Reel Culver City
by Marc Wanamaker
One of the forgotten small motion picture studios that once existed in the early days of Culver City was the Romayne Super Film Company owned by Henry Y. Romayne.
Located on the northeast corner of Washington Boulevard and what is now Ince Boulevard, the film company was formed in July of 1918 to produce five- and six-reel features for independent release.
Betty Burbank was the company’s first leading actress with Josephine Crowell playing supporting roles. Wyndham Gettins was the director general of the first film, Me und Gott, produced in a studio in Hollywood.
SETTLED IN CULVER CITY IN 1919
The Romayne Company settled in Culver City, building a two-story administration building and one large open stage and a backlot in 1919. Before Romayne could start using its own studio, Jack Warner leased the new studio to produce one of his early two-reel comedies with his popular comedy star, Monty Banks.
By May of the same year, Romayne produced The Sagebrush League starring Myrta Sterling. It was followed with other films into the 1920s such as King Cole, Mary Minds Her Business and The Torreador to name a few. Among their brightest stars between 1919 and 1921 included John Hayes, Myrta Sterling, Vera Sisson and Edward Hearn. Their directors included George Sergeant, Harry Grant, Fred Jefferson and Harry Edwards.
In 1920, the company decided to produce both big feature films and short comedies. When G. F. Thew of London, England, purchased a controlling interest in the Super Film Company, he and his son Eric enlarged the stage are in Culver City for more production space. Romayne secured the release of its pictures with the Western Exploitation company headed by Sol Lesser.
By 1921, the company had produced three one-reel situation comedy pictures entitled, Crossed Wires, Perfect Thirty Six and Dear Hunting, all directed by Harry Edwards.
At about this time, most of the Romayne productions were winding down and the Romayne Studios in Culver City were being used more as an annex by the Thomas Ince Studios which was situated across the street (today known as the Culver Studios).
By 1926, the old Romayne Studio became known as “The Studio Hotel” at 9099 Washington Boulevard, catering to motion picture professionals who worked at the studios nearby. The hotel operated well into the 1940s and was eventually replaced by Bill Murphy Buick which became a well-known Culver City landmark into the 1990s.