Introduction
This is a town of supporters and detractors. Basically, Hollywood is like high school
with money.-Joel Silver, movie producerl
O
n March 25, 1980, Francis Coppola purchased a lO.5-acre movie pro-
duction lot on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Las Palmas
Avenue in the heart of Hollywood. At the time, it was difficult to know just
how significant the deal would become. Variety, the industry's principal
trade publication, for example, dutifully tracked Coppola's purchase of the
former Hollywood General Studios from the first rumor of his interest in
the property, through the acrimonious dispute between studio lien holder
James Nasser and the studio's nominal owner, Glen Speidel, to the deal that
finally transferred ownership of the property to Coppola. But when money
finally changed hands and it was revealed that Coppola had acquired the
property for (in Hollywood terms) a mere $6.7 million, Variety announced
the deal in just two column inches.
2
Though the purchase of the studio was, for him, a stretch financially,
Coppola immediately announced plans to extensively renovate the facility
(renamed Zoetrope Studios), to research and develop new distribution and
exhibition technologies (utilizing satellites and high-resolution video), and,
by 1982, to release a full slate of feature films to compete with the major
studios.3 He announced his intention to reinvest the profits from the studios'
first films back into the company in order to finance his plans.
By leveraging the purchase of the studio and the various renovations
against future box office revenues, Coppola was, from the very start, "play-
ing" with his own money. At risk was his personal fortune, his professional
reputation, and, ultimately, the fate of a generation of university film
school-educated directors, most of whom got their first big break after the
box office success of Coppola's The Godfather.
The larger significance of Coppola's purchase of Hollywood General and
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