were done in Placerita Canyon near Newhall, California, dating back to around 1926. Tom Mix westerns were filmed in the area at that time. In 1931, Monogram Pictures took out a five year lease on a parcel of land in Placerita Canyon. The location of the western town that was constructed there was just east of what is now the junction of Placerita Canyon Road and California State Route 14. Today, this area is part of the Golden Oak Ranch (see below). In 1935, as a result of a merger, the property became owned by the newly formed Republic Pictures.

In 1936, when the lease wound up, the entire town was relocated a few miles away to an area near the connection of Oak Creek and Placerita Canyon roads. The property reverted to Monogram in 1937, and was later purchased by Gene Autry in 1953, who named it Melody Ranch.

A fire swept through the ranch in August 1962, destroying most of the standing sets. However, the devastated landscape did prove useful for productions such as Combat!. In 1990, Autry put the ranch up for sale and it was puchased by Rene and Andre Veluzat. The Veluzats as of 2005 had a 22 acre complex on the property which makes up what is now known as the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio.

Paramount Movie Ranch

In 1927, Paramount Studios purchased a 2,700 acre property in the hills between Malibu, California and the San Fernando Valley. The studio built numerous large-scale sets on the ranch, including a huge replica of early San Francisco and a Old West town.

Since then, the older sets have been removed, but there is a western town at the location for for visitors to view. This remaining set of buildings continues to be used in filming, notably for the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman television series and the short lived HBO series Carnival.

Corriganville Movie Ranch

In about 1937, Ray "Crash" Corrigan invested in a property in California's Simi Valley and developed it into a movie ranch. Most of the Range Busters films were shot here, as well as features like Fort Apache.

Corrigan opened the ranch to the public in 1949. In 1966, Corriganville became 'Hopetown' when it was purchased by Bob Hope.

Disney's Golden Oak Ranch

The Golden Oak Ranch, named for the gold that Francisco Lopez discovered under an oak tree, was 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 ranch. During the next five years, the Company also bought additional land which enlarged the property to 691 acres.

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.

Ahmanson Ranch

The location of this ranch was in the area known as Lasky Mesa, in Los Angeles County.

This area is noted for being the filming location for The Thundering Herd, Gone With The Wind and They Died With Their Boots On, and many others.

In 1963, 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 Ahmanson Ranch. Washington Mutual Bank took over ownership of Home Savings and proceded with the development plans for the ranch.

In October 2003, Washington Mutual sold the property to the State of California and it is slated to become parkland, open to the public.

Fox Movie Ranch

Located near Malibu, in Calabasas, the Fox Movie Ranch was first purchased in 1946 by 20th Century Fox Studios.

It was used as a location in dozens of films, including a number of the Tarzan movies, the original Planet of the Apes and subsequent television series, and was also a main filming location for the tv series M*A*S*H.

A portion of the Fox property was perserved and turned into a state park. Malibu Creek State Park opened to the public in 1976. Productions have continued to be filmed there since that time.

Will Rogers State Historic Park

Will Rogers State Historic Park is the former estate of American humorist Will Rogers. Although not dedicated to location shoots, the property has been used for filming at various times, and a point of particular notice is its regulation polo field.

Located in the Santa Monica mountains in Los Angeles, in the Pacific Palisades area, the property was made a State Park in 1944.

Spahn Ranch

The Spahn Ranch is a 500 acre property located in the Santa Susana Mountains.

The ranch, once owned by silent film actor William S. Hart, was used to film many westerns, particularly from the 1940's to the 1960's, including Duel in the Sun, and episodes of Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. A western town set that was located at the ranch was destroyed by a wildfire in 1970.

The Spahn Ranch was once a hideout for the infamous Manson Family.

J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch

Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the J.W. Eaves Movie Ranch was opened in the early 1960's 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.

The Eaves Ranch is open to the public.

Skywalker Ranch

Skywalker Ranch is not a movie ranch in the traditional sense, but rather is the location of the production facilities for Lucasfilm. Few productions have used this area for location shooting. Based in secluded but open land near Nicasio, California in the northern part of the state, the property encompasses over 4,700 acres, of which all but 15 acres remain undeveloped.

Southfork Ranch

Southfork Ranch is a working ranch in Dallas, Texas that is used for some location filming. Notably, it was the backdrop for the 1980's prime time soap Dallas.


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Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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