Concerned filmmakers, classic film fans and architectural preservationists are working to save an iconic Hollywood landmark from the wrecking ball.
The RKO Globe: Paramount is planning to demolish the iconic mark as part of a studio-wide renovation project
According to the Los Angeles Visionaries Association, Paramount Pictures proposed a master plan to remodel their large studio complex in Hollywood. When the plan was revealed in Oct. 2015, the studio is planning to tear down eight stages, along with several other buildings on the lot.
One of the buildings that are planned for demolition is stage 21. On the exterior of that building, it features the old RKO globe facade. The building (with the globe) faces the corner of Gower Street and Melrose Avenue.
The globe on the building originally contained a radio tower sculpture with “RKO” in neon lettering, in the spirit of the opening logo for RKO Radio Pictures, which featured a model radio tower atop the globe beaming out a Morse code signal with the phrase, “An RKO Radio Picture” (or in the studio’s earliest releases, “A Radio Picture”).
A brief history of the RKO lot (and Paramount’s involvement)
Several years before RKO Radio Pictures (or Radio-Keith-Orpheum) was formed in 1928, the lot was originally part of Joseph P. Kennedy’s Film Booking Offices of America, which was located next to rival studio Paramount. According to the 1987 BBC documentary “The RKO Story,” Kennedy’s film organization would merge with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chain, along with David Sarnoff’s Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which held in interest in the newly-formed company (to showcase the growing technological firm’s entry into sound motion pictures).
1948: Industrialist Howard Hughes would acquire RKO (and the studio properties). From that point on, Hughes’ ownership would plague the company.
1955: Hughes sold RKO to General Tire’s broadcasting subsidiary, General Teleradio (which would be renamed RKO General). General Tire was interested in purchasing RKO for its backlog of vintage films to show on the company’s TV stations.
1957: Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball purchased the RKO lot (and additional RKO studio facilities) from General Tire. The couple’s production company, Desilu wanted to expand the company’s production facilities (the former RKO lot would complement Desilu’s other production facility on Cahuenga Boulevard, now home to RED DIGITAL Studios). Before hitting it big with “I Love Lucy” and Desilu Productions in 1951, both Arnaz and Ball were RKO contract players in the 1940s (where the two met together).
Paramount acquired the adjacent lot from Lucille Ball in 1967, as part of Gulf+Western Industries’ purchase of Desilu Productions (G+W absorbed the ailing Paramount studios one year earlier, so that the conglomerate’s motion picture subsidiary could enter network television production in addition to expanded feature film productions on the combined lot).
The studio would exit network television production and syndication in early 2006, as part of Paramount’s parent (Viacom) being split into two companies. The former Paramount/Viacom broadcast television holdings reside with CBS. While the studio still owns the old RKO/Desilu side of the lot, the company recently went back into television production.
Change.org Petition: Save the RKO Globe from Destruction
Recently, a petition was created on Change.org, titled “Save the RKO Globe.” Launched by independent filmmaker Tim Hull, over 2,064 people have signed the petition to let Paramount studios know that they should not destroy Hollywood history.
According to updates on the companion Facebook site, Hull has contacted officials from The Hollywood Bowl to relocate/restore the old RKO globe (if Paramount dismantles it from stage 21).
Sidebar: To all fellow readers
If you’re a fan of vintage/cult film and television (whether it was produced by RKO, Desilu, Paramount or other production companies)- the author of this site highly encourages everyone to sign the petition to save the RKO globe from destruction.
After being in the motion picture business for 104 years, one would think that Paramount and its affiliated companies would know better by preserving Hollywood film and television history. The iconic RKO globe on the Paramount lot should not be lost- it should be preserved for all generations.