• May 2016

Behind the Sign: What's the Back Story on This LA Icon?

When the Hollywood sign was erected in 1923 by the Hollywoodland Real Estate Group, it was slated to last only a year and a half. Against all odds it survived, but by 1973 it was in total disrepair.

So a group of citizens in Hollywood successfully lobbied to protect their precious icon and the sign was declared a Los Angeles Cultural Historical Monument in 1973.

Now protected by law, the resources were still sorely lacking for its restoration and rebuilding. In 1978, the Trust was established to oversee, and raise the funds necessary, to accomplish this massive project. With the help of extremely generous citizens and celebrities who sponsored each letter, the Trust unveiled a new Hollywood sign in 1978.

During the past quarter century, nine employees have been appointed to the non-profit Sign Trust and have spearheaded numerous campaigns, from physical maintenance, to security systems, to public awareness campaigns for the sign.

The Trust also supports Hollywood cultural events and community events, as well. To accomplish its central mission, protecting this landmark and educating the world about Hollywood and its most-famous symbol, the Trust relies on the volunteer efforts of its Board, and contributions from generous donors who recognize the importance of Hollywood’s monuments and history.

Which five recent movies have featured the Hollywood sign?

  • San Andreas (2015): Directed by Brad Peyton, Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, & Alexandra Daddario. A seemingly ideal day turns disastrous when California’s notorious San Andreas fault triggers a devastating, magnitude 9 earthquake, the largest in recorded history. As the Earth cracks open and buildings start to crumble, the Hollywood sign is swiftly destroyed.
  • Sharknado (2013): Starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, John Heard, Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante. The tornado blows the letters of the sign away. One of them crushes an aspiring actor just after he says, “my mother always told me Hollywood would kill me”.
  • Gangster Squad (2013): Written by Will Beall and Paul Lieberman, Directed by Ruben Fleischer
    Starring Emma Stone, Sean Penn, and Ryan Gosling. Los Angeles, 1949: A secret crew of police officers led by two determined sergeants work together in an effort to take down the ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen who runs the city.
  • Seven Psychopaths (2012): Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh, Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Woody Harrelson. A British black comedy film written, co-produced and directed by Martin McDonagh. It stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, and Christopher Walken. The film marks the second collaboration between McDonagh and Farrell, following 2008’s In Bruges. In the first scene of the movie, it shows the Griffith Observatory then the camera zooms over to the Hollywoodland sign.
  • Argo (2012): Directed by Ben Affleck, Screenplay by Chris Terrio, Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman. Argo is a 2012 American thriller film directed by Ben Affleck; it is a dramatization of the “Canadian Caper” based on an article published in 2007, in which Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

For more information, visit hollywoodsign.org.