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The Kalem Company was the first of the northern film studios to setup in Jacksonville in 1908. The cast and crew stayed at the Roseland Hotel in the Fairfield area. They took the ferry across the St. Johns River to a place that was rich in locations. The area had creeks, old bridges, mansions, a railroad, and large oak trees with hanging Spanish moss that astonished audiences. This made Arlington the first “on location” movie set for the film industry. In the photo below, notice the cannon, which was used in Civil War themed movie sets.
Jacksonville became the "The Winter Film Capital of the World" with twenty-six movie companies setting up shop during the silent movie era. The industry would eventually move their headquarters to Hollywood.
Norman Studios, in the Arlington neighborhood of Jacksonville, is the only remaining production complex from the silent movie era. Five buildings survive from a time when Richard Norman produced films starring African American characters. The organization has a popular program called, “Silent Sundays” where they show classic films. Check the Norman Studios event calendar for silent movie showings.
The Museum of Science & History (MOSH) has a silent movie display in the Currents of Time exhibit. Two films play continuously, “The Siege of Petersburg” (Kalem, 1912) and an Oliver Hardy comedy called, “The Servant Girl’s Legacy” (Lubin, 1914).
Today, Hollywood is re-discovering Jacksonville. The city has a Film & Television Office that attracts many production companies. Some of the movies made in Jacksonville include: G.I. Jane, Devil’s Advocate, Lonely Hearts, Basic, Recount, and The Year of Getting to Know Us. For a highlight reel, check out, “We’ve Got the Pictures”.
Interested in watching an original “reel to reel” movie? The 1927 Florida Theatre shows Summer Movie Classics on Sundays.
Explore, learn, and enjoy Jacksonville’s amazing history.