Universal Studios in Los Angeles plans to demolish the 90-year-old Stage 28, one of the most storied on its lot. Stage 28 contains a wonder of American cultural history: an original set from the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera. That picture is considered so iconic that it was long ago sanctified by the National Film Registry.
Universal, which says it will try to preserve “much” of the set, wants to tear the stage down to make more room for its theme park; one of the reasons Stage 28 is no longer viable for filming in the first place is because Universal built a cacophonous thrill ride (based on the Transformers franchise) right next to it. Lately, Stage 28 has mostly been used to film special effects since those don’t usually require live sound.
Other indelible films that were created in Universal’s Stage 28, soon to be erased in favor of another ephemeral thrill ride, no doubt, include Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein, the interior Bates Family scenes of Psycho and The Sting.
There are very few other patches of earth in the United States where so many historic things have happened, things that nearly all Americans witnessed and can tell you about. The White House, the Capitol—where else do so many familiar events share a common location?
I’m depressed. Broadway theatres are registered for their cultural value even though they continue to require rent (the New Amsterdam, the Biltmore), David Letterman’s Ed Sullivan Theatre is designated, and even factories can be preserved for their importance. Yet no Los Angeles-area studios are listed as National Historic Landmarks. It’s time for all of Hollywood to embrace the fact it’s an essential thread in the fabric of American culture. Hollywood must stop hiding in its own Bermuda Triangle of history.