So in 1905, the American Vitagraph Company, then on Nassau Street in Manhattan, picked East 15th Street and Avenue M as the site for a vast movie studio described as “the model and forerunner of the studio system.”
“Vitagraph boasted the first glass-enclosed studio, a studio tank for battle and sea scenes, costume and set design shops, vast editing and processing rooms and lavish sets,” writes Kevin Lewis in Editors Guild Magazine.
More elaborate facilities meant more films were made, keeping up with the demand from a movie-loving public.
Stars were groomed: John Bunny, Norma Talmadge, and Florence Turner. Local residents rented their homes and furniture when the studio needed extra props.
In 1925, Vitagraph was sold to Warner Brothers, who used the building to film shorts into the 1930s.
In fact, this clip from a 1933 Fatty Arbuckle short, Buzzin’ Around, was filmed right outside the studio, with the elevated B and Q line behind them—looking the same as it does today.
Today the Vitagraph building is an Orthodox Jewish school. The old smokestack, however, remains.