Back Lot – West Hollywood, California - Atlas Obscura

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Back Lot

Peek inside Howard Hughes' garage at this Hollywood-themed art installation. 


The production studios at 1041 North Formosa Avenue in West Hollywood have a long and glamorous history. In the early 1920s, silent-film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford bought the complex for their newly established production company, Pickford-Fairbanks Studios. Five years later, the company got a rebrand and became United Artists. In the decades since, the studios, now collectively called The Lot, have hosted everyone from Frank Sinatra to Adam Sandler to Oprah.

One of The Lot’s garages, located on busy Santa Monica Boulevard, was built in the mid-1930s for aviation mogul, movie producer, and billionaire eccentric Howard Hughes, who had offices on the lot at the time. Today, four steel sculptures—a movie camera on a tripod, a broadcast tower with a red beacon, and two slanted, rickety buildings— stand in Hughes’ former driveway. Installed as part of West Hollywood Urban Art Program in 2018, they are the work of artist Michael C. McMillen.

It’s not just the sculptures that harken back to Hollywood’s golden age. The garage door has three binocular-style peepholes. Look through any of them to see a glimpse of the past: McMillen’s detailed mock-up of a workshop office just off Studio 3 at the old Pickfair Studios.

At one side a monitor plays clips from movies that were shot at the location. Lights, film reels and cans, a splicing machine, and props are strewn about the place. Liquor, an ashtray, empty cups of coffee, and scrunched-up balls of paper sit next to a typewriter. It’s as if the screenwriter answered the telephone on his desk and just left the room for a moment.

Know Before You Go

The sculptures are on the south side of the street between Formosa Avenue and Poinsettia Place (just a couple of blocks west of La Brea Avenue).

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January 24, 2022

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