After all, despite the high profile of the film biz, real estate has always been Hollywood's primary economic driver.
Although the Sign's appearance and purpose have evolved over the years, its basic aspirational message remains the same: This is a place where magic is possible, where dreams can come true.
Back then, the dream was a beautiful home and lifestyle. Today, the Sign's promise is more subtle - and can only be described as the parade of images, desires and ideas conjured by the word "Hollywood."
Come explore the fascinating past and present of this icon, town, industry, and idea in our detailed History of the Sign.
Step by Step Timeline
The Time Before the Sign: The Western Frontier
Before Hollywood became the world’s entertainment mecca, it resembled other west frontiers: a landscape of farmers, cowboys, prospectors, bandits and mostly undeveloped land.
The Dream Factory Awakens: 1907
All was quiet until 1907, when bad weather drove a small Chicago film company westward to complete a shoot. By 1912, at least 15 independent studios could be found shooting around town.
Hollywood Becomes Tinseltown: 1915
By 1915, America was officially film crazed, and Hollywood was shaping into the glamorous, sometimes surreal landscape we’ve come to know and love. Hopeful actors and actresses filled the streets, dazzled by a new American dream: film stardom.
A Sign is Born: 1923
When the “Hollywoodland” sign was erected in 1923, Hollywood’s reputation as not just a city, but also an industry, a lifestyle and, increasingly, an aspiration, was officially crowned.
Beacon of a New Wave… Mt. Lee and the Birth of Television: 1931
Mount Lee, the home of the Sign, bears the name of a famous entrepreneur who made this ridge in Griffith Park into one of the most important historical sites in television history.
Sign of the Times… Tragic Suicide Off the H: 1932
Many of the thousands of would-be stars and starlets who flocked to Hollywood were met with cold rejection. In 1932, a New York stage actress became the symbol of the dark side of the Hollywood dream.
Hollywood Goes to War: 1941
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Hollywood mobilized to become a full-time war industry. But the War also had a more subtle effect on moviemaking and creative choices.
The Postwar Years
By 1948, box office receipts plummeted 45% from wartime highs. The culprit: Television. With characteristic resilience, Hollywood soon managed a successful transition to the small screen.
The Sign It Is A’Changin’: Turbulence and Decay
During the 1960s, Hollywood suffered through a mass exodus of residents to the suburban San Fernando Valley. Even more distressing was the flight of film power centers to the Valley and other less cramped environs. By 1970, Paramount was the only studio left in town.
A Sign is Reborn: 1978
By the late 1970′s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce determined that the Sign required a complete rebuilding – carrying a price tag of a quarter million dollars. Hugh Hefner hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, where individual Sign letters were ceremonially ‘auctioned’ off.
The Sign Today
Hollywood’s civic restoration, which began in the 1970′s, picked up steam in the ensuing decades, fueled by a growing reverence for what the industry had come to represent worldwide.